Emptying the Notebook: Jay Allen-Tovar enjoys his Pit introduction - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Jay Allen-Tovar enjoys his Pit introduction

Lobo junior forward Jay Allen-Tover slams home one of his five dunks during Friday’s exhibition game win over New Mexico Highlands. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Here are a few extra notes, quotes, tweets, stats and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Friday’s 101-72 Lobos exhibition win over Division-II New Mexico Highlands University in the Pit:

What’s in a name?

Coming out of Salt Lake Community College and Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, before that, Jay Allen-Tovar wasn’t used to playing in front of large crowds.

Knowing the stage for him is about to get much, much larger now that his debut season with the Lobos is about to begin, he tweeted on Friday: “Everyone in the world will know my name soon.”

He then proceeded to wow the Pit crowd by hitting his first seven shots of Friday’s game — five of them dunks — and finishing with 17 points in 21 minutes of play.

I told Allen-Tovar that, as impressive as his night was, I still wasn’t sure if an exhibition game against New Mexico Highlands was really going to be the platform needed for “everyone in the world” to start to take notice.

He was quick to point out, “You’ll see more.”

Friday was a challenging game from the standpoint that NMHU’s lack of size in the post led to an up-and-down, 82-possession game that didn’t really force the Lobos to show off any back-to-the basket skills from their big men like other teams may force them to do.

With two 6-10 Lobo bigs missing Friday’s game in Valdir Manuel and Gethro Muscadin (Manuel’s absence could last awhile while Muscadin could be back for Wednesday’s regular season opener), UNM tried out its two true freshman post players Sebastian Forsling and Birima Seck. Both got solid minutes against NMHU, but Allen-Tovar, usually a “4”, knows he has to learn to play some more at the “5”, too.

“Whatever is going to benefit the team,” Allen-Tovar said. “We’re down on bigs, so if I have to play in the post … then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Defensively, Allen-Tovar blocked three shots, but it was his five dunks that really opened some eyes.

“I thought what Jay Allen did a really good job of was playing behind the defense,” first-year Lobos coach Richard Pitino said. “Because the way that they were playing us, our guards were finding him on some lob dunks. He’s a talented player. He really is talented. His skill level has gotten a lot better, and he came with a good skill level.”

In the second half, off a set BLOB (baseline out of bounds) play with Taryn Todd inbounding the ball, Allen-Tovar again brought the crowd to its feet with one of his five dunks. And thanks to the great camerawork of Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales, we have this great video of the play:

The gamer…

Apparently I haven’t had to do the posting of video and writing of a game story on deadline after a game in the Pit in more than 600 days, either. It was rough, but here’s what was filed from the Pit media room after Friday night’s game:

‘I think his chest was at the rim’

What 6-foot-2 Jamal Mashburn Jr. did in the first half on a coast-to-coast fast break — one set up by a Jay Allen-Tovar blocked shot — was almost hard to believe and certainly worth another look.

His rise to the rim seems to hit a second gear when he was already in the air, seemingly defying physics with the display of freakish levitation.

Richard Pitino said he never even saw Mashburn dunk before, let alone rise up above the rim like he did Friday.

Allen-Tovar, who can be seen in the video above with a great reaction as he trailed the play, gave his thoughts on the play after the game.

“I got a great angle of that dunk, yeah,” Allen-Tovar said. “I think his chest was at the rim. That was pretty crazy. I’ve never seen nothing like that before.”

A number to know: 30

The Lobos attempted 30 3-pointers on Friday night, hitting eight of them for a 26.7% clip. That’s not great, but poor shooting percentages from outside for the Lobos, unfortunately, have not been uncommon in recent seasons.

The 30 attempts, however, is very rare.

Despite insisting his program would fire up 3s like crazy when he took the job, Paul Weir’s run with the Lobos ended after two seasons of his teams really giving up on outside shooting.

Here are the number of games with 30 3-point attempts by the Lobos in the past four seasons:

• 2020-21: 0 (of 22 games)
• 2019-20: 2 (of 33 games)
• 2018-19: 9 (of 32 games)
• 2017-18: 14 (of 34 games)

So, should Lobo fans get used to seeing 30 3-point attempts under Pitino?

He’s made no secret about the desire to have shooters at every position, but 30 attempts probably won’t be the norm (and Lobo fans certainly hope it won’t be if the success rate is just 26.7%).

Here are the number of games Pitino’s Minnesota Gophers attempted 30 3-pointers in a game during his eight-year tenure there:

• 2020-21: 7 (of 29 games)
• 2019-20: 5 (of 31 games)
• 2018-19: 1 (of 36 games)
• 2017-18: 0 (of 32 games)
• 2016-17: 1 (of 34 games)
• 2015-16: 1 (of 31 games)
• 2014-15: 0 (of 33 games)
• 2013-14: 0 (of 38 games)
Total: 15 (of 264 games)

Lookie, Lookie!

Here are a few Roberto E. Rosales photos from Friday night that I shared on Twitter:

Learning moment

The Lobos led by 25 at the break (58-33).

And they opened the second half expanding that lead by a couple points in the first two minutes, but not without getting first-year head coach Richard Pitino worked up for the first time all night.

Why?

• A Jaelen House 3-pointer with 19:09 on the clock was followed 15 seconds later by an NMHU layup by Andre Adams while the Lobos weren’t fully back on defense.

• A Jay Allen-Tovar dunk with 18:33 on the clock was followed 8 seconds later by another Adams layup for NMHU while the Lobos spent more time celebrating the dunk than getting back on defense.

• Aother House 3-pointer with 18:17 on the clock was followed 16 seconds later by a third consecutive Adams layup, again with out the Lobos totally set on defense.

So, yes, the Lobos actually outscored NMHU in that 1 minute, 8 second stretch, but giving up three layups in one short stretch thanks to less-than-intense effort didn’t sit will with the coach.

“You never like when your guys don’t play the right way,” Pitino said. “But they do need to be woken up a little bit. I didn’t love — I thought the game caused us to play a certain way a little bit. But yeah, we took our foot off the gas at the beginning (of the second half).”

For starters…

The Lobos went with a starting lineup comprised entirely of newcomers:
• G Jaelen House 6-0
• G Jamal Mashburn Jr. 6-2
• G Taryn Todd 6-5
• F Jay Allen-Tovar 6-9
• C Birima Seck 6-11

Though is sets up for a very small backcourt of 6-0/6-2/6-2, I expect K.J. Jenkins back in the starting lineup soon as he’s the best 3-point shooter on the team and having three guards with plus-level ball handling in House, Jenkins and Mashburn is really dangerous on offense.

Also, I expect either Gethro Muscadin (6-10) or Valdir Manuel (6-10) to start over Birima Seck when they get back. Jay Allen-Tovar (6-9) will get big minutes, clearly, but if/when Saquan Singleton comes back, I think he’ll be a starter at the “4”. That could mean Allen-Tovar’s minutes might come as the top player off the bench.

Line ’em up

Here are some lineup highlights from Friday:

• The lineup used most on Friday was the starting five of Jaelen House, Jamal Mashburn Jr., Taryn Todd, Jay Allen-Tovar and Birima Seck.

That group played 10 minutes, 43 seconds and out-scored NMHU 30-21 with 1.4 points per possession.

• While there were a few random groups of five that played just a minute or less that had higher points per possession in very small sample sizes, the group that was the best offensively together on Friday for the Lobos and actually played together for an extended time might surprise you. It did me.

Scoring 1.518 points per possession in 5:27 on the court together was the lineup of Jeremiah Francis III, K.J. Jenkins, Javonte Johnson, Birima Seck and Sebastian Forsling.

Attendance

The announced attendance for Friday’s exhibition game between Division II New Mexico Highlands and the UNM Lobos in the Pit: 7,182

Plus/minus stats…

They’re back! The popular plus/minus stats that people love so much.

These stats show how a team’s score moved — positively or negatively — while a specific player was on the court.

It isn’t always indicative in small, one-game sample sizes of larger issues, but as the season goes on, plus/minus stats begin to paint a picture of which players and lineups actually have the most success on the court. Coaches can then take the next step and see why that might have been the case, but this is a good starting point for the rest of us.

Lobos +/- for Friday night vs. NMHU with minutes played in parenthesis:
+29 K.J. Jenkins (20:26)
+22 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (18:09)
+20 Javonté Johnson (22:22)
+16 Birima Seck (23:57)
+15 Jay Allen-Tovar (21:05)
+13 Emmanuel Kuac (14:36)
+12 Jaelen House (16:07)
+10 Taryn Todd (16:59)
+9 Sebastian Forsling (14:24)
+7 Jeremiah Francis III (21:51)
-1 Jordan Arroyo (6:38)
-7 Clay Patterson (3:26)

Video

Here is the postgame remarks Richard Pitino had for the media after Friday’s game.

He said it

“You look at scores around the country — we played well, but there’s teams losing these games. So you have to be focused.”

— UNM coach Richard Pitino

Stats and stats

Here’s the picture of the box score handed out to media at the game Friday night: UNM 101, NMHU 72 (hard copy)

And here’s the digital version of Friday’s stats as posted on UNM’s web site: UNM 101, NMHU 72 (digital stats)

Wait a Seck

In case you missed it, I wrote about 6-11 freshman forward Birima Seck in Friday’s newspaper, pointing out he’s adding confidence, and some much needed weight, while being thrust into a much larger role early in the than maybe originally thought because of the absence of bigs like Valdir Manuel and Gethro Muscadin.

On Friday night, the freshman got the start for the Lobos, logged a team-high 23 minutes, 57 seconds on the court and had 6 points (3-6 shooting), 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.

Coming up

Up next for the Lobos is the regular season opener on Wednesday with Florida Atlantic coming to the Pit for a 7 p.m. tip-off. The game will be streamed on the Mountain West Network online (TheMW.com) and can be heard on radio at 770 AM or 96.3 FM.


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