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Emptying the Notebook: Lyle sorry, Matos ready, Aztecs good

UNM Lobo freshman Bayron Matos, right, warms up before Wednesday’s San Diego State/New Mexico game in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats, tweets, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Wednesday night’s 85-57 San Diego State win over UNM in the Pit:

Lyle sorry, suspended

In a vacuum, JaQuan Lyle renting a house for a party isn’t illegal or against any Lobo basketball or University of New Mexico rules and, frankly, doesn’t warrant a suspension.

But life isn’t lived in a vacuum, and the timing basically was awful for an injured player renting out a house on Saturday for a huge party the night his team played in Nevada (and lost by 22, no less) in a month that could go down as bizarre and damaging as almost any in recent memory in Lobo lore.

The fact the party ended up getting out of control and led to two people being shot, including a UNM softball player, is a rather unfortunate detail, of course, but the action itself of what Lyle did isn’t unlike what other UNM athletes have done.

Nevertheless, Lyle’s timing and poor judgment led to two things on Wednesday: A lengthy apology from him and a two-game suspension handed down from Paul Weir for the classic “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Lyle’s apology tweet was obviously coordinated with the team’s sports information director’s release of the suspension, though neither his statement, nor the team’s announcement of the punishment reference or acknowledge the other.

First, Lyle’s statement:

In case you can’t read the tweet above, I’ll post it here, too, as written and posted by Lyle at 5:29 p.m. Wednesday:

“Saturday night I made a decision I deeply regret to reserve an air bnb while my teammates were out of town. At the time I thought it was the responsible thing to do to find a safe place for fun with some students and friends. Looking back at it now I can see that I should have had way better judgement. My focus should have been on my academics, my health, and supporting my teammates coming from their game. I apologize for the publicity this has created. It is the last thing I wanted to bring to our team, our fans, and UNM. I will do everything in my power to make this right, accept all responsibility for my actions, and help put our team back on track. These past 3 years being a Lobo have been the best years of my life and I hope to finish it that way too. Thank you all and God Bless.”

As for the team’s punishment, an email was sent out to media at 5:35 p.m. that read:

“Wanted to let you know in advance of tonight’s game that JaQuan Lyle will not be available for tonight’s game. He will serve a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.”

Lyle is the team’s leading scorer and has now missed the past three games — the first two with a left knee injury and now one (Wednesday) due to suspension. He is expected to miss Saturday’s road game at Fresno State and then return to the Lobos roster for the Feb. 8 home game against Wyoming.

All the drama

Between player suspensions, parties, DWI arrests, dismissals, players going to parties (where a shooting later happened) after coming home the night of a 22-point road loss in another state, and now a long run of embarrassing blowout losses, the Lobos clearly have a lot of drama around the program.

It’s something nobody is denying, but not something Paul Weir can quite explain just yet.

Here are a couple of his postgame thoughts on the state of the program:

Q: Is this season ‘recoverable’ at this point?

A: “I don’t know. I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it. You just get ready for the next day. You get ready for the next game. It was obviously a season that was on a really — it was a lot of fun and right now maybe isn’t as much fun. I can’t really predict what’s going to happen in the future exactly. All we can do right now is work really hard, stay positive, stay together play the guys that are here — the guys that are here, and willing and able to play and hope that we can get them better as the season kind of winds down.”

Q: Are you angry a few players seemed to derail this season?

A: “I think we all in life want simple cause and effect explanations. This is because of transfers. Or this is because of Paul Weir. Or this is because of a lot of different things. And those all may be true to some element of it. I don’t think they’re as black and white as some people make it out to be.

“Right now, as I’ve sat and I’ve reflected on different things, my biggest reflection for me personally and what I would have or could have done differently is we didn’t handle winning very well. Lobo basketball players in this community are of a certain status and when we got to 12-2 — quite frankly this didn’t happen last year. This didn’t happen the season before and it didn’t happen when the season started. It happened when we won a lot. The celebrity status came with it and if I look back on anything, I regret that I did not take a more active approach to understand that and to know that and reel that in. …

“That’s what I look back on and regret to an extent. I don’t regret the kids. I don’t regret taking them. I still love them. I still care for them and I’m still going to coach them. … I should have taken a more active approach to reeling and managing what came with (a 12-2, successful start to the season).”

Weir added he’s never asked his team to have a curfew, always trusting them to do the right thing in the past. … “but maybe this team needed one.”

The gamer

Here’s the gamer I filed from the Pit on Wednesday night:

And with the rare double dose of Journal coverage, here’s the column Rick Wright filed from the Pit after Wednesday’s game:

Some Pit(iful) stuff

Wednesday was the fourth worst beating the Lobos have taken in the Pit:

• 36 points – Utah 86, UNM 50 (March 10, 1995)
• 34 points – Utah State 117, UNM 83 (Dec. 29, 1979)
• 30 points – Utah 81, UNM 51 (Jan. 21, 2002)
• 28 points – San Diego State 85, UNM 57 (Wednesday)
• 27 points – San Diego State 83, UNM 56 (March 1, 2016)

And, as crazy as it sounds, the 28-point loss was the first time the Lobos lost in Dreamstyle Arena this season. UNM had a home win streak of 15 games overall and started this season out 13-0 at home, the best such mark to start the season in the Mountain West era.

A number to know: 1.31

I wrote earlier this week about how teams, regardless of pace, were simply scoring with relative ease against the Lobos since Carlton Bragg down low and J.J. Caldwell on the perimeter have been missing.

Wednesday, the Aztecs were the next on the list. Six of the top seven (or worst seven) points per possession games by Lobo opponents this season have been in games without Bragg and Caldwell playing. Here’s the seven highest PPP games for Lobo opponents this season, per KenPom.com:

• 1.33: Colorado State (L, Jan. 15)
• 1.32: Nevada (L, Saturday)
• 1.31: San Diego State (L, Wednesday)
• 1.24: UNLV (L, Jan. 18)
• *1.20: Boise State (W, Dec. 4)
• 1.13: Houston Baptist (W, Dec. 22)
• 1.11: San Jose State (L, Jan. 1)
* The lone game on list with Bragg and Caldwell playing.

Is help already here?

Fans who showed up to the Pit early enough to see the Lobos warming up on Wednesday night caught their first glimpse of Lobo freshman big man Bayron Matos, who finished high school early last month, was cleared by the NCAA to play and enrolled at UNM this past week. He was allowed to suit up and warm up with the team.

Matos was supposed to be in the recruiting Class of 2020, and I guess he still is since this is 2020 when he’s joining the team.

(excuse the Twitter typo, or don’t, just know he’s a big man, not a bug man)…

So is the BIG MAN going to actually play for the Lobos this season?

First off, he’s been in college three days. So, Wednesday would have been pretty unlikely anyway, but just to be sure, he wasn’t even added to the official scorebook before the game, meaning the Lobos couldn’t have just put him in the game even if they wanted to once the blowout was already apparent.

Moving forward, here’s the breakdown from his standpoint: Matos wants to play, his family wants him to play, and he has no intention of being here at UNM five years from now anyway, so saving this season as a redshirt season isn’t a priority.

And from UNM coach Paul Weir’s standpoint: Weir wants him to redshirt, but also has been very consistent about any player on his roster being allowed to make their own decision about when they use their redshirt, which also plays into whether a player actually has any intention of being at a school for five years of their life.

“He’s a young kid,” Weir said. “It really is his decision. It’s not something I’m going to put my head on the pillow at night and think about whether I played him or I didn’t play him. It’s his life and I’m here to support him either way. If I can guide him, my guidance probably would be to get ready for next year and use this as a great opportunity.

“That being said, he might have been the best player on the floor in practice for two days. He knows that. He felt that. And he feels certain ways. We’ll see how that unfolds.”

Then again, who needs him?

Why bring on a new big man when there’s one already on the roster ready for more minutes?

I kid, of course. But on Wednesday, it should be noted that Atrisco Heritage Academy graduate and UNM sophomore walk-on Jordan Arroyo, a 6-foot-7 forward, had himself a game on Wednesday, even if in a blowout loss.

Arroyo played a career-high 21 minutes (previous high was 12) and grabbed a career-high, and team-best, seven rebounds, six of which were offensive boards.

“Playing in the Pit is always surreal. It’s almost ground shaking the noise that you feel from the 13,000-plus that come to support us.”

Announced attendance

The announced attendance for Wednesday’s game in the Pit: 13,241

Here’s what it looked like right before tip:

It was the largest crowd San Diego State has played in front of this season.

TOP 3 ATTENDANCES AT SDSU ROAD GAMES
• 13,241 – Wednesday at UNM
• 12,567 – Nov. 9 at BYU
• 12,287 – Sunday at UNLV

(SDSU home games have a capacity of 12,414 and the Aztecs have had five consecutive sell outs)

As for the Pit, Wednesday was the second largest crowd of the season.

TOP 3 PIT CROWDS THIS SEASON
• 14,488 – Dec. 14 vs. NMSU
• 13,241 – Wednesday vs. SDSU
• 11,014 – Jan. 11 vs. Air Force

Coming clean

I didn’t catch his name, but this fan hit a halfcourt shot that give him free carwashes for a year. (If I hit a halfcourt shot in front of 13,000 fans, I want more than a damn carwash coupon!)

He said it, Part 1

“Road wins are the hardest thing in college basketball to get and this has been a hard place for us, obviously, because they have such great fan support and the building is electric. This is one of the hardest places to coach your own team because they can’t hear you.” — SDSU coach Brian Dutcher

He said it, Part 2 (and 3)

“I like Paul a lot. We’ve become pretty good friends. Winning basketball games is hard when you’re healthy, but when you’re missing four starters, then it becomes doubly difficult. I feel for Paul. It hard enough when you have all your pieces, but when you’re deficient players, deficient starters, then it’s just a long night. You have to play almost perfect basketball to win.” — SDSU coach Brian Dutcher

Speaking of the need to play perfect basketball…

“You have to play the perfect game to get this one and we, unfortunately, were far from it.” — UNM coach Paul Weir

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins…

Madness in Moby. Colorado State, arguably the second best team in the Mountain West right now, beat Nevada with a buzzer beater for a 91-90 win. Here’s a tweet with the audio from CSU play-by-play announcer Brian Roth:

Around the Mountain

There were three games around the Mountain West on Wednesday after two other midweek games on Tuesday. Here’s this week’s MWC games:

TUESDAY
• Fresno State 79, Air Force 68
• Utah State 68, Wyoming 45

WEDNESDAY
• No. 4 San Diego State 85, New Mexico 57
• Colorado State 92, Nevada 91
• Boise State 99, San Jose State 71

SATURDAY
• UNLV at Colorado State
• Wyoming at San Jose State
• New Mexico at Fresno State
• Utah State at No. 4 San Diego State
• Nevada at Boise State

Mountain West standings

Through Wednesday’s games (alphabetical where tied)…
11-0 San Diego State
6-3 UNLV
6-4 Boise State
6-4 Colorado State
6-4 Nevada
6-4 Utah State
5-5 New Mexico
3-7 Air Force
3-7 Fresno State
3-7 San Jose State
0-10 Wyoming

Meanwhile, in San Diego…

It was, from what I’m told, about as wild a finish as you’ll ever see. In front of the largest home attendance in Viejas Arena ever for a women’s basketball game, the Aztecs beat UNM, 75-74, in front of an announced daytime crowd of 5,320.

Here’s the write up colleague Ken Sickenger wrote for the Journal:

SDSU superlatives

Look, the Aztecs are pretty good. Like, maybe, just maybe, the best team to have come into the Pit kind of good.

Sound crazy? Maybe. But they have a very real shot of going undefeated heading into the NCAA Tournament (although some think their very next game on Saturday vs. Utah State could be a real shot at a loss) and have the balance and top six rotation versatility to contend with any team they play, especially considering the way they defend.

Regardless of all that, here are some of the crazy things they achieved just on Wednesday night:

• Biggest margin of victory over UNM in the Pit
• Improves to a school-record 22-0 overall
• Improves to 11-0 in Mountain West
• Only team in nation to hand three teams its only home loss this season (BYU, Utah State and New Mexico)
• Ties school record for most consecutive road/neutral court wins (11)
• Season high 15 made 3-pointers
• Yanni Wetzell: Career-high 4 blocked shots
• Jordan Shakel: Career-high 9 rebounds
• Malachi Flynn: Fourth time he’s had at least 6 assists and zero turnovers (his statline was 12 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
• Started game leading 17-0 … leading Paul Weir to say of the start, “I thought that opening three minutes for San Diego State as the most impressive three minutes I’ve ever gone against another team in my four years as a head coach.”

Proud papa

There’ve been a few headaches for UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez lately. I get it. I’ve been the reason for some of them is my guess.

But for a couple minutes Wednesday night, he got to be a proud papa as his daughter, Ellie, sang the National Anthem before the game. Here’s a couple of quick pics I took with my phone as she sang and he was tucked away in the corner being a #GirlDad recording the moment.

Plus/minus

Here are the plus/minus figures for the Lobos, with minutes in parenthesis, from Wednesday’s game:

+6 Emmanuel Kuac (12:46)
+1 Kurt Wegscheider (7:31)
-1 Tavian Percy (19:07)
-1 Clay Patterson (6:09)
-9 Jordan Arroyo (20:54)
-17 Keith McGee (27:44)
-28 Corey Manigault (21:57)
-30 Makuach Maluach (29:52)
-30 Vante Hendrix (27:40)
-31 Zane Martin (26:20)

Flying freshmen

Both teams have freshmen deep on their bench who can jump out of the gym: UNM’s Emmanuel Kuac and SDSU’s Keshad Johnson.

Here’s what both did on Wednesday to the poor south end rim in the Pit:

First, Johnson in the first half…

And then Kuac in the second half…

Up next

The Lobos play at Fresno State at 2 PT/3 MT on Saturday in the SaveMart Center.

Video: Weir, McGee, Arroyo

Here’s video I took of the postgame press conference with Paul Weir, Keith McGee and Jordan Arroyo. My apologies for the shaky start of the video, I was recording with one hand while trying to set up a tripod with the other as things started sooner than I was ready for.

Box score

Here’s the final box score handed out on press row after the game:

And for those who want the digital stats, CLICK HERE.

Grammer’s Guesses

OK, so the Guesses weren’t awful for a night. I went 2-1 picking games against the point spread, but am still a very embarrassing 21-31-2 on the season and still getting beat by both my daughters.

My 10-year-old daughter’s coin flip picks went 1-2 and she’s now 23-29-2 on the season.

My 6-month-old daughter’s Baby Girl Grammer Bonus Pick of the night got another win and is 6-5 on the season.

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