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Emptying the Notebook: Lobo veterans fight off Aggies in crunch time

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UNM’s Vance Jackson gets fouled by Utah State’s Abel Porter late in Saturday’s game. Porter was ejected from the game. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats, videos, tweets and whatever else I managed to empty out of the old notebook after Saturday night’s 66-64 UNM win over Utah State on Senior Night in the Pit:

Redemption

Redemption. A word used multiple times in the game preview story I wrote for Saturday’s Journal ahead of the Utah State game, ended up being the word of the night for several oft-criticized Lobos this season.

Now, the word in Saturday’s preview article was more about the chance UNM gave players like JaQuan Lyle, Carlton Bragg and even others like J.J. Caldwell and Corey Manigault a chance to redeem themselves after things didn’t work out at past stops on their college basketball career.

Instead, on Saturday, redemption for several Lobo players wasn’t so much about struggles at past stops, but just about proving to fans, media, coaches and even themselves that the struggles of the past couple weeks (remember, UNM was on a five-game losing streak and had lost 10 of the previous 12 games) were behind them.

Down the stretch of Saturday’s game against the Utah State Aggies, the players leading the way were guys who were either benched in the closing minutes of Wednesday’s loss at Air Force (Zane Martin and Corey Manigault) or who have often been the target of Lobo fan criticism in games throughout this season despite heading into March as arguably the team’s two most dangerous players (Vance Jackson and JaQuan Lyle).

For Lyle, the senior was just 3-of-13 shooting, but had eight points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, two steals, a blocked shot and just three turnovers. He also, for those who feel he can’t play defense, may have had one of the best defensive games of his short Lobos playing career. He had his hands on loose balls, was a big body creating problems for the Aggies and even stepped in and drew the defensive assignment on several occasions in the post against Utah State’s 7-foot star center Neemias Queta after Manigault got into foul trouble early.

“We showed the last game (Wednesday’s loss at Air Force) that we can fight,” Lyle said. “I think with that, that was a big thing that led over to this game was just fighting and competing. I think we lacked that losing the last 10 out of 12. I think that was what was lacking. Last game and this game, the way we showed we can fight and compete and we can take it into next week.”

All in all, not a bad senior night, and a bit of redemption for Lyle, who just a couple weeks ago was being heckled heavily at home games by Pit fans.

The gamer

Here is the quick-turnaround gamer filed from the Pit

A number to know: 4.93

Lyle’s 10 assists night — his third double digit assists game of the season and second in Mountain West play — was big in a lot of ways.

First, it very much helped the Lobos win the game, even in a game his shot wasn’t falling (he took very few poor shots on Saturday, some just wouldn’t drop).

Second, with 10 assists, Lyle’s assists per conference game jumped from 4.54 assists per game entering Saturday to 4.93 assists per game after the game.

That means Lyle, the player accused of being selfish on the court by some Lobo fans, is the Mountain Wests assist leader for the 2019-20 season.

San Diego State point guard Malachi Flynn, who led the league in assists per game entering Saturday’s game, had five dimes at Nevada, but saw his assists per game average rise just from 4.71 to 4.72.

Here’s the top five assists per game players in Mountain West play this season as the regular season ended on Saturday:

1. JaQuan Lyle, New Mexico (4.93 assists per game)
2. Malachi Flynn, San Diego State (4.72 assists per game)
3. Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State (4.67 assists per game)
t4. Hunter Maldonado, Wyoming (4.33 assists per game)
t4. Lindsey Drew, Nevada (4.33 assists per game)

Oh, and he finishes second in the league during conference games in steals per game (1.79), which I’m guessing not many fans would have guessed, either.

Another number to know: 19

Helped greatly, obviously, by Lyle’s 10 assists, the Lobos as a team had 19 assists in Saturday’s win. That ties the team’s season high in Mountain West games.

The Lobos had four games in league play with 19 assists:

• W, Dec. 4 vs. Boise State
• L, Jan. 1 at San Jose State
• W, Jan. 7 vs. Fresno State
• W, Saturday vs. Utah State

Ball game

Corey Manigault, the other Lobo player who was celebrating Senior Night on Saturday, starting the game and closed the game looking like the MVP of the night.

The 6-foot-9 forward scored the first bucket of the game, had four points within the first two minutes of the game and hit a 3-pointer for his seventh point with 14:45 left in the first half.

Foul trouble limited his role the rest of the game, until it was closing time.

With 3 fouls and 5:23 showing on the clock, Manigault went back in the game with Utah State leading 57-51.

While he had a nice dunk at the 5:08 mark to give UNM a 4-point possession after the Able Porter flagrant 2 foul that first led to Jackson getting two free throws then the Lobos getting the ball out of bounds under their own basket, it was really the final minute that Manigault left his mark:

• 0:44 – dunk to tie the game (63-63), but he was fouled and his free throw gave the Lobos the lead (64-63)

• 0:24 – steal from Diogo Brito, dribbles downcourt for the fast break…
• 0:21 – layup for a 66-63 lead

• 0:01.8 – Manigault fouls Neemias Queta as the big man tried tipping a rebound out to a teammate for a possible game-tying 3-point attempt. Instead, the foul essentially clinched for the Lobos the win

Protecting the Pit

The Lobos finished the 2019-20 season with a 15-3 record in the Pit.

It was the best home winning percentage in Dreamstyle Arena since the 2013-14 season, Craig Neal’s first as coach and the season the Lobos won 27 games with players like Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams and Hugh Greenwood.

Here are the home records in the Pit over the 21-season Mountain West era:

2019-20: 15-3 (0.833)
2018-19: 9-7 (0.563)
2017-18: 13-4 (0.765)
2016-17: 11-4 (0.733)
2015-16: 12-4 (0.750)
2014-15: 10-5 (0.667)
2013-14: 13-2 (0.867)
2012-13: 15-1 (0.938)
2011-12: 14-2 (0.875)
2010-11: 14-3 (0.824)
2009-10: 17-1 (0.944)
2008-09: 16-2 (0.889)
2007-08: 16-2 (0.889)
2006-07: 13-5 (0.722)
2005-06: 15-2 (0.882)
2004-05: 18-1 (0.947)
2003-04: 14-4 (0.778)
2002-03: 10-7 (0.588)
2001-02: 14-5 (0.737)
2000-01: 15-4 (0.789)
1999-00: 13-7 (0.650)

Senior Night

There were three seniors honored on Saturday, and frankly it should have been four, even if one isn’t playing anymore.

JaQuan Lyle and his mom were honored on the court pregame with a framed jersey, as was Corey Manigault with his mom. Both will be getting college degrees this semester and both will collect paychecks playing basketball in the next year professionally.

Four-year team manager Andrew Lipin was also honored and was with his family being honored pregame:

And the fourth Lobo senior I think UNM could very well have taken a moment to acknowledge if it chose to do so (or if he even wanted to be a part of, which I’m not sure he did), was Carlton Bragg.

Yes, an aggravated DWI charge led to his dismissal from the team, and we aren’t going to go down that path here about whether that warranted a season and college career to end when it hasn’t for others with the same charge at UNM. The fact is, Carlton is still on scholarship, was still a UNM student since the 2017-18 season, and is still leaving this part of his life with a degree from the University of New Mexico.

Honoring that, in the face of all those other issues, is in a lot of ways actually a great story for him and the university that afforded him that opportunity. Why not recognize that?

Attendance

The announced attendance for Saturday’s regular season finale in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit was 11,215.

For the season, that brings UNM’s announced average home attendance to 10,992 through 18 home games.

That’s good for No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 33 in the nation (out of 353 Division I programs).

For comparison in league and the region (per NCAA.com stats as of Saturday):

• 21 Texas Tech (Big 12) – 13,918
• 22 Arizona (Pac-12) – 13,697
• 30 San Diego State (MWC) – 11,668
• 33 New Mexico (MWC) – 10,992
• 55 Utah State (MWC) – 8,671
• 80 New Mexico State (WAC) – 6,464
• 97 UTEP (C-USA) – 5,332

A game of runs

The scoring runs of greater than six points from Saturday:

• 8-0 UNM — 3:21 1H to 0:59 1H, went from UNM down 30-25 to leading 33-30
• 13-0 Utah State — 15:19 2H to 11:46 2H, went from USU up 39-38 to being up 52-38 (largest lead of game)
• 9-0 UNM — 11:23 2H to 10:11 2H, went from UNM down 52-38 to down 52-47
• 8-0 UNM — from 5:40 2H to 3:34 2H, went from UNM down 57-49 to tied 57-57
• 7-0 UNM — from 1:19 2H to 0:22 2H, went from UNM down 63-59 to leading 66-63

Meanwhile, in Reno…

No. 5 San Diego State got a career-high 36 points from Malachi Flynn and improved to 28-1 overall and a Mountain West all-time best 17-1 in league play with Saturday’s 83-76 win over Nevada in the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

Around the Mountain

There were five games around the Mountain West on Saturday.

• Colorado State 87, Air Force 74
• UNLV 92, San Jose State 69
• Fresno State 63, Wyoming 55
• San Diego State 83, Nevada 76
• New Mexico 66, Utah State 64

Final MWC standings

Here are the final Mountain West standings for the 2019-20 season with tied records ordered by their seed in the MWC Tournament:
17-1 San Diego State
12-6 Utah State
12-6 Nevada
12-6 UNLV
11-7 Boise State
11-7 Colorado State
7-11 New Mexico
7-11 Fresno State
5-13 Air Force
3-15 San Jose State
2-16 Wyoming

MWC Tournament schedule

The men’s portion of the Mountain West Tournament starts on Wednesday in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

All Wednesday’s first round games will be streamed on www.TheMW.com/watch. All of Thursday and Friday’s quarterfinal and semifinal games will be televised on CBS Sports Network. And the Saturday title game will be aired on CBS Sports.

WEDNESDAY
• No. 8 Fresno State vs. No. 9 Air Force, noon PT/1 p.m. MT
• No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 San Jose State, 2:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. MT
• No. 6 Colorado State vs. No. 11 Wyoming, 5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. MT

THURSDAY
• No. 1 San Diego State vs. 8/9 winner, 11:30 a.m. PT/12:30 p.m. MT
• No. 4 UNLV vs. No. 5 Boise State, 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT
• No. 2 Utah State vs. 7/10 winner, 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT
• No. 3 Nevada vs. 6/11 winner, 8:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. MT

FRIDAY
• Semifinal 1, 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT
• Semifinal 2 (the Lobos side of the bracket), 8:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. MT

SATURDAY
• Championship, 2:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. MT

Another number to know: 4-8

UNM was 4-of-8 from the free throw line on Saturday, a season-low in attempts and makes.

Meanwhile, in the women’s tourney

Here’s the Mountain West’s tweeted graphic of the women’s basketball MWC Tournament bracket, with games starting Sunday:

And here is a link to colleague Ken Sickenger’s preview of the Lobos in the tournament:

He said it

“They were mixing up some defenses down the stretch themselves. They played some man, they played some 2-3, they played some 1-3-1, they were doing some different things. And every time we got to the second or third possession, we made the right adjustment and got the look that we wanted and got them out of it. I thought offensively we just kept maneuvering around what they were doing schematically and then got really good looks at the rim.”

— UNM coach Paul Weir on the adjustments the Lobos made on both sides of the floor, but primarily offense to adjust to Utah State’s defensive changes coming throughout the game.

Not the seat he expected

UNM Lobo point guard J.J. Caldwell, who technically is still on the team while his indefinite suspension continues, was at Saturday’s game and posted on Twitter a view from his seat near the top of the lower bowl on the south side of the Pit with a very simple #GoLobos message.

Caldwell remains on indefinite suspension from the program and can not participate in team functions, but is still listed on the roster (unlike Carlton Bragg). Caldwell was accused by his ex-girlfriend of violence over the summer and in a December incident. He has not been charged nor is under any current UNM policy violation scenario, but the matter continues to be investigate by UNM’s Office of Equal Opportunity and reviewed by a state prosecutor to see if any charges will be filed.

While it may seem unlikely, there is nothing saying at this point Caldwell won’t be on the team next season. Again, as of today, he’s not been charged with a crime or found to have violated a university policy, at least not that anyone at UNM has said publicly.

Plus/minus stats

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

+9 Makuach Maluach (31:18)
+3 Vance Jackson (36:38)
+3 Corey Manigault (23:47)
+2 JaQuan Lyle (40:00)
+2 Kurt Wegscheider (20:04)
+1 Zane Martin (29:59)
-2 Jordan Arroyo (2:08)
-4 Keith McGee (11:24)
-4 Vante Hendrix (4:42)

Video: Weir, Lyle after game

Here is the video of Paul Weir and JaQuan Lyle talking to reporters after Saturday’s game in the Pit, as posted to the Journal’s YouTube page.

Half the story

Utah State trailed at halftime in just four Mountain West games (of 18) this season:
• Saturday at UNM (33-32, result loss)
• Feb. 5 vs. UNLV (29-27, result win)
• Jan. 4 vs. SDSU (34-27, result loss)
• Jan. 1 at UNLV (37-26, result loss)

A stat to look at

• First half points in the paint: Utah State 22, New Mexico 10
• Second half points in the paint: Utah State 10, New Mexico 16

Box score

Apparently I never posted the final box score on Twitter on Saturday night. Here’s a link to the BOX SCORE.

And for those who like the digital version of the game stats, CLICK HERE.

KenPom

Here are the KenPom.com rankings for the Mountain West at the conclusion of Saturday’s games (rankings, which are among the nation’s 353 Division I teams, can still fluctuate as other teams continue playing the next two weeks even thought the MWC has just 10 tournament games remaining).

4 San Diego State
41 Utah State
76 Nevada
86 Boise State
94 Colorado State
97 UNLV
135 New Mexico
152 Fresno State
206 Air Force
286 San Jose State
273 Wyoming

Vegas Vance says…

Lobos junior forward Vance Jackson, who had 17 points and hit three 3-pointers, tweeted after the game…

We’re going streaking!

Longest winning streaks in the Mountain West:
• 5 UNLV
• 2 SDSU

Longest losing streaks in the Mountain West:
• 9 San Jose State
• 2 Wyoming

Three teams (Fresno State, New Mexico, Colorado State) enter the MWC Tournament on a one win “streak” and four teams (Air Force, Boise State, Nevada, Utah State) are on a one loss “streak.”

The important stuff…

While my 10-year-old daughter already clinched the win over her old man before Saturday’s game, we played on anyway.

The Guesses went an impressive 4-1 and I finish the regular season 43-49-3 on the season.

My 10-year-old daughter’s coin flip picks went 3-2 and she closes the season at 49-43-3 on the season.

Meanwhile, my 7-month-old daughter, who picks a toy out of our hand (left hand toy home team, right hand toy road team), hit her pick on Saturday and she actually had the best win percentage of all of Team Grammer with an 11-8 record.

Until next time…

My late night, empty arena pictures are usually reserved for the road.

For this edition of Emptying the Notebook, I took a pic of the Pit for the last college game played in the arena of the season.

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