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Emptying the Notebook: Lobo players, coach reactions to season-ending loss

The Thomas & Mack Center at the 2020 Mountain West Tournament on March 4, 2020. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats, videos, tweets and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Thursday’s 75-70 Utah State win over the UNM Lobos in the MWC Tournament quarterfinal round:

The aftermath…

I’ll keep this one brief. Here’s some of the aftermath reaction from the Lobos themselves after Thursday’s season-ending loss to Utah State.

From Lobo guard Zane Martin…

From Lobo senior forward Corey Manigault…

Also, here’s a quote from Corey when I asked him after the game for some reflection on his time as a Lobo and what he’ll remember most:

“Just having the greatest coach ever beside me, take me in, actually working with me and things like that. Just learning from him. Even though he said this game was his fault, we was out there on the floor.”

Lobo junior forward Vance Jackson initially tweeted to Lobo fans an apology, saying the loss was on him, which it clearly wasn’t. He deleted the tweet.

Among the thoughts he wrote before deleting were “ThankQ Lobo Nation for those that was w us thru thick and thin.”

I asked Jackson in the press conference if he would be back next season as a Lobo. The junior has three options: return for one more season at UNM, graduate and become an immediate-eligible graduate transfer for any Division I team, or turn pro and try and start making some money off ofplaying basketball.

His answer to that then an elaboration on playing for Paul Weir: “I can’t really think about what I’m going to do. This loss hurt. I can’t answer that question. …

“Coach Weir, like Corey said, he’s the best coach that I’ve ever played for. Just to lose, it just hurts. Coach Weir puts so much effort”

Finally, here was Weir’s emotional opening remarks to Thursday’s postgame presser:

It’s over

Thursday was it for the Lobos. No post-Mountain West Tournaments coming for UNM.

The 2019-20 UNM Lobos men’s basketball team finished:
• 19-14 overall
• 7-11 in Mountain West regular season
• 1-1 in Mountain West Tournament

The gamer

Here was the version of the gamer I filed from the media room after a fairly confusing postgame media situation with the Mountain West Conference closing the Lobos’ locker room for the mandatory media availability session, saying later it was a mistake.

Vante Hendrix

So, Vante Hendrix, the volatile, high-energy Utah transfer who some Lobo fans love because he plays so hard and other have voiced extreme frustration with to UNM administrators about his on-court actions being embarrassing to the program and university, was sent home on a flight to Albuquerque jut a couple hours before Thursday night’s game.

No real specific reason was given — before or even after the game when I asked UNM coach Paul Weir about it.

When I tweeted I was waiting to hear why he was sent home, Hendrix quote-tweeted my post with a response saying, essentially, he was also still waiting to learn that information oo home.

Asked after the game, Paul Weir clearly had no intention of getting into details, though he was asked about it several times.

“It really wasn’t anything serious or anything to worry about, but given the nature of how important I wanted to treat this past week and what I wanted out of our guys just didn’t quite meet my expectations.”

Remember, Hendrix was benched for the second half fo several games this season, picked up technical fouls in five of his first 12 games, pulled his jersey off and threw it when being substituted for in a nationally-televised loss to Nevada in February in the Pit, was benched for the Feb. 23 game at Boise State, did not make last week’s trip to Air Force and had Weir say after that game he was still trying to learn how to coach Hendrix and add he was still trying to figure out if he even wanted to coach Hendrix.

So, when Weir was asked a third time something about Hendrix on Saturday, he was clearly done with that topic.

“Again, I was just really trying to get focused for today’s game,” Weir said. “He is aware. I sent him home and I’ll deal with it. We can talk about Sam Merrill, but I don’t think we need to talk about Vante Hendrix that much.”

OK, on to Sam Merrill, then

Merrill, the Utah State senior star guard had 29 points on Saturday and killed the Lobos down the stretch of Thursday’s game, not unlike former San Diego State guard Trey Kell did two years in the Mountain West Tournament championship game.

Merrill picked up his fourth foul with 14:28 left in the game. He checked back in at the 9:38 mark and went ahead and played that final 9:38 with four fouls and scored 11 of his 29 points between the 7:32 mark and the 2:43 mark.

Lobo coaching records

An update to the Lobo coaching records in the Mountain West Tournament I posted earlier in the week:

• 8-4* Steve Alford (6 seasons)
• 4-3 Paul Weir (3 seasons)
• 3-3 Craig Neal (4 seasons)
• 3-4 Ritchie McKay (5 seasons)
• 2-3 Fran Fraschilla (3 seasons)

* Alford’s Mountain West Tournament record is now 8-5 with Thursday’s upset loss to No. 11 Wyoming, starting his postseason run at Nevada off with an 0-1 start, but his record as Lobos coach in the MWC Tournament is 8-4.

Lyle goes off

The Lobos don’t have a chance on Thursday without JaQuan Lyle. The senior guard finished with 20 points, three assists, two steals and he hit four 3-pointers.

With UNM down 22-9, Lyle scored 16 of his 20 points in a dominating 6 minute stretch in the first half that was capped by his fourth treay with 4:12 remaining in the half that pulled UNM within 29-27.

Said Utah State coach Craig Smith of that run: “Well, Lyle couldn’t miss. He had that stretch in that first half when we were up, I think 23-9, and then he caught fire and made, what, four out of five, I think scored four out of five possessions or something like that, and it just felt like a wave.”

Kurt does it again

Freshman Kurt Wegscheider did it again on Thursday, making the Lobos better in his time on the court.

Wegscheider had a team-best plus-12 for the Lobos in the 20 minutes, 14 seconds he played. The next best on the team in that stat was Zane Martin at minus-2.

It’s the second night in a row Wegscheider led the Lobos in plus/minus after having a UNM-best plus-22 on Wednesday vs. San Jose State.

Seeds, seeds, seeds

The lower seeded team is 4-3 through seven games of the Mountain West Tournament.

The four lower seeded victories are:

• 11 Wyoming is 2-0 (beat 6 Colorado State, 3 Nevada)
• 5 Boise State is 1-0 (beat 4 UNLV)
• 9 Air Force is 1-1 (beat 8 Fresno State, lost to 1 SDSU)

Cinderella’s slipper is a Cowboy boot

A No. 11 seed had never won in the Mountain West Tournament before Wednesday. Now, Wyoming, the team with two Mountain West regular season wins in 18 tries, has two Mountain West Tournament wins in two tries.

Oh, and some reading might be interested in knowing the Cowboys beat a Nevada team coached by Steve Alford with associate head coach Craig Neal, the prior two Lobo coaches before Paul Weir.

As for just how unlikely Wyoming’s run is so far after beating Nevada 74-71 on Thursday, our good friend Ken Pomeroy gave us a glimpse on March 1 with his #log5 series of win probability posts for each of Division I basketball’s 32 conference tournaments.

Wyoming had a 1.8% chance to reach the semifinals and now a 0.02% chance at winning in the semifinals.

Around the Mountain

There were four games around the Mountain West Tournament on Thursday:

• No. 1 San Diego State 73, No. 9 Air Force 60
• No. 5 Boise State 67, No. 4 UNLV 61
• No. 2 Utah State 75, No. 7 New Mexico 70
• No. 11 Wyoming 74, No. 3 Nevada 71

Friday’s semifinal schedule

Here’s the schedule for the final three games of the Mountain West Tournament:

FRIDAY
• Semifinal 1: No. 1 San Diego State vs. No. 5 Boise State, 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)
• Semifinal 2: No. 2 Utah State vs. No. 11 Wyoming, 8:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

SATURDAY
• Championship game 2:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. MT (CBS)

The walk off

The Lobos walking off the court for the final time in the 2019-20 season…

Aggie homer

As a New Mexico State graduate, I get accused of being an Aggies homer plenty in these parts (of course NMSU basketball fans hate me, too, so there’s that).

On Thursday, I guess I wasn’t hiding my homerism well at all, clearly picking the media row seat directly above the Utah State Aggies logo.

Plus/minus

Here are the Lobos plus/minus stats from Thursday:

+12 Kurt Wegscheider (20:14)
-2 Zane Martin (26:52)
-4 Keith McGee (20:23)
-5 Makuach Maluach (21:39)
-5 Corey Manigault (31:51)
-6 Emmanuel Kuac (2:58)
-7 JaQuan Lyle (38:33)
-8 Vance Jackson (37:30)

Video: UNM and USU postames

Here’s video via the Mountain West Network of the postgame pressers: CLICK HERE

Box score

Here is a picture of the postgame box score as handed out on press row after Thursday’s game:

And if you’re more interested in the digital version, CLICK HERE.

Grammer’s Guesses

Welp, at least the Guesses are on a roll, and that’s all everyone really cares about, right?

I’m now a perfect 7-0 picking games against the point spread through the first two rounds of the Mountain West Tournament — 3-0 picking two underdogs and a favorite in the opening round and 4-0 in Thursday’s quarterfinal round picking all four underdogs to use the points the sportsbooks were giving them.

Until next time…

Another Lobo hoops season ends here, the Thomas & Mack Center, the same arena the Lobos have played their final basketball game in defeat in the past six years.


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