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Emptying the Notebook: Nevada knew to take away the 2

The Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 25, 2020. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

RENO, Nev. — Here are some extra news, notes, quotes, stats, videos, tweets and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Saturday’s 96-74 Nevada win over UNM in the Lawlor Events Center:

What’s the point?

There’s plenty to unpack from Saturday’s game. For now, I’m going with the point guard play, or lack of, and how it’s killing the Lobos offensively.

Without a point guard, can the once-potent Lobo offense score enough points to make up for its defense on the road?

Remember, the Lobos entered November thinking it had three point guards: J.J. Caldwell, JaQuan Lyle and Drue Drinnon.

Drinnon left before playing a game, Caldwell’s now missed nine games on an indefinite suspension, and Lyle has missed the past two games with a knee injury (among other ailments for a guy who has played a ton of minutes this season and has a lot of nagging injuries).

The result?

No drive and kick for 3s. No drive and dish assists to a big under the basket. No drive and just finish at the rim.

“I think there’s a little bit of that,” said UNM coach Paul Weir when I asked him if the team just doesn’t have a point guard capable anymore of getting the ball inside. “I’m not trying to slight any of our guys. We need some good point guard play in general, particularly early in the game — we just settled and took some shots that weren’t anywhere near what we were trying to do. But at the same time, when teams are just going to put five guys in the paint and make you make shots, that’s not all on a point guard. We’re going to have to make some shots to open things up for us.”

UNM entered Saturday’s game ranked fifth in the nation (out of 353 Division I teams) in 2-point field goal percentage (56.9%).

On Saturday, Nevada packed the paint with five defenders all game to protect their bigs from foul trouble, stop dribble drive penetration to the rim and dare the Lobos to shoot 3s with space on the perimeter (you know, pretty much the same general philosophy of the Lobos’s much-criticized defense).

It worked.

UNM shot 16-of-37 (43.2%) on 2-point shots. And Corey Manigault, UNM’s offensively gifted post who entered the game shooting well over 60% on 2-point shots this season, was just 5-of-13 (38.5%) on Saturday, though one miss was a 3-point attempt.

UNM has been held under 50% shooting on 2-point shots just five times this season — one home win and four road losses:

UNM shooting under 50% on 2-point shots:
• 42.1% (16-38): W, vs. Montana, Dec. 1
• 43.2% (16-37): L, at Nevada, Saturday
• 43.2% (16-37): L, at UNLV, Jan. 18
• 46.7% (14-30): L, at UTEP, Nov. 19
• 48.8% (21-43): L, vs. Auburn (Brooklyn), Nov. 25

Opponents know by now, the way to beat the Lobos is to take away the 2-point shots and make them beat you from 3-point range since nobody on the roster seems capable of doing so with consistency.

Home sweet home

• UNM in the Pit: 13-0
• UNM out of the Pit: 3-6

And the Mountain West Conference seems back to its old ways of home dominance in league play.
• MWC home team wins: 35
• MWC road team wins: 14

The MWC’s home win percentage of 71.4% is the fourth best in the country among 32 Division I conferences.

The gamer

Here is the gamer I filed from the Lawlor Events Center on Saturday night…

Familiar faces

Noodles and Alford together again…

Alford’s wins

Steve Alford won career game 600 as a coach on Saturday.

• 78-29 – Manchester (NCAA Division III), 1991-95
• 78-48 – Missouri State (formerly SW Missouri State), 1995-99
• 152-106 – Iowa, 1999-2007
• 155-52 – New Mexico, 2007-13
• 124-63 – UCLA, 2013-18
• 13-8 – Nevada, 2019-present
• 600-306 – TOTAL, 29 seasons

After the game, Alford said this of the 600th win and how he wished it hadn’t been against New Mexico (this is a lengthy quote, but I decided to include it in its entirety):

“I don’t know if that’s fun just because of how much New Mexico and that place means to me and the family. I think that’s always hard. …

“I’ve got three guys — Craig Snow, Brandon Mason and Paul Weir, the head coach — have all been on my staff either at Iowa or New Mexico. So now I’m pulling for them. There’s only a couple times each year I don’t pull for them, and this happened to be one of them. But there’s a lot of people on my own staff — from Kory (Alford), who went to (La Cueva High School) to play two years (at UNM), to Ro (Roman Martinez), who had a phenomenal playing career there, to Nate Strong, a family friend. … Craig (Neal), we were there six years, he was there 10 years. So, Noodles and I have an incredible history there.

“So, you want to win, and you want to play well, and we did that. I think it will really hit me when I’m back inside the Pit because that’s a very special place.”

The CBS Sports Network crew had a brief interview with Alford on the court after the game. And while the tweet descriptor says the game was on the road, Steve Alford is, in fact, the coach of the Nevada Wolf Pack now, meaning games played in Reno are home games.

A number to know: 1.32

Nevada scored 1.32 points per possession in Saturday’s 73-possession game, the second-highest points per possession figure for a Lobos opponent this season.

Here are the 10 worst defensive PPP games for UNM this season:
• *1.33 – Colorado State (Jan. 15)
• *1.32 – Nevada (Saturday)
• *1.24 – UNLV (Jan. 18)
• 1.20 – Boise State (Dec. 4)
• *1.13 – Houston Baptist (Dec. 22)
• *1.11 – San Jose State (Jan. 1)
• 1.11 – Auburn (Nov. 25)
• 1.08 – New Mexico State (Nov. 21)
• 1.04 – McNeese State (Nov. 16)
• 1.03 – Grand Canyon (Dec. 17)
* Since Dec. 22 suspension of J.J. Caldwell and Carlton Bragg

On the flip side, as lopsided as Saturday’s game was, the Lobos scored a not-awful 1.01 ppp.

He said it

“I thought the kids played hard. This is not on them. There’s a lot of things that have happened in the last month or so that has put us down four significant players. If you took four significant players off Nevada, they’d have an impact as well. This is not their cross to bear. They’re trying. They’re working. They’re doing the things we’re asking them to do. …

“But, overall, these guys are trying and I feel great about the guys who are in the locker room now, the effort that they’re giving, the willingness that they have to do the things that we’re asking them to do.” — UNM coach Paul Weir

Shot clock violation

During pregame warmups, the shot clock on the east basket inside Lawlor Events Center decided it had enough. It fell to the court, taking out a good sized gash from the hardwood (luckily it didn’t hurt anyone).

Here are some pics and tweets about the episode, all the way to the end of the night when I took a pic of the MacGyver-esque repair job from facilities crew handymen Clint Conley and Nathan Barlow (hat tip to Chad Hartley for their names).

Another number to know: 0-23

It’s clear that Makuach Maluach has been one of the Lobos best players in the Pit this season.

But on the road, much like the team itself, he’s just really struggled, especially shooting the 3.

After making his first two 3-pointers at UTEP on Nov. 19, Maluach has missed his last 23 — TWENTY THREE! — 3-point shot attempts outside the Pit.

Maluach 3-point shooting splits this season:

• ROAD/NEUTRAL COURT: 2-25 (8.0%)
• HOME GAMES: 16-32 (50.0%)
• TOTAL: 18-57 (31.6%)

Meanwhile, in Logan…

OK, so Utah State isn’t done just yet.

The Aggies beat the team that, until Saturday, looked like the second best team in the league over the past few weeks. But the road in the Mountain West claimed another victim.

Around the Mountain

There were four Mountain West games Saturday and there is one more on Sunday:

• San Jose State 90, Air Force 81
• Boise State 87, Fresno State 53
• Nevada 96, New Mexico 74
• Utah State 77, Colorado State 61

• No. 4 San Diego State at UNLV

Mountain West standings

Though there is one more game Sunday before the weekend slate is complete, here are the Mountain West standings through Saturday’s games (listed alphabetically where tied):

9-0 San Diego State
6-2 UNLV
6-3 Nevada
5-4 Boise State
5-4 Colorado State
5-4 New Mexico
5-4 Utah State
3-6 Air Force
3-6 San Jose State
2-7 Fresno State
0-9 Wyoming

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque…

The UNM Lobo women’s team knocked off Nevada in the Pit on Saturday afternoon…

Here is the game story filed Saturday by Journal colleague Ken Sickenger:

3-point reliance

I wrote about it in Saturday’s Journal before the UNM/Nevada game. This year’s Wolf Pack team relies on 3-point scoring more than any Steve Alford coached team, ever.

The Pack scored 51 points off 3-pointers on Saturday, hitting 17 3-pointers (tying a school record and setting a Lawlor Events Center record). That 51 points off 3-pointers is 53.1% of the team’s points in the game, pulling Nevada up to 39.9% of the points the team has scored this season coming off 3-pointers.

That 39.9% ranks 13th in the nation (of 353 Division I schools).


The announced attendance Saturday in the Lawlor Events Center: 8,979

Video: Paul Weir after loss

Here’s the video of Paul Weir’s postgame interview posted to the Journal’s YouTube page:

Plus/minus stats

Here are the plus/minus stats for the Lobos from Saturday with minutes played in parenthesis:

+1 Emmanuel Kuac (4:36)
-1 Jordan Arroyo (11:12)
-3 Kurt Wegscheider (1:23)
-7 Keith McGee (26:10)
-10 Zane Martin (35:07)
-18 Makuach Maluach (30:25)
-21 Corey Manigault (28:48)
-24 Vante Hendrix (35:32)
-27 Tavian Percy (26:47)

Meanwhile, in Edinburg, Texas…

The NMSU Aggies played at UTRGV (that’s University of Texas Rio Grande Valley for those not familiar)…

Box score

Here is the box score as handed out on press row Saturday in Reno:

And if you like the digital version, CLICK HERE.

Meanwhile, in Fayetteville…

Reno wasn’t the only place with two teams playing with Nevada and New Mexico coaching ties.

Arkansas, coached by former Nevada coach Eric Musselman, beat TCU, a team with former Lobo assistants Ryan Miller and Duane Broussard on the bench as well as Hobbs native Tony Benford on the bench.

And former Lobo Xavier Adams is a TCU graduate assistant coach.

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses go 2-2, so I’m still well-below .500 (19-28-2 against the spread on season).

My 10-year-old daughter’s #TeamCoin coin flip picks also went 2-2, so she’s still beating me (21-26-2).

And, of course, my now 6-month old daughter’s Baby Girl Grammer Bonus Pick is now up to 5-5 this season for a better win percentage than me or her big sister.

Until next time…

Until next time, Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev., …

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