A couple games ago, it was the free throws — what some would say is the easiest shot in basketball since there is nobody defending you — that the Lobos just couldn’t seem to hit (they went 15-of-35 at the line against Nevada on Dec. 31).
Well, they’ve shored that up some since then, but on Wednesday found the next easiest shot — the 2-pointer — is their new problem. Of course one of the best shot blockers in Mountain West history in Utah State 7-footer Neemias Queta had a little something to do with that.
First off, take a look at the 2-point shooting shot chart I tweeted out for an idea of how bad things got inside the arc for the Lobos:
Yes, the Lobos have had their shooting struggles anyway. But if you want to see the Neemias Queta (@nemi1599) effect on opposing teams 2-point shooting, take a look at this @UNMLoboMBB shooting chart for 2-point shooting against @USUBasketball on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/0pDjKsyLlz
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) January 7, 2021
Yes, you’re looking at that chart right.
The Lobos missed their first 15 2-point shot attempts on Wednesday and 19 of their first 20. They ended up hitting 10-of-35 2-point shots (28.6%).
The national average for 2-point shooting is 49.7%. UNM’s 39.1% clip on 2-pointers this season ranks 335th out of 342 Division I teams that have played another Division I opponent so far.
The Lobos did hit 71.4% of their free throws (10-of-14) and 23.8% of their 3-pointers (5-of-21). That 3-point stat line could probably use a splash of context, though. UNM, wisely based on how they’ve shot from deep this season, wasn’t going crazy from outside and was 5-of-12 from 3-point range (41.7%) at the under 8 media timeout of the 2nd half.
That was when the team as down 19 and decided it was do or die time if it wanted a shot at a comeback and started hoisting up 3s — and not all would be considered good looks. They missed their final nine 3-point tries and of those, six came from reserves, none of which played even 10 minutes in the game.
Here’s a link to the gamer filed after Wednesday night’s game that posted on ABQJournal.com/Sport and also published in Thursday’s print edition of the Journal:
A number to know: 45
In the next of several not so cheery looks at where Wednesday’s game for the Lobos ranks in recent history, let’s go with the point total.
UNM scored 45 points on Wednesday, the lowest total in the Paul Weir era and seventh lowest in the KenPom.com era (tracking games back to the 2001-02 season).
Here’s the list of the seven lowest point totals for the Lobos in the KenPom era:
45 — Wednesday — 77-71 loss to Utah State in Lubbock
44 — Dec. 10, 2011 — 44-41 win at USC
44 — Feb. 9, 2002 — 47-44 loss at Air Force
43 — Feb. 23, 2004 — 73-43 loss at Utah
42 — Jan. 6, 2015 — 56-42 loss at San Diego State
42 — Jan. 17, 2004 — 68-42 loss in the Pit to Air Force
34 — Jan. 26, 2013 — 55-34 loss at San Diego State
Makuach Maluach watch
Lobo senior Makuach Maluach had seven points on 3-of-7 shooting and five boards on Wednesday. He also had three turnovers and a couple steals in 26 minutes of play.
Nothing spectacular, but he continues to draw praise from opposing coaches and I wanted to share what Utah State coach Craig Smith said of him on Tuesday, before the Aggies flew their charter flight to Lubbock:
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) January 6, 2021
Also, while on on the Makuach watch, his seven points pulls him up to 1,070 in his Lobos career, moving him past a local kid on UNM’s all-time scoring list:
No. 28 — 1,086 — Ike Williams (94 games)
No. 29 — 1,070 — Makuach Maluach (107 games)
No. 30 — 1,067 — Chad Toppert (127 games)
Also, Maluach is sneaking up the rebounds list for a potential milestone rebound total in his career, too. While he’s one of 35 Lobos in the 1,000 point club, just 18 Lobos have scored 1,000 points AND grabbed 500 rebounds. Maluach currently has 396 career rebounds.
With 15 more regular season games scheduled and at least one Mountain West Tournament game, Maluach would need to average 6.5 rebounds over the next 16 games to get there.
That might be a long shot, both because COVID could end up wiping some games off the schedule by season’s end, but also because Maluach is a career 3.7 rebounds per game rebounder (though is at 6.6 per game this season).
Take 2 (or miss 2)
One more note on that 2-point shooting. The 28.6% shooting clip on 2-point shots (10-of-35) is the fourth worst 2-point shooting percentage in the KenPom.com era for UNM.
The three worst 2-point shooting games in the KenPom era for the Lobos?
• 22.6% — 7-of-31 in a 62-53 loss in the Pit to New Mexico State on Nov. 16, 2011
• 24.2% — 8-of-33 in a 100-65 loss at New Mexico State on Dec. 4, 2018
• 27.6% — 8-of-29 in a 55-34 loss at San Diego State on Jan. 26, 2013
Did somebody say Bairstow?
Sean Bairstow, the younger brother of former Lobo great Cam Bairstow, had himself a solid game off the bench for Utah State on Wednesday:
• 9 points
• 15 minutes
• 3-6 FG (1-3 3FG)
• 2-2 FT
• 3 rebounds
• 1 assist
• 1 steal
• 1 Tweet-worthy highlight dunk…
— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) January 7, 2021
New starting lineup
The Lobos tried, for the first time, a starting lineup without North Carolina transfer Jeremiah Francis in it, instead going with freshman Isaiah Marin after a string showing in Saturday’s loss to Nevada.
Here was the starting five:
• PG Isaiah Marin, freshman
• G Saquan Singleton, junior
• G/F Makuach Maluach, senior
• F Rod Brown, junior
• C Bayron Matos, senior
— New Mexico Lobos (@UNMLOBOS) January 7, 2021
While Francis has certainly had his struggles individually this season (he was 2-of-21 from 3-point range entering the game), the offense still seems to largely run its best when he’s in most games. Wednesday, he had eight points on an efficient 3-of-5 shooting (60%, best on the Lobo roster in the game) and hit 1-of-2 3-pointers (50%, second only to Makuach Maluach’s 100% on 1-of-1 shooting). He also had two nice layups at the rim on a night when the Lobos had only 12 points in the paint total and no other player had more baskets in the paint.
My take, especially after seeing Marin go 0-for-4 in the first three minutes and finish 0-for-6 on the night, is keep Francis as the starter but keep Marin’s minutes up. And playing them both together for some stretches works well, too. The Lobos probably need them both to be 20-plus minute players by season’s end.
He said it: About that defense…
“We sped them up, but we just really couldn’t quite get our defense to create more for our offense. That was probably the most disappointing thing. For them to lead us in points off turnovers — we’re not beating Utah State. That has to be a very wide margin in our favor. And we just we got to get more out of our defense.” — Paul Weir, Lobos coach
(Note: Though UNM’s press was somewhat effective early, it didn’t net the gains the Lobos want overall and Utah State had 17 points off turnovers while UNM had just 13 points off 14 Utah State turnovers)
More about that press…
The Lobos press was OK early on Wednesday against Utah State. But for the most part, it wasn’t a factor.
I posted Monday the latest Talking Grammer podcast. Episode 33 of the podcast was a conversation with Lobos assistant coach Dan McHale, who walked me through a bit of a generic rundown of what the principles of the press defense are, what the team is looking for in players to press, and what the team hopes to get out of it.
Give a listen at the following providers:
This episode of the podcast can be heard at:
Or you can listen right here:
Meanwhile, in Boise…
The Boise State Broncos are off to a 5-0 league start with a 19-point win over Air Force…
5-0 in conference play for the first time since 1988. pic.twitter.com/nnEzidACrg
— Boise State MBB (@BroncoSportsMBB) January 7, 2021
Around the Mountain
There were two games around the Mountain West on Wednesday with two more coming on Thursday:
• Utah State 77, New Mexico 45
• Boise State 78, Air Force 59
• UNLV at Colorado State, 6 p.m. MT (CBSSN)
• Nevada at San Diego State, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT (CBSSN)
Mountain West Standings
Through Wednesday’s games…
5-0 Boise State
5-0 Utah State
3-1 Colorado State
1-1 San Diego State
1-3 Fresno State
1-4 Air Force
0-4 San Jose State
0-5 New Mexico
Meanwhile, in women’s hoops news…
For those who missed the news that came out Tuesday, the UNM women’s basketball team had a positive COVID-19 test in its Tier 1 group that has led to the postponement of this week’s 2-game series at Utah State:
— Lobo Women's Basketball (@UNMLoboWBB) January 5, 2021
Here are the plus/minus stats from Wednesday’s Lobo game with minutes played in parenthesis:
0 Jordan Arroyo (3)
-3 Clay Patterson (3)
-5 Kurt Wegscheider (4)
-6 Logan Padgett (5)
-7 Makuach Maluach (26)
-9 Isaiah Marin (16)
-9 Rod Brown (23)
-10 Nolan Doresy (6)
-13 Jeremiah Francis (18)
-14 Javonte Johnson (9)
-16 Valdir Manuel (16)
-16 Bayron Matos (21)
-17 Saquan Singleton (18)
-17 Emmanuel Kuac (13)
-18 Keith McGee (20)
Stats and stats…
First off, who knows if these stats are corrected yet. They were a mess throughout the game and still hours after the game, which is unfortunate for writers on deadline using the stats posted after the game (yes, the Journal print edition has some errors in it) or for the broadcast crews — television and radio — who were calling the game remotely from other states and relying on the updated play-by-play and stats being provided throughout the game.
Nevertheless, here’s what I can link to…
• The digital version of the stats from Wednesday’s game: Utah State 77, New Mexico 45
• The more traditional looking box score .pdf from the game: Utah State 77, New Mexico 45
The Guesses went 1-0-1 on Wednesday and I now have an 8-9-1 record picking games against the point spread on the season.
My daughter’s #TeamCoin coin flip picks went 0-1-1 so she’s now 8-9-1 on the season.
That’s right. I finally caught the coin being flipped by my 11-year-old daughter and we’re tied!
Grammer's Guesses for Wednesday night's games (I'm just 7-9 ATS on the season):
• Utah State -12
• Boise State -19
My daughter's #TeamCoin coin flip picks (8-8 ATS on the season):
• New Mexico +12
• Air Force +19
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) January 7, 2021