OK, so the opponents haven’t been the type of physical team that the Lobos will see soon in Mountain West play. Certainly not in the paint.
But the schedule is what it is and at this point UNM’s three newcomer forwards have been nothing short of dominant down low. Rod Brown (6-foot-7, 218-pounds), Bayron Matos (6-9, 215) and Valdir Manuel (6-10, 225) have done everything asked of them to help carry over the Lobo coaching staff’s primary point of emphasis from the unique offseason in which UNM couldn’t practice as a team.
What they could do while working individually or in small groups was put a lid on the basket and have players do nothing bu rebound the ball off missed shots over and over again.
“Our goal in the limited on-court contact time we had (since last March) was to be the best rebounding team we could (be),” UNM coach Paul Weir said. “And we knew by doing that, it would hurt us maybe in some other areas. We wouldn’t be where we needed to be in different areas across the board. So, I feel good that we’ve rebounded the ball well so far — not great, but well.”
Both in Sunday’s win over Division I Rice and Tuesday against NAIA Our Lady of the Lake, the Lobos have dominated the paint in a variety of ways. And it hasn’t been just the bigs as 6-6 guard Saquan Singleton had 10 rebounds Tuesday and 6-5 wing Makuach Maluach had 12 rebounds against Rice.
UNM’s rebounding advantage:
• Sunday vs. Rice: 49-30
• Tuesday vs. OLLU: 48-21
UNM’s offensive rebounds:
• Sunday vs. Rice: 19
• Tuesday vs. OLLU: 14
UNM’s offensive rebound %:
• Sunday vs. Rice: 48.7%
• Tuesday vs. OLLU: 48.3%
UNM’s points in the paint advantage)
• Sunday vs. Rice: 40-12
• Tuesday vs. OLLU: 54-20
A 94-32 edge in points it he paint is hard to replicate against any two opponents.
Add to it that 6-7 forward Jordan Arroyo and 7-1 center Assane Ndiaye are joining the team in Texas on Wednesday as both have been in Albuquerque so far this week (neither have COVID or have discipline issues, Weir said) and the size and depth in the frontcourt keeps increasing for UNM.
Here is the gamer I wrote after Tuesday’s game — posted here online and published in Wednesday’s Albuquerque Journal print edition:
A number to know: 999
Makuach Maluach followed his 23 point debut from Sunday against Rice with a 17 point outing on Tuesday against Our Lady of the Lake, giving him 999 points scored in his college career (101 games played so far).
With one more point, Maluach will become the 35th player to score 1,000 points for the UNM Lobos, which is quite the accomplishment. I won’t even mention he could have had this wrapped up Tuesday had he done better than 3-of-8 from the free throw line.
No. 34 on the UNM scoring list is fellow Aussie Hugh Greenwood (1,006 points scored in 130 games from 2011-2015. The most recent player to join the club by scoring 1,000 points in a Lobos uniform was Elijah Brown, who in just 63 games in two seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17) scored 1,276 points and ranks No. 22 in a Lobo uniform.
Rice has been nice
As part of their contract for playing at Rice on Sunday, instead of any payment as the visiting team, the Lobos got use of Rice’s facilities this week — weight room, practice courts and even Tudor Fieldhouse to play Tuesday’s and Thursday’s games. Rice also offered up their stats team, video crew and play by play announcer for the streams of Tuesday’s and Thursday’s games.
It’s all part of the unique 2020 season for a Lobos team relocated out of state, trying to play catchup to all the other college basketball teams that started on Nov. 25 and have home facilities and courts to use.
“The big reason we came here was to have a place to practice for a week, to play some games, to go to the weight room, to be in one location,” Weir said. “The guys have been in at least the same hotel room for a certain amount of days right now. I think just kind of moving around (from hotel to hotel or back and forth from Albuquerque to West Texas, where they were practicing) and doing all those things becomes a little bit of a challenge to growing our team.
“So, the opportunity to come here, we’re incredibly thankful to Rice, for opening up their doors to us to allowing us to have these games here to allowing us into the weight room to allow us into their facility because it’s just not something that that we have an opportunity to do in a lot of other places right now.”
There wasn’t much Patterson on Patterson violence to speak of Tuesday. UNM’s Clay Patterson and OLLU’s David Patterson, brothers who both starred at Rio Rancho High School and who are former New Mexico Gatorade Players of the Year, may have ended up defending each other once.
But the Lobos won, so Clay gets some bragging rights in a game both brother ended up hitting one 3-pointer.
For Clay Patterson, the third-year walk-on at UNM, his 3-pointer was the first as a Lobo — an achievement his teammates on the bench may have even enjoyed more than he did.
In Tuesday's @UNMLoboMBB game, Rio Rancho High grad Clay Patterson hit his first 3-pointer at UNM (in a game his brother was playing for the other team).
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) December 16, 2020
Asked after the game what hitting the shot felt like, Clay played it cool.
“It felt good. It felt in rhythm. I shoot that every day in practice, so it didn’t feel much different than in practice,” he said.
For anyone interested in the feature on the brothers that published in Tuesday’s Journal in advance of the game, here’s a link:
Rio Rancho High’s Patterson brothers — Clay and David, each former state Gatorade Player of the Year winners — square off in Tuesday's Lobo hoops game in Houston https://t.co/LfhXMGhS6t #mwbb via @abqjournal pic.twitter.com/XGpkrrUDMv
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) December 15, 2020
Double the double-doubles
In two games, the Lobos now have two double-doubles, and neither have been from the big men who most thought might be getting double doubles this season.
• Dec. 13 at Rice: Makuach Maluach (23 points, 12 rebounds)
• Dec. 15 vs. Our Lady of the Lake: Saquan Singleton (13 points, 10 rebounds)
Here’s the link to the YouTube stream of the game via Rice Athletics, if interested:
Running on the Lake
Basketball is a game of runs. Tuesday, the Lobos had several large scoring runs. Here are the four big runs for UNM that I thought set the tone for the blowout (listed in order, not by size):
• 13-0: OLLU led 9-5, then the Lobos used the 13-0 run to take an 18-9 lead, never trailing again. The highlights of the run were back-to-back Valdir Manuel right handed jump hooks turning over his left shoulder.
• 15-0: An OLLU 3-pointer cut the UNM lead to 28-23 with 8:37 remaining in the first half, the last time the game was even remotely close. The Lobos used a 15-0 run over the next three and a half minutes to extend the lead to 20 at 43-23.
• 10-0: The Lobos led by 22 (57-35) just a minute into the second half when they started getting a little sloppy. OLLU chipped the lead down to 14 (63-49) with 13 minutes left when Rod Brown scored five straight points, Valdir Manuel hit a bucket and freshman Javonte Johnson hit his first 3-pointer as a Lobo, capping the run and pushing UNM’s lead to 73-48 with 11:17 left in the game.
• 28-3: If you consider a run something that is just about how many unanswered points a team scores, then consider this two runs in one. With the Lobos leading 73-58 with 9:57 remaining, the Lobos first rattled off a 12-0 run (Makuach Maluach had six of those points) to lead 85-58. The teams exchanged buckets and OLLU hit a free throw before the Lobos then went on a 14-0 run for a 101-61 lead.
On the air…
The Mountain West on Tuesday unveiled its broadcast schedule for league games with TV partners CBS Sports Network and FS1. The Lobos get 14 of their 20 MWC games picked up for broadcasts, but as with everything else in this crazy college basketball season, I recommend jotting this info down in pencil, not pen, as it will change with regularity as games get cancelled and postponed.
For now, here’s the link to UNM’s release on the TV schedule, which starts Monday in Boise with the FS1 broadcast of the league opener for both teams. Information on broadcasts or web streams of the six league games not making the first cut is forthcoming.
— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) December 15, 2020
Speaking of schedule updates, the Lobos on Tuesday announced the ink dried on their game for Thursday, a 2:30 p.m. MT/3:30 p.m. CT tip off at Rice’s Tudor Fieldhouse with Division III LeTourneau University.
The game, like Tuesday’s, will be streamed for free on YouTube (a direct link from Rice will be posted Thursday by UNM on their athletics website).
The Yellow Jackets are 1-0 this season and have already played four Division I teams (their games vs. DI teams count as exhibitions). The Lobos game will be the third in as many days for LU and the fifth in eight days.
Junior Andrew Eberhardt, a 6-foot-3 guard from Pearland, Texas, is a 3-point specialist (Lobos, you paying attention here?) who scored 31 points in a win Tuesday night, including seven made 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, at UNLV…
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Tuesday announced they are pausing all in-person basketball activities after head coach T.J. Otzelberger tested positive for COVID-19 after an antigen then PCR test.
Otzelberger is the second Mountain West coach in the past two weeks to go public with having testes positive after Utah State’s Craig Smith missed coaching a couple games in Logan last week.
NEWS: @TheRunninRebels In-Person Team Activities Paused
— UNLV Athletics (@UNLVathletics) December 15, 2020
Around the Mountain
There were two games scheduled (just one played) on Tuesday involving Mountain West teams and there are five more this week:
• New Mexico 104, (NAIA) Our Lady of the Lake 65
• Dixie State at Utah State (cancelled)
• (D-III) LeTourneau vs. New Mexico, 2:30 p.m. MT/3:30 p.m. CT (in Houston)
• Omaha at Wyoming, 7 p.m. MT
• Santa Clara vs. San Jose State, time TBD (in Santa Cruz, Calif.)
• BYU at No. 18 San Diego State, 3 p.m. MT
• Air Force at Nevada, 8 p.m. MT*
*Mountain West game
Meanwhile, in Japan…
While Makuach Maluach is closing in on 1,000 points as a Lobo, former Lobo Alex Kirk is doing his thing overseas, starring for Alvark Tokyo, where this past week he eclipsed the 3,000 point mark for his career there.
— Alex Kirk (@kingkirk53) December 15, 2020
As for that 1,000 point club at UNM, Kirk’s on that, too.
In three seasons and 101 games (same number Maluach played as of Tuesday), Kirk scored 1,010 points, good for No. 32 all-time at UNM.
Here are the Lobos’ plus/minus numbers from Tuesday, with minutes played in parenthesis:
+30 Rod Brown (18:05)
+30 Keith McGee (15:38)
+24 Makuach Maluach (23:16)
+23 Jeremiah Francis (18:46)
+23 Valdir Manuel (17:09)
+18 Javonte Johnson (11:33)
+17 Bayron Matos (20:46)
+13 Saquan Singleton (22:27)
+9 Clay Patterson (7:39)
+8 Emmanuel Kuac (18:06)
+6 Kurt Wegscheider (8:40)
+1 Logan Padgett (3:49)
-1 Daniel Headdings (2:29)
-1 Nolan Dorsey (2:55)
-1 Eloy Medina (3:19)
-4 Isaiah Marin (5:23)
But those 3s!
Early on Tuesday, UNM fans may have been feeling a little bit of deja vu watching yet another team get going from beyond the arc on the Lobos.
Of OLLU’s first 26 points, 24 were tied to 3-point attempts (18 via six made 3-pointers and six via a perfect 6-of-6 on free throws that came from being fouled attempting two 3-pointers).
OLLU shot just 3-of-12 from beyond the arc in the second half and were 10-of-28 (35.7%) from 3-point range in the game.
Like a year ago when the Lobos were worried about their depth inside so they sagged defenders to help protect the paint and keep bigs like Carlton Bragg and Corey Manigault from getting into foul trouble, UNM is doing the same this season.
“As the game went on,” Paul Weir said, “their percentages went down. And it’s obviously not ideal to be given up threes the way we do, but the idea is to keep teams out of the paint, stay out of foul trouble as best we can and make teams make shot, make shots over over top of our length.”
Here is a link to the digital version of the game stats from Tuesday’s game: UNM 104, OLLU 65
And for those who might prefer the PDF version of the game book, here it is: UNM 104, OLLU 65
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) December 16, 2020
He said it: Saquan Singleton
Saquan Singleton was asked what it’s been like playing in an empty, fanless arena.
“Yeah, that’s tough, but teammates and coaches are the fans. We keep each other accountable — clap for each other when things go wrong, when things go right. So, I guess our teammates and the coaches are the fans.”
Lots of me talking…
I was a guest of Brian Burton and Eli Boettger’s on Tuesday’s Mountain West Insider Show on the All Access Network that continues to pick up steam.
The link in the tweet below gets you right to the me portion of the two-hour episode where I talk some hoops, Lobo basketball and share some stories.
I recommend following those guys on social media and check out all the shows All Access Network is putting out. It’s quality college hoops content.
Special Thanks to @GeoffGrammer
for joining us today for Mountain West🏀 Insider Show on @AllAccess_SM!@boettger_eli & I Had a blast talking @UNMLoboMBB & @MountainWest🏀 this morning w/ 1️⃣of the best in the media game!
— Brian Burton (@CoachBurton13) December 15, 2020