It wasn’t his best performance.
And after nearly 10 hours on the road from Albuquerque to Wichita, Kansas, that started at 6 a.m. Thursday, maybe you can forgive Anthony Mathis for not having his usual shooting legs under him.
Nevertheless, the 24-year-old former Lobo did what he does best – and what he did at last Sunday night’s alumni all-star game in the Pit:
He hit 3-pointers. Lots of them.
Mathis was one of two players on Thursday night to advance in the Wichita Regional’s 3-point contest that is part of the 64-team, $1 million winner-take-all The Basketball Tournament (TBT).
He competes Aug. 1 as part of the TBT final four on ESPN with seven other players for a chance to win $33,333.
And Mathis hoping he won’t be alone.
He and a roster of fellow former Lobos – The Enchantment – begin their journey toward that same Final Four and beyond in the single-elimination TBT on Saturday night against the Stillwater Stars – a team comprised primarily of Oklahoma State alumni.
“I hope it’s a sign of things to come,” said former Lobo and Oklahoma native J.R. Giddens of Mathis’ Thursday night win. “We’re ready for this. I was born ready. Now, it’s time to go play and do what we do – go out there and play hard and represent New Mexico like I know we will.”
The Enchantment has been a year in the making and primarily set up by former New Mexico State Aggie player and former New Mexico assistant Brandon Mason.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mason said Friday. “I’m not nervous with it being so close now. I’m just excited for the guys. They’ve worked hard for this. I’m glad it’s finally here.”
The team will be coached by former Lobo Kenny Thomas and has 10 former Lobos and one Albuquerque native, and Manzano High graduate, Michael Holyfield.
SATURDAY: TBT Regionals, Wichita, Kan.: Enchantment vs. Stillwater Stars, 6 p.m., espn3.com streaming
MORE FROM MATHIS: The 3-point contest format is a head-to-head, first-to-make 11 format. Last weekend in the Pit, Mathis won two rounds, going 11-of-11 and then 11-of-14 to win in a 3-point contest at the alumni game.
“In the first round I missed five I think,” Mathis said in a text exchange Thursday night. “And the second round I missed six. Not good at all, but got the job done.”
His rebounder (players pick one rebounder and only one ball is allowed) was Jamaal Smith, to whom Mathis gave a lot of credit.
“Great rebounder,” Mathis said. “I had him running all over the gym.”
FAMILIAR FACES: Two Stillwater Stars players – Cezar Gurrero and Nate Grimes – should be familiar to Lobo fans from their Fresno State playing days in the Mountain West.
Guerrero played at Oklahoma State as a freshman for the 2012 season before transferring and playing three seasons at Fresno State until 2016. Grimes, who once had a 19-point, 19-rebound game against the Lobos, played at Fresno State for four seasons, graduating in 2020.
The winner of Enchantment/Stillwater plays the winner of No. 1 Eberline Drive, a TBT veteran team with an 8-5 all-time record in the event, and No. 16 NG Saints.
Eberline Drive is coached by Albuquerque Academy graduate Cody Toppert. The NG Saints roster includes former Lobo guard Zane Martin.
GOTTLIEB: It isn’t exactly bulletin board material, but it is some food for thought.
The never shy to speak his mind Doug Gottlieb, the Oklahoma State great who in recent years has covered numerous Lobo games, including in Albuquerque, was asked this week by the Journal which arena had the better home-court advantage: Gallagher-Iba Arena, where Oklahoma State plays, or the Pit.
“Gallagher is louder naturally – the pitch of the arena is much more on top of you,” Gottlieb said of the noise in both gyms. “Both have great historical significance but most of the Pit’s history is with (North Carolina State) and not the home team.”
He added: “The Pit, in my opinion, has the best home-court advantage from this standpoint. Albuquerque is a city, and the Lobos are their team. The locals, non-students, are as or more vicious than the students. That is unique. It is an incredible atmosphere.”
Giddens, who has played multiple times in both arenas: “What else was he going to say? They’re both great college atmospheres. But I know the only answer is the Pit, no question.”
THE ROSTER: Here is the official 11-man roster The Enchantment will send to the court on Saturday:
(No. Player, Ht., Age)
1 Darington Hobson, 6-7, 33
3 Roman Martinez, 6-7, 33
4 Tim Williams, 6-8, 27
6 Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas, 6-4, 27
11 Jamaal Smith, 5-9, 36
15 J.R. Giddens, 6-5, 36
23 Phillip McDonald, 6-5, 31
32 Drew Gordon, 6-9, 31
35 Anthony Mathis, 6-3, 24
50 Michael Holyfield, 6-11, 28
55 Antino Jackson, 6-0, 25
Coach: Kenny Thomas
Assistant: Ryan Berryman
General manager: Brandon Mason
ON THE CALL: Every Lobo coaching era since the 1980s will be represented in Saturday’s game thanks to the Enchantment roster itself and a little help from ESPN naming former Lobos coach Fran Fraschilla to the broadcast crew for the game. Some players played for two coaches:
• Dave Bliss era: Kenny Thomas (coach)
• Fran Fraschilla era: Fraschilla is calling the game
• Ritchie McKay era: J.R. Giddens, Roman Martinez, Jamaal Smith
• Steve Alford era: Giddens, Drew Gordon, Darington Hobson, Martinez, Phillip McDonald, Smith, Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas
• Craig Neal era: Anthony Mathis, Thomas, Tim Williams
• Paul Weir era: Antino Jackson, Mathis
The one non-Lobo is 6-11 center Michael Holyfield, a Manzano graduate who played for Sam Houston State and professionally overseas for seven years.
ELAM ENDING: For those experiencing TBT for the first time, the single-elimination tournament does have some unique rule changes and format tweaks, but really only one that dramatically alters what you might be used to watching basketball outside the TBT.
The Elam Ending is a format used to end the game that is aimed at eliminating the foul-fest that often happens at the end of games when a losing team’s only chance to come back as the final minutes wind down is to foul the other team over and over and hope for missed free throws.
With the Elam Ending format, at the first dead ball under the 4 minute mark in the fourth quarter, a target score eight points higher than the score of the leading team is established, and the game becomes a first to that point total format. For instance, if a team is leading 80-75 at that dead ball, the Elam Ending target score would be set and the first to 88 wins.
That format also ensures every game is ended on a made basket, not just because the clock expired.