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Emptying the Notebook: More drama as Lobos lose at Air Force

Clune Arena on the campus if the U.S. Air Force Academy on Feb. 26, 2020. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, videos, tweets and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Wednesday’s 60-58 Air Force win over the UNM Lobos:

No Vante, no more?

Vante Hendrix, the energetic sophomore guard who is a favorite among some fans because he plays as hard as any Lobo and a not-so-favorite among some other fans for antics like yelling at teammates and coaches and taking off his jersey and throwing it behind the bench during a nationally-televised game one week ago, did not make the trip with the Lobos to Colorado Springs this week.

While UNM sent out an email to media on Tuesday with the subject line “Personnel update” informing us all that sophomore guard Tavian Percy wouldn’t make the trip to play at Air Force due to a foot injury, the part about Hendrix missing the trip was left out.

And when I asked Paul Weir about it after the game, he wouldn’t elaborate on details as to the why, either. Instead stating the same thing he has in the past after multiple times this season having to bench Hendrix for long portions of games after incidents on the court.

“I think I’ve said before, I’m still learning how to coach him,” Weir said.

I wanted to at least know if Hendrix was still on the team, which this season is a fair question since other players are not for various reasons.

“He’s still on the team,” Weir said.

And when I tried one more time for elaboration on Hendrix’s absence, including pointing out that Hendrix made the weekend trip to Boise after the Nevada game, but did not play, Weir added this rather shocking statement that coaches don’t often say.

“Still learning how to coach him,” Weir said. “Still deciding if I want to coach him. That’s probably the best way to put it.”

Weir certainly has given a lot of players a lot of leeway this season, and many are questioning why it’s Hendrix now facing such harsh punishment, but no other player has done on the court during games the things Hendrix has nor has any other Lobo accumulated so many technical fouls (five in first 12 games played) as Hendrix did from game officials, not Weir, and not Lobo was benched for the second halves of three of his first dozen or so games after incidents on the court as Hendrix.

Selective punishment or not, no other player has done on the court the things Hendrix has done, and Weir has not only stuck with Hendrix longer than some expected, he did so while the UNM administration (Eddie Nuñez last week was asked about Weir allowing Hendrix to continue playing after the jersey incident) was being asked about the player’s conduct embarrassing the program and entire university.

Hendrix was one of five scholarship players the Lobos started fall practice with for this season who were not at Wednesday’s game to play:

• Carlton Bragg (dismissed from team)
• JJ Caldwell (suspended indefinitely from team)
• Vante Hendrix (suspended)
• Tavian Percy (injured foot)
• Drue Drinnon (transferred before playing a game this season and his scholarship was picked up at semester break by Bayron Matos, who is not playing this season)

The gamer

Here is the gamer I filed from courtside at Clune Arena on Wednesday night:

A number to know: 86.3

Air Force won on Wednesday despite scoring just 0.863 points per possession.

That’s the lowest PPP of any win for the Falcons this season, the lowest opponent PPP of any loss for the Lobos this season and even the lowest winning PPP of any Mountain West Conference team in any game this season, league or non-league play included.

UNM’s points per possession on Wednesday per KenPom.com? 0.835, the same as in a Feb. 11 blowout loss to San Diego State and the second lowest of the season (0.772 in the Nov. 25 blowout loss to Auburn).

Air Force on Wednesday was 23-of-60 shooting (38.3%) and had 17 turnovers — numbers you don’t often see for the losing team, but with who the Lobos decided to play much of this game, especially down the stretch including that final 5:04 with no scoring, that’s what’s going to happen.

For some more historical context on that PPP figure for Air Force, the lowest winning PPP for a current Mountain West team since 2002, when KenPom.com started tracking such records, was 0.695 points per possession when on Nov. 14, 2012, Fresno State beat U.C. Riverside 39-30.

The lowest PPP the Lobos have had in a victory since 2002 was posting a 72.2 in a 44-41 win over USC on Dec. 10, 2011.

So, was that great Lobos defense? In fairness, the Lobos did play good defense overall on Wednesday, but the big takeaway from this game, as both coaches hinted at in postgame remarks, was two really bad offensive performances.

“I thought we got some pretty good looks at the rim, pretty much all night,” Weir said. “We had some clean 3s, got the ball to the rim, missed a lot of layups. I think it was just an ugly game. I think both teams, defensively — or offensively were just inept. It was just one of those kind of games. Unfortunately, the well just went a little dry. We had some really poor possessions there down the stretch.”

The painful last play

Speaking of poor possessions down the stretch…

After Sid Tomes 3-pointer with 27 seconds left put the Falcons up 60-58, Air Force had two fouls left to give before UNM was in the bonus. So, wisely, they let some time expire and then fouled JaQuan Lyle. Then, they let some more time expire and then fouled Vance Jackson.

So, then, with just 8.8 second remaining on the clock, here was the final possession of the Lobos on Wednesday night…

It wasn’t exactly the happy ending the Lobos wanted, or even the one they got just 20 game minutes earlier, when to end the first half, Lyle drained a 3-pointer as time expired to put the Lobos up 33-28 at the break:

Planting seeds

With five games remaining in the Mountain West regular season, here are the locked in seeds for next week’s conference tournament:

1. San Diego State
2.
3.
4.
5.
6. Colorado State
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.

… so, yeah. Still plenty to be determined on Saturday.

As for the Lobos, they can finish in one of three spots: The No. 7 seed, No. 8 seed or No. 9 seed. The play-in round of the tournament (Wednesday) features teams 6 through 11.

As far as what all that means, the No. 7 seed plays the No. 10 seed in the opening round with the winner facing the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals. The Nos. 8 and 9 seeds play each other with the winner facing San Diego State in the quarterfinals.

Right now, there’s a good chance there will be a replay of Wednesday’s game in next week’s play-in round in the 8/9 game with UNM and Air Force. UNM under Craig Neal in 2015 lost a play-in round game to the Falcons.

Here’s how UNM’s seeding scenarios work out:

• No. 7 seed with either a UNM win (over Utah State) OR Fresno State loss (vs. Wyoming)
• No. 8 seed with a UNM loss AND a Fresno State win AND Air Force loss
• No. 9 seed with a UNM loss AND a Fresno State win AND an Air Force win (at CSU)

Meanwhile, in future Lobos news…

After the game, Lobo signee Javonte Johnson was all smiles, despite the loss, talking to his future Lobo teammates and coaches.

The Cheyenne Mountain High School star in Colorado Springs leads his team into a state playoff game on Saturday night.

He said it

“I’m really happy for Jordan. I thought he was awesome tonight. I thought he made a big impact in the first half, and the second half. Ran out of a little bit of gas there late, I thought. And Kurt as well. But I just think those are guys that are, right now, giving us a better chance to win, which is incredibly encouraging.”

— UNM coach Paul Weir on the play of sophomore walk-on Jordan Arroyo, who played 22:55 on Wednesday with two points, five rebounds, a steal and a block and was the guy Weir and the Lobos chose to ride out at the “5” spot to close the game.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas…

So, about the Runnin’ Rebels. They’ve quietly become a pretty good team. Maybe the “quietly” part sort of blew out the window after Saturday’s upset on then-No. 4 San Diego State on the road.

Oh, and then there’s how the Rebels have been winning as of late…

Around the Mountain

There were five midweek games around the Mountain West (three Tuesday, two on Wednesday) and there are five more coming up on Saturday to end the league’s 21st regular season.

TUESDAY
• San Diego State 66, Colorado State 60
• Nevada 73, Wyoming 68
• Utah State 94, San Jose State 56

WEDNESDAY
• Air Force 60, New Mexico 58
• UNLV 76, Boise State 66

SATURDAY
• Air Force at Colorado State, 1 PT/2 MT
• UNLV at San Jose State, 2 PT/3 MT
• Wyoming at Fresno State, 4 PT/5 MT
• San Diego State at Nevada, 5 PT/6 MT
• Utah State at New Mexico, 7 PT/8 MT

Mountain West standings

Through Wednesday’s games, here are the Mountain West standings:
*16-1 San Diego State
12-5 Utah State
12-5 Nevada
11-6 UNLV
11-7 Boise State
10-7 Colorado State
6-11 New Mexico
6-11 Fresno State
5-12 Air Force
3-14 San Jose State
2-15 Wyoming
*Clinched Mountain West title

Meanwhile, on Thursday night…

The UNM women’s team wraps up its regular season Thursday night in Logan, Utah, against the Utah State Aggies. Colleague Ken Sickenger has the preview:

Oh, those runs…

Basketball is a game of runs. Every team goes on them, and pretty much every team lets their opponent go on them. It’s the game.

Wednesday, there were five key scoring runs (While there’s not a real definition I’m aware of for what constitutes an official “run”, I count scoring runs as any where a team scores on at least three possessions without the opposing team scoring in between). Here’s a look at five of those from Wednesday:

• 15-0, Air Force: The Falcons trailed 5-2 early before a 4 minute, 49 second span of scoring 15 consecutive points to take a 17-5 lead with 12:59 left.

It coincided with UNM missing eight consecutive shots — five 3-pointers and layup and two jumpers.

• 9-0, UNM: The Lobos used two 9-0 scoring runs in the first half to take control. The first including getting to the free throw line plenty, going 7-of-8 at the line in the scoring run that changed a 23-12 deficit into a 23-21 deficit in under three minutes.

• 9-0, UNM: The second 9-0 UNM run went from Air Force up 28-24 to the Lobos going into the locker room at halftime 33-28.

• 7-0, Air Force: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Fallons regained the lead after a Sid Tomes 3-pointer. In this case early in the second half, the mini scoring run turned a 35-30 hole into a 37-35 Air Force lead.

• 8-0, Air Force: With the Lobos having such players on the floor as Kurt Wegscheider and Jordan Arroyo in closing time as starters in front them were being benched, Air Force closed out their final home game scoring eight straight points while the Lobos offense sputtered down the stretch (to put it nicely).

Video: Paul Weir after Air Force loss

Here is my postgame interview with UNM coach Paul Weir after the Air Force win.

Plus/minus

Here are the plus/minus numbers for the Lobos from Wednesday’s game in Clune Arena:

• +12 Keith McGee (24 minutes)
• +2 Jordan Arroyow (23)
• +2 Kurt Wedshceider (20)
• +1 Emmanuel Kuac (4)
• -1 Corey Manigault (16)
• -2 JaQuan Lyle (35)
• -4 Zane Martin (23)
• -6 Vance Jackson (37)
• -14 Makuach Maluach (27)

Box score

Here’s the final box score from press row after Wednesday’s game:

And if you prefer the digital version, CLICK HERE.

Senior night

Saturday against Utah State will be Senior Night for the Lobos. UNM changed the senior game ceremonies to pregame this season (senior night recognition has been after games for at least a decade at UNM, though almost ever other team in the league does them before the game).

The two honored players will be Corey Manigault and JaQuan Lyle, two transfers who seems to be under much fire and criticism from fans of late, which is a real weird vibe to take into a senior night game.

Attendance

The announced attendance at Clune Arena on Wednesday night was: 1,925

Here’s a video I took as the Lobos starters were announced prior to tip-off:

Grammer’s Guesses

Here’s the important stuff.

The Guesses went 1-1 on Wednesday as the Lobos lost, but not by 3 points as I picked. So, I’m now 39-48-3 against the point spread this season.

My 10-year-old daughter’s coin flip picks went 2-0, because of course they did. She’s now 46-41-3 against the spread this season and has no idea what that even means.

And my 7-month-old daughter’s Baby Girl Grammer Bonus Pick hit, so she’s 10-8 on the season.

I’m also apparently in full wait ’till next year mode.

Until next time…

Until next time, Clune Arena on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy…

And one more bonus “Until next time…” with the ice rink right next door in the Cadet Field House…


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