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Emptying the Notebook: Lobos go big with shuffled up starting lineup

UNM Lobo guard Javonte Johnson, left, and wing Makuach Maluach, center, walk up the court with UNLV’s Nick Blake, right. (Courtesy UNM Athletics)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, tweets, stats, analysis or whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Monday’s 53-46 Lobos loss to UNLV in Las Vegas, Nev.:

For starters…

Well, this was one way to mix things up.

Against the guard-heavy, 3-point reliant UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, Paul Weir decided against trying to match up with that and instead counter that with a much bigger rotation to start Monday’s game.

The move also answered the questions about production from the starting point guard position, where in the previous six games (three starts apiece for Jeremiah Francis and Isaiah Marin) whoever was in that spot shot a combined 1-for-31 from the field. Monday, 6-foot-6 Saquan Singleton, who played the point in junior college, was moved to start there, just two games after he, as a SHOOTING GUARD didn’t register one field goal attempt.

The new look starting five for the Lobos on Monday looked like this:

More specifically:

PG Saquan Singleton, 6-foot-6
G Makuach Maluach 6-foot-5
G Javonte Johnson 6-foot-6
F Valdir Manuel 6-foot-10
C Bayron Matos 6-foot-9

And it worked early.

The Lobos seemed to confuse UNLV with some looks and mostly just defend the Rebels really well. UNM took an early lead (13-3 in the fist eight minutes of the game), mostly with the starts in the game.

Monday’s particular starting five combination was on the court a total of 6 minutes, 56 seconds and outscored UNLV 10-4 with a 1.1 points per possession scoring clip.

The group was 4-0 together in the first 3:19 of the game before a sub came in at 16:41 mark in the first half (plus-4). The same group played the first 3:37 of the second half, going 6-4 (plus-2).

The plus-6 from that lineup was best in the game for the Lobos, but the tough reality is playing both Matos and Manuel on the court at the same time is risky, and likely won’t happen much.

The gamer

Here’s the gamer I filed late Monday for online and for Tuesday’s print edition of the Journal:

A number to know: 0.833

The Lobos held UNLV to 0.833 points per possession on Monday. That is the second lowest of the season for the Rebels (they were held to 0.707 in a Nov. 30 loss to North Carolina).

The Lobos also held UNLV to its second lowest 2-point shooting performance (12-of-29 / 41.4%) and tied for the fewest 3-pointers made in a game (6).

Now, the Lobos offense was worse, scoring just 0.723 points per possession and that was the difference in the game, but you know me, always Mr. Sunshine and focusing on the positives.

The truth is, I’ve spent a lot of space in these postgame columns chronicling the struggles on scoring (don’t worry, I have another note on that below), so when the team played so well on one side of the ball, I thought it worth noting.

I asked Paul Weir about the team’s defense, and how for 35 minutes it looked pretty good then Bryce Hamilton scored eight-straight UNLV points and was 4-of-5 shooting in the final 4:44 of the game, basically deciding the outcome.

Here’s what Weir said, with the kicker being: “I think we have a very good defensive team — if our offense stays the heck out of the way.”

He said it: Gottlieb edition

“That is the after photo for any workout video.” –Fox Sports analyst Doug Gottlieb during Monday’s game referring to Lobo freshman post Bayron Matos.

A number to know: 28-27

Emmanuel Kuac hit a corner 3 in front of the UNLV bench as time expired in the first half, marking the first time in eight conference games the Lobos held a halftime lead.

Not all TOs are created equally

As I wrote about in my Monday Journal preview article, the Lobos were torched in transition defense against UNLV on Saturday.

First, here was that article that posted Sunday night and ran in Monday’s print edition:

Now, why do I bring that up here?

Much of UNM’s struggle on Saturday in transition defense stemmed from the live ball turnovers of the Lobos. A live ball turnover refers to the other team getting possession while play is still going on, often leading to a fast break before a team can get back to set up its defense as opposed to turnovers like travels or charges that stop the clock and provide time to get back on defense.

Saturday, the Lobos had just 14 turnovers, but UNLV scored 20 points off them.

Monday, the Lobos had a season-high 20 turnovers, but UNLV managed just 15 points from them.

Better, not great.

“Our offense, unfortunately still tonight, just couldn’t quite let our defense be our defense,” said Paul Weir.

Streaking, UNLV edition

UNLV has now won six in a row against the Lobos, the longest stretch since winning seven in a row from March 2, 2002 through March 11, 2004 — a stretch that spanned the final season under former Lobos coach Fran Fraschilla and the first two seasons under Ritchie McKay.

The series is 64 games deep (UNLV leads 39-25).

Streaking, Lobos edition

Here are the worst Lobo conference losing streaks since 1957-58:

(losses, season, coach, final conference record)

• 14 – 1957-58 (Bob Sweeney) – 0-14 MSAC
• 13 – 1958-59 (Bob Sweeney) – 1-13 MSAC
• 8 – 2014-15 (Craig Neal) – 7-11 MWC
• 8 – 2020-21 (Paul Weir) – TBD MWC

Talking Grammer podcast

Episode 35 of the Talking Grammer podcast is posted (and I think we’ll have more on it later this week in the newspaper with an article with excerpts).

In this episode, I catch up with former Kentucky Wildcat national champion, former NBA first round draft pick and current UNM Lobos assistant coach Scott Padgett.

We talk about the craziness of this season, the unique time to move a family — his wife and three kids — to New Mexico where schools haven’t been open for in-person learning and what he uses as a coach from influences like playing for Rick Pitino and Jerry Sloan or as a teammate alongside guys like John Stockton, Karl Malone and later Yao Ming.

It was a fun trip down memory lane.

The podcast can be heard on the following:

• SoundCloud
• iTunes
• Spotify

Up next

• WHO: San Jose State (0-8) vs. New Mexico (0-8)
• WHEN: Thursday, 1 p.m. MT
• WHERE: Burns Arena (St. George, Utah)
• WATCH TheMW.com/watch (no TV, online only)
• LISTEN: 770 AM/96.3 FM

Mountain blowouts

Not that there was one in the Lobos game on Monday, but the Mountain West this season is blowout city.

Per KenPom.com, the Mountain West leads the nation (31 conferences) in games decided by 20 or more points.

Here’s the top three and bottom three conferences when it comes to percentage of blowout league games:

1. 40.0% (16 of 40) — Mountain West
2. 32.4% (11 of 34) — Mid American Conference
3. 31.2% (5 of 16) — West Coast Conference

29. 6.9% (2 of 29) — American Athletic Conference
30. 5.6% (2 of 36) — Big East
31. 4.2% (1 of 24) — Southern Conference

Meanwhile, in Rumorsville…

We interrupt your usual Lobo athletics reading to bring you this name drop from left field.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd on Monday gave UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez that always appreciated name drop for a big time job search.

Tennessee needs and AD. Eddie has a long SEC background. And assuming Eddie remains the AD at UNM, I’m guessing name drops like this will help with his next contract.

That’s sort of College Athletics 101.

Another number to know: 46

The Lobos scored 46 points on Monday, the third time in the past five five games it was held under 50.

More specifically, this team has now posted three of the eight lowest scoring totals for Lobo basketball in the KenPom.com era (2001-02 season to present):

1. 34 – Jan. 26, 2013 — 55-34 loss at San Diego State
t2. 42 – Jan. 7, 2004 — 68-42 loss to Air Force
t2. 42 – Jan. 6, 2015 — 56-42 loss at San Diego State
4. 43 – Feb. 23, 2004 — 73-43 loss at Utah
t5. 44 – Feb. 9, 2002 — 47-44 loss at Air Force
t5. 44 – Dec. 10, 2011 — 44-41 loss at USC
7. 45 – Jan. 6 — 77-45 loss to Utah State in Lubbock
t8. 46 – Monday — 53-46 loss at UNLV
t8. 46 – Several others

Meanwhile, at the Academy…

The Cowboys hit 16-of-32 3-pointers on Monday night in Clune Arena and picked up the much-needed split with Air Force.

2-game series check

The Mountain West this season shifted both to a 20-game schedule and to a 2-game series format to cut down on travel with five road series/five home series as opposed to nine road games/nine home games.

So, how are the series playing out?

• SWEEPS: 16
• SPLITS: 4

The four series that were sweeps:
• Air Force at Nevada
• Colorado State at San Diego State
• Wyoming at Air Force
• Wyoming at Fresno State

Around the Mountain

There were two games in the Mountain West on Monday with one rather big one coming on Tuesday for the league…

MONDAY
• Wyoming 77, Air Force 58
• UNLV 53, New Mexico 46

TUESDAY
• Colorado State at Utah State, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Mountain West standings

Mountain West standings through Monday:
8-0 Boise State
8-0 Utah State
7-1 Colorado State
5-3 Nevada
3-3 San Diego State
2-2 UNLV
3-5 Fresno State
2-4 Wyoming
2-6 Air Force
0-8 New Mexico
0-8 San Jose State

Four days in Vegas…

Four days of Lobo/Rebels basketball in Las Vegas — two games in Cox Pavilion and two games in the Thomas & Mack Center — are complete.

• FRIDAY: Women’s game — UNLV 78, UNM 60
• SATURDAY: Men’s game — UNLV 77, UNM 54
• SUNDAY: Women’s game — UNM 81, UNLV 73
• MONDAY: Men’s game — UNLV 53, UNM 46

Next stop in Vegas for the Lobos will be the Mountain West Tournament in mid-March.

Plus/minus

Here are the Lobos’ plus/minus stats for Monday’s game with time played in parenthesis:

+4 Bayron Matos (21:21)
0 Saquan Singleton (33:15)
-2 Makuach Maluach (32:25)
-2 Javonte Johnson (13:50)
-3 Isaiah Marin (11:59)
-4 Jeremiah Francis (12:36)
-5 Emmanual Kuac (21:29)
-5 Valdir Manuel (25:35)
-8 Rod Brown (15:08)
-10 Kurt Wegscheider (12:22)

Stats and stats

Here’s a link to the digital version of stats from the game: UNLV 53, UNM 46

And here’s a link to the more traditional looking stat sheet in .pdf form: UNLV 53, UNM 46

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 1-1 on Monday night and are a solid 9-3 in the last 12 games picked. Of course that really only shows how bad I was to start the season because I’m still only sitting with a 19-20-1 record.

My daughter’s coin continues to flip out. It was 0-2 on Monday and just 17-22-1 on the season now.

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