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Emptying the Notebook: SDSU on historic run, Hendrix shines in defeat

Viejas Arena at San Diego State University on Feb. 11, 2020. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Here are a few more notes, quotes, tweets, stats, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Tuesday’s 82-59 San Diego State win over the UNM Lobos in Viejas Arena:

(A little bit of an abbreviated version this time with a late start and travel issues)

It won’t help, but…

It won’t help most Lobo fans, but San Diego State is having a historic season and what happened on Tuesday was good and bad for the Lobos.

The bad, obviously, was the second half — a 47-26 beat down with, again, players losing their cool (Corey Manigault) and others seemingly angry to the point of not being focussed or disinterested by game’s end.

The good was a first half that, (broken record time here) despite being down two starters, the Lobos went toe-to-toe, blow for blow with the unbeaten, No. 4 Aztecs in the first half of a hostile road environment. And remember, JJ Caldwell led the league in assists and steals when he was booted from the team and Carlton Bragg was the team’s second leading scorer and arguably the best post defender in the league until mid-December, something glaringly lacking for the Lobos now.

But the other part of Tuesday’s game, like it or not, was that the Aztecs again added a bullet point to the list of reasons they might be the best Mountain West team of all time. I’m not sure yet if I think they are that, but I’m running out of reasons to doubt it.

They clinched the program’s seventh league title and did so with nearly three weeks to spare.

That is insane in an 11-team league.

Asked his opinion of whether SDSU is a worthy No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Paul Weir said he wasn’t sure what the other teams in the conversation look like, but he knows what this team looks like:

“I don’t know enough about No. 1 seeds, (but) I coached against their team in 2012 (he said 2012, as you can see in the video linked below, but the NMSU team Weir was referring to played SDSU in the 2014 NCAA Tournament), played against them in the NCAA tournament, and to me this team is better than that team,” Weir said.

“(Malachi) Flynn’s defense alone tonight sends a lot of messages to people, as well as (Matt) Mitchell’s physicality. They’re good and they were good tonight. I thought our guys played hard and we really tried, but you have to credit what is a terrific team on the other side.”

Vante did his part

I’m not saying the Lobos quit on Tuesday, but by midway through the second half they weren’t playing any sort of brand of basketball that stood a chance against the SDSU Aztecs or probably any other team in the league for that matter.

It was ugly and should be for those players and coaches rather embarrassing.

But Vante Hendrix fought hard, and found ways to produce, when others on his team simply weren’t able to do so.

While Hendrix is a player that scares the heck out of a lot of people in the league because of his short fuse and high energy approach that has people waiting for emotions to get out of control, the version Hendrix displayed of himself on Tuesday was impressive. He never quit and was the only reason the Lobos didn’t lose by 40.

Hendrix was diving for balls, fighting for rebounds, and scored a career-high 20 points and I plan to write more on him later this week.

The gamer

Late tip time. Different time zone. Televised game with long TV timeouts. … Wasn’t a work of art, but here’s the game story I rushed through to file from press row after Tuesday’s game:

A number to know: 7

The UNM Lobos have had seven of their last eight games decided by 21-or-more points (five losses and two wins with one 5-point loss mixed in that span).

The website KenPom.com tracks “blowouts” in league play and defines them as games decided by more than 19 points.

The Mountain West is tied with the West Coast Conference for the most (14), but has played more league games (72 compared to 54) so ranks second overall in “blowout” games with a percentage of 19.4% to the WCC’s 25.9%.

More specific to this note, in this column, from the beat writer for the UNM Lobos…

The Lobos are having an insanely up and down stretch. They have seven of the league’s 14 blowout games, and all in just the past eight games played. And it isn’t as though they’re just on one side of the spectrum, with two wins countering those five blowout losses. Colorado State is the only other team in the MWC to have been on both sides of a “blowout” this season (we’re only talking league play).

Here is a count of the Mountain West’s 14 “blowout” games in conference play this season (this will include 28 total since there are two teams in every “blowout” game):

• 7 – New Mexico (5 losses, 2 wins)
• 4 – San Diego (4 wins)
• 3 – Wyoming (3 losses)
• 2 – Air Force (2 losses)
• 2 – Boise State (2 wins)
• 2 – Colorado State (1 win, 1 loss)
• 2 – Nevada (2 wins)
• 2 – San Jose State (2 losses)
• 2 – Utah State (2 wins)
• 1 – Fresno State (1 loss)
• 1 – UNLV (1 win)

NOTE: For comparison, of the 14 “blowout” games in the WCC, Gonzaga has six and all are wins.

Exclamation point

The lead was already 16 at this point, so maybe saying this was when the game was essentially over might be a little inaccurate. But between this dunk and the 3-point play Mitchell converted on the ensuing SDSU possession, it’s safe to say it was a little loud in Viejas and more than a few started heading to their cars to beat the traffic after this dunk:

Oh, but the Pit…

Maybe now’s a good time to remind some Lobo fans that UNM does play its next two games in the Pit, where the team is 14-1 this season.

UNM hosts UNLV on Saturday, trying to go for 15-1, which would match the 2012-13 Lobos, coached by Steve Alford, for best 16-game home record to start the season. Then next Tuesday Alford and Craig Neal bring Nevada to the Pit, where UNM hopes to be playing for a 16-1 home record.

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins, part 1…

Regardless of the game results, Sam Merrill scoring his 2,000th career point for the Utah State Aggies is an amazing accomplishment in college basketball. Congratulations, Sam:

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins, part 2…

Behind Merrill’s 32 points, Utah State picked up a huge road win at Colorado State and is right back to arguably the league’s second best team.

Around the Mountain

There were three games on Tuesday night around the Mountain West with two more coming on Wednesday:

TUESDAY
• Boise State 74, Air Force 57
• Utah State 75, Colorado State 72
• No. 4 San Diego State 82, New Mexico 59

WEDNESDAY
• Nevada at UNLV, 7 PT/8 MT
• Fresno State at San Jose State, 7 PT/8 MT

Mountain West standings

Through Tuesday, here are the Mountain West standings:
14-0 San Diego State*
9-5 Boise State
9-5 Utah State
8-5 Colorado State
8-5 Nevada
7-5 UNLV
6-7 New Mexico
4-9 Fresno State
3-9 San Jose State
3-10 Air Force
1-12 Wyoming
*clinched outright MWC championship

A number to know: 49

Makuach Maluach has started 49 consecutive games for the Lobos. That’s 49 in a row without a DNP mixed in there for injury or suspension.

If he starts on Saturday against UNLV, which is expected, he’ll be at 50 straight.

Recent such streaks:

• Tim Williams started all 54 games he played at UNM, but the longest streak of his without a DNP was 39 (streak ended at end of 2016-17 season)
• Sam Logwood started 57 games played in a row, but had just 54 in a row without a DNP in there (streak ended Dec. 17, 2016, against Arkansas Pine Bluff)
• Obij Aget started 73 consecutive games without a DNP (that streak ended on Dec. 17, 2016, against Arkansas Pine Bluff).

Attendance

Viejas Arena had an announced sellout crowd of 12,414 on Tuesday.

This was the scene before the game with the Show, the SDSU student section, which had just prior to this unveiled huge past jail booking mugshots posters in the stands of Carlton Bragg, JaQuan Lyle and J.J. Caldwell, and waved them to Lobo fans throughout the game.

The Lobos laughed before the game, but it was certainly unlike anything any other opposing arena has done to the Lobos this season.

Plus/minus

Here are the Lobos’ plus/minus stats for Tuesday with minutes played in parenthesis:
+1 Emmanuel Kuac (4:10)
-1 Tavian Percy (2:07)
-13 Keith McGee (19:35)
-14 Vante Hendrix (24:32)
-15 Vance Jackson (27:38)
-17 Zane Martin (27:54)
-17 Corey Manigault (24:52)
-18 Makuach Maluach (33:38)
-21 JaQuan Lyle (35:34)

NOTE: SDSU’s leader was Matt Mitchell at +25

Box score

Here is the final box score as handed out on press row Tuesday night:

And for those interested in the digital version, CLICK HERE.

Video: Paul Weir postgame

Here’s Paul Weir talking to reporters postgame:

The runs…

Scoring runs can really be whatever you want them to be. But notable ones to me start at 7-0. That requires scores on three possessions without the other team scoring (I know that technically doesn’t have to be true, but pretty much 99.9% of the time it’s the case since 4-point plays aren’t exactly the norm).

Anyway, after a first half in which the Lobos allowed SDSU zero scoring runs of 7-0 or better, the Aztecs had three in the second half:

• 7-0 extended a 37-35 lead to 44-35
• 7-0 extended a 46-40 lead to 53-40
• 12-0 extended a 57-44 lead to 67-44

At least I made it…

It wasn’t always a sure thing I was going to make it to San Diego after weather in Albuquerque grounded a few dozen flights on Tuesday morning…

… and with the change in plans, I thought I might need to find a babysitter, so I asked the Show for some help. Some social media feedback I got …

Up next

Up next for the Lobos: UNLV at UNM on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Pit, where, as mentioned above, the Lobos are still 14-1 this season.

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 2-1 on Tuesday and I’m at 32-37-2 against the point spread this season.

My 10-year-old daughter’s coin flip picks also went 2-1 and she’s at 34-35-2 ATS on the season.

My 6-month-old daughter’s Baby Girl Grammer pick missed and those are at 8-7 for the season.

Also, based on comments on Twitter, I still don’t think a lot of people know what a point spread is or how they work. Anyway…

Until next time…

Until next time, Viejas Arena, on the campus of San Diego State University…

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