High tide, low tide Lobos
Even when they’ve shown glimmers of hope this season, they haven’t lasted long.
As Paul Weir noted in Wednesday’s postgame presser, it’s been a very difficult season to know for sure what the Lobos are going to be from game to game.
“I think that’s been a little bit of our season,” Weir said. “It’s kind of been the one step forward, two steps back, whether it’s a particular individual player that you really feel like is starting to break out, it might be a side of the ball offensively or defensively, it might be a particular phase of the game — rebounding, free throw, shooting, 3-point shooting, point guard play…
“It just feels like we’ve never been able to consistently get anything going besides (Makuach Maluach) at a consistent level. So obviously, he’s been terrific. He’s carried the torch for us all year long. Just gotta hope that the rest of these guys are learning from this and growing from this.”
Case in point:
• Monday: Point guards Saquan Singleton and Jeremiah Francis combine for 17 assists and one turnover.
• Wednesday: Point guards Saquan Singleton and Jeremiah Francis combine for 3 assists and nine turnovers.
• Monday: Posts Valdir Manuel and Bayron Matos combine for 27 points on 13-of-14 shooting.
• Wednesday: Posts Valdir Manuel and Bayron Matos combine for 9 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
• Monday: UNM gets 10 fast break points and 16 points off turnovers.
• Wednesday: UNM gets 2 fast break points and 7 points off turnovers.
• Monday: UNM led 10-2 early
• Wednesday: UNM trailed 15-2 early
The point is the UNM Lobos weren’t just a little up and down from Game 1 to Game 2. In a lot of areas, they were pretty much polar opposites. And, it’s been that way most of the season.
Here is the game story I filed for the Journal on Wednesday after the Lobos lost at Air Force:
A number to know: 21
The Lobos turned the ball over on the opening tip-off.
If that wasn’t a sign of things to come, I don’t know what was.
UNM posted a season-worst 21 turnovers on Wednesday, 16 of them coming in the first half. That all led to AFA’s 14 points of turnovers advantage over UNM, which scored seven points of 12 Air Force turnovers.
Most UNM turnovers in a game this season:
• 21 — Wednesday at Air Force
• 20 — at UNLV on Jan. 18
• 18 — three times
Air Force, by unique scheme alone, does tend to force a lot of turnovers and ranks 54th nationally and No. 2 in the Mountain West in defensive turnover rate, but even the Falcons hadn’t had an opponent post 21 turnovers in a game this season before UNM on Wednesday.
Look at this switch from Monday’s win:
• Game 1 assists: 22
• Game 1 turnovers: 18
• Game 2 assists: 10
• Game 2 turnovers: 21
“I don’t know if I’ve ever turned the ball over on a tip,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “You know, we just weren’t quite as engaged as you would like. Sixteen turnovers at halftime. I mean, as sloppy and as bad as it can be.
“But I felt like they’re still pushing through that and that was encouraging and, and I hope something that they’re going to take forward, you know, past this season.”
Well, Makuach Maluach scored 20 on Wednesday.
GOOD: It was his third consecutive game with at least 20 points scored.
BAD: It was the second time in three games he was the only Lobo to score in double digits (he had 30 in Friday’s loss to Wyoming with no other Lobo scoring in double figures).
After the game, he said maybe he needs to help his teammates more than he has been.
“I just got to do a better job of finding my guys and put them in a position to score,” Maluach said. “And, obviously, if the ball doesn’t go in, then I’ve got to step up and make shots.”
Of course, in addition to his 20 points on Wednesday, he also had a team-high three assists, so it wasn’t as though anyone was really finding more teammates than he was, like this nice backdoor find of Kurt Wegscheider…
— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) February 24, 2021
As for the season-long watch of Maluach’s climb up UNM’s all-time scoring list, here’s the update after Wednesday’s 20 point game:
17. Francis Grant (1959-1962) 1,282
18. Elijah Brown (2015-2017) 1,276
19. Makuach Maluach (2017-present) 1,272
20. Tony Danridge (2004-2009) 1,260
21. Marvin Johnson (1976-1978) 1,246
22. Cameron Bairstow (2010-2014) 1,239
About that starting 5
Sticking with the inconsistency theme, lets look at UNM’s starting five of Saquan Singleton, Isaiah Marin, Makuach Maluach, Emmannuel Kuac and Bayron Matos.
— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) February 24, 2021
That same unit started the past three games in a row for the Lobos, so let’s see how they did.
In Friday’s game against Wyoming, it opened the game on the court together for 2:54 and the Lobos were in a big hole early, trailing 12-0.
Monday, Weir stuck with them anyway and the starting five opened the game with an 8-2 lead in 3:04 together.
Wednesday, the group opened the game on floor together for 2:57 and trailed 8-2.
Same 5 players. Three games. -12. +6. -6.
Now, those were just the starts of the games, and the same five spent a little more time together on the court throughout each game, though not much. Here’s the totals for each game for that lineup (total minutes together, score differential, assists/turnovers):
5:05 — 0-12 (minus-12) — 1 assist/2 TOs
5:34 — 8-5 (plus 3) — 3 assists/2 TOs
5:43 — 7-9 (minus-2) — 1 assist/4 TOs
OK, so maybe it came too late for hoops (although the women’s team still has a slim chance of getting a game in the Pit next week, stay tuned).
On Wednesday, some adjusted public health order guidelines opened the door for games to be played in the state of New Mexico for the first time since March 14, 2020.
I won’t get into all the details here, but there is a ton of info on all of it right here:
Splitsville in the Springs
The Lobo men weren’t the only ones who visited Splitsville in Colorado Springs.
The Lobo women, after winning Game 1 in their series on Tuesday, lost Game 2 to Air Force on Wednesday.
— Air Force Women's Basketball (@AF_WBB) February 25, 2021
Also, here is colleague Ken Sickenger’s write up for the Journal from the game:
A bright spot…
OK, so Air Force wasn’t exactly the nicest of hosts to the Lobos on the court Wednesday, beating both the men’s and women’s teams. But how cool was this gesture before the game?
On their own senior night, knowing the Lobos were a team without a home gym this season and no real senior night of their own, they presented UNM’s two seniors with roses.
— Lobo Women's Basketball (@UNMLoboWBB) February 25, 2021
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas…
The Fresno State Bulldogs beat UNLV on Wednesday, improving to 8-9 and swapping places in the standings with the Rebels (7-8). Fresno State is now in 6th place and UNLV falls to 7th.
— Fresno State Men’s Basketball (@FresnoStateMBB) February 25, 2021
Around the Mountain
There were two games around the Mountain on Wednesday night, one HUGE one coming on Thursday and a pair on Friday:
• Air Force 62, New Mexico 55
• UNLV, Fresno State, UNLV
• Boise State at San Diego State, 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m MT (FS1)
• CANCELED: San Jose State at Wyoming
• Nevada at Utah State, 7 p.m MT (FS1)
• Fresno State at UNLV, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)
Mountain West Standings
Through Wednesday’s games, here are the Mountain West standings:
14-3 Boise State
11-3 San Diego State
11-3 Colorado State
11-4 Utah State
8-9 Fresno State
3-13 San Jose State
3-15 Air Force
2-14 New Mexico
MW reschedules a lot of games
Tuesday, in between the two Lobo men’s games at Air Force, the Mountain West announced eight rescheduled games to be played between Tuesday, March 2, and Saturday, March 6 — four days before the start of the conference tournament.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) February 23, 2021
Ultimately, this was done to fill a TV contract in which the league owes TV broadcast partners a certain amount of inventory (that being games to broadcast) this season to get the check that will be disbursed to all the league teams.
Still, the moves seem risky — going all season playing 2-game series to minimize travel and risk of getting COVID-19 only to, in the last week before a conference tournament and two weeks before the NCAA Tournament, have basically all the teams in the league jumping around playing one-game make-ups — some that frankly don’t seem all that important (UNM’s March 3 game at CSU that will be streamed online, for instance).
Nevertheless, eight new make-up games for next week were announced by the league on Tuesday. Here’s a look:
• March 2: Fresno State at Boise State
• March 3: UNM at Colorado State
• March 3: *Nevada at San Jose State
• March 3: San Diego State at UNLV
• March 4: Wyoming at Utah State
• March 5: Colorado State at Nevada
• March 6: Utah State at Fresno State
• March 6: UNLV at Wyoming
OK, so a day after the Mountain West added a bunch of new games to the schedule for next week, three games (two already scheduled and one of the newly rescheduled games from what was missed earlier in the season) were called off due to a COVID-19 matter at San Jose State.
Due to COVID-19 positive cases within the San José State MBB program, the two-game series between the Spartans and Wyoming scheduled for Feb. 25-27 has been canceled. Additionally, the Nevada at San José State contest scheduled for Wednesday, March 3 has also been canceled. pic.twitter.com/Vt6WLTnIJg
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) February 24, 2021
Here are the plus/minus stats from Wednesday’s game with Lobo minutes played in parenthesis:
+4 Javonte Johnson (8:12)
-1 Bayron Matos (17:00)
-2 Jeremiah Francis (24:04)
-3 Emmanuel Kuac (19:34)
-4 Makuach Maluach (31:25)
-4 Valdir Manuel (22:48)
-4 Kurt Wegscheider (11:06)
-6 Saquan Singleton (26:56)
-6 Rod Brown (20:38)
-9 Isaiah Marin (18:17)
Stats and stats
Here is a link to the digital version of Wednesday’s game stats: Air Force 62, New Mexico 55
And here is a link to the more traditional looking .pdf stat sheet from Wednesday’s: Air Force 62, New Mexico 55
The Guesses went 1-1 on Wednesday and my daughter’s coin flip picks were 0-2. If she wasn’t sleeping when the second game was over, she would have gotten an earful from me. I’m not above gloating about a rare 2-0 night and beating the 11-year-old girl who flips a coin to pick her games.
I’m still a less-than-stellar 40-44-1 in this weird Mountain West season and her #TeamCoin picks are at 41-43-1.
Grammer's Guesses for Wednesday's two Mountain West games (39-43-1):
• New Mexico +1
• Fresno State +6.5
My daughter's coin flip picks (41-41-1):
• New Mexico +1
• UNLV -6.5
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) February 24, 2021