Emptying the Notebook: Lobo defense stealing the show - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Lobo defense stealing the show

Jaelen House defending
UNM Lobo point guard Jaelen House, left, defends Grambling State’s Tra’Michael Moton during their game Monday night in the Pit. House had 8 steals. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
Here are some extra notes, quotes, tweets, stats or any other odds & ends I could empty out of the old notebook after Monday night’s 86-61 Lobos win over Grambling State in the Pit:

Stealing the show

The Lobos had 11 steals in Monday’s win and through three games are averaging 10.0 per game.

The highest average in UNM history over the course of an entire season was 9.1 steals per game in the 1977-78 season.

Lobos coach Richard Pitino addressed the flurry of turnovers forced, 11 of which, as noted above, were from steals.

“Offensively we play like we have a lot of speed and talent,” Pitino said. “I don’t know if defensively we have (played the same way) until the beginning that second half.”

Through three games, the Lobos’ 30 steals so far have come via:

• 7 steals — Nov. 9 vs. FAU
• 12 steals — Saturday at Colorado
• 11 steals — Monday vs. Grambling State

The past two games are thanks in large part to two near record setting individual steals games, first by Taryn Todd (7 steals) on Saturday at Colorado, then by Jaelen House (8 steals) on Monday vs. Grambling State.

Both House and Todd fouled out of that Saturday game, though, so aggressive defense has its drawbacks.

How rare is what Todd and House pulled off the past two games? UNM hadn’t had a player with seven steals in a game since 2003 when Danny Granger had eight of them against Penn State, then this year’s team does it in back-to-back game with different players.

UNM single game steal leaders:
• 10 – Phil Abney (Dec. 29, 1978 vs. Davidson)
• 9 – Willie Banks (Dec. 21, 1991 vs. Tennessee State)
• 8 – Jaelen House (Monday vs. Grambling State)
• 8 – Danny Granger (Dec. 29, 2003 vs. Penn State)
• 8 – Marlow White (Feb. 4, 1995 vs. BYU)
• 8 – Hunter Greene (Jan. 3, 1987 at San Diego State)
• 8 – Kelvin Scarborough (March 12, 1985 vs. Texas A&M)
• 7 – Taryn Todd (Saturday at Colorado)
• 7 – Roland Hannah (Jan. 2, 2000 vs. Washington)
• 7 – Khari Jaxon (Jan. 17, 1993 vs. San Diego State)
• 7 – Everette Jefferson (Dec. 28, 1979 vs Idaho State)

He sounds familiar

Through Monday’s action around the country, no other player has had more steals in a game this season than House’s eight. But there is one other player has also had that many steals in a game.

Morgan State’s Keith McGee, who left the UNM basketball program in January and later transferred, had eight steals and 27 points last Thursday in win over non-Division I, non-NAIA Penn State University – Allegheny.

The gamer

Here is the gamer I filed from the Pit on Monday night:

For starters…

True freshmen big men Birima Seck (6-11) and Sebastian Forsling (7-0) started for the Lobos on Monday.

After the game, Richard Pitino said it wasn’t about message sending or discipline and did not say past starting big men Gethro Muscadin (6-10) or Jay Allen-Tovar (6-9) were the players he was referring to on Saturday in Boulder when he lamented about how close the Lobos were despite players who “weren’t all pulling in the right direction.”

Muscadin and Allen-Tovar were clearly frustrated and disjointed from teammates at times not only Saturday in Boulder, but in past games and exhibitions at times, too.

“It wasn’t just those two guys,” Pitino said on Monday night of the frustration in Colorado. “I was very upset after the Colorado game. I was. Because I thought we could have won the game. And I didn’t think we were collectively — and it’s not just Gethro and Jay. That’s not why I took them out. It’s not just their fault. …

“I just wanted to mix it up a little bit and see if you know we could get a little bit more energy and enthusiasm. It’s a 40 minute game. They weren’t punished by any means. That that wasn’t the point of it. I thought Gethro really, really responded, certainly in second half.”

The statlines for the four bigs:

• Birima Seck: 11 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block
• Sebastian Forsling: 3 minutes, 0 points, 0 rebounds
• Gethro Muscadin: 24 minutes, 12 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block
• Jay Allen-Tovar: 13 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block

Play of the game

From the Captain Obvious department, the Lobos were really good on Monday when they defended well and turned that into their offense.

That’s not uncommon for any team.

The Lobos need some help in their half court offense it seems, but when they block a shot or steal a ball and have a live ball change of possession that allows them to attack opposing teams in transition, they are a very good team.

Case in point was the play of the game Monday late second half when Gethro Muscadin blocked a shot that was gathered by Jaelen House who then started the fast break. After crossing midcourt, House shoveled the ball to Javonte Johnson who was open for a 3-pointer on the left wing. Instead of taking that shot, Johnson dropped a bounce pass down low to a charing Taryn Todd for an easy layup.

Johnson, who had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds (his second consecutive double-digit scoring game after just one in 2020-21), could have added to his career-high point total in that moment.

And in the postgame press conference as a local reporter (ok, me) tried to figure out why he did such a thing when he was wide open and having a great offensive game, the second-year Lobo had a pretty matter of fact answer.

“He was also open,” Johnson said, “but he was under the rim. So it was a better shot.”

A number to know: 10

The Lobos hit 10 (of 28) 3-pointers on Monday at a 35.7% clip.

UNM is now 2-0 when hitting double digit 3-pointers and 0-1 when not (6-of-23 in Saturday’s loss at Colorado).

The Lobos a season ago had their second game with double digit made 3-pointers in game No 22 — their final game (a loss in the Mountain West Tournament. This season’s team did it in three games.

Players of the Week

Utah State’s Justin Bean won the Mountain West’s first Player of the Week award on Monday.

I’m a Justin Bean fan. So this isn’t meant to take away a good opening week of games he had for the Utah State Aggies, but UNM newcomer Jaelen House had as good (as in at least co-POW) a week or better than did Bean. And remember, all this was even before Monday night’s game in which House had 18 points, 7 assists and 8 steals.

Both players’ teams went 1-1 last week — UNM’s loss coming to a Pac-12 team on the road, Utah State’s loss coming at home as a big favorite. Both scored career highs with 30 points in their team’s wins. But I think House actually did more overall drawing more fouls, hitting more FTs and hitting more 3s:

• 23 points/game
• 13 rebounds/game
• 63.2% 2FG (12-19)
• 57.1% 3FG (4-7)
• 76.9% FT (10-13)

• 26 points/game
• 5 assists/game
• 2 steals/game
• 50.0% 2FG (11-22)
• 50.0% 3FG (6-12)
• 80.0% FT (12-15)

The Mountain West is also starting for the first time (for hoops, anyway) a Freshman of the Week award. This week’s went to Alvaro Cardenas of San Jose State:

Meanwhile, across the hall…

On the other side of the Rudy Davalos practice facility on Monday, the UNM women’s team was picking up hardware for Freshman of the Week honors going to local standout Viane Cumber after averaging 9.5 points over two games last week.

He said it: Rebounding

“I am extremely concerned with it. We’re not physical enough. We’ve got to coach it better. We’ve got to drill it better. We will get Saquan (Singleton) back at some point. We will get back Eman (Emmanuel Kuac) back at some point. That’ll help a little bit. But Grambling is not an overly big team. …

“There’s times where we just got to execute better. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching it. We’ll obviously have an emphasis on it (in practice) with also being fresh for Saturday (vs. Montana State) because it’s huge game.” — UNM coach Richard Pitino

Here are the rebounding margins for the Lobos first three games:

• -17 Nov. 10 (Florida Atlantic 42, UNM 25)
• -20 Saturday (Colorado 47, UNM 27)
• -6 Monday (Grambling State 43, UNM 37)

Video: Pressers with Pitino

Here is a video of Richard Pitino’s postgame presser with reporters after his Lobos beat Grambling State 86-61 on Monday night:

Up next: Montana State

The Lobos host Montana State on Saturday in the Pit at 2 p.m.

Pitino spent time with media after Monday’s game talking up the opponent — one that many Lobo fans won’t think much on name recognition alone, but one the new Lobos coach is genuinely concerned about.

The Bobcats, picked third in both the preseason Big Sky media and coaches polls, are 1-1 with a game Wednesday night at South Dakota State.

Their one loss was a 94-90 overtime loss at Colorado last week — the same Colorado team that UNM lost to by 11 on Saturday.


The announced attendance for Monday night’s Lobos game in the Pit: 8,010

Lots of scoring options

Last year was historically bad for the Lobos, so there isn’t much reason to continue comparing this season to that. But after a season in which it was almost painful watching the Lobos try to find a second scoring option after Makuach Maluach, it’s still remarkable to see seven Lobos through three games having already scored in double figures in a game.

2021-22 season (3 games)
• Games with 5 or more double-digit scorers: 2
• Games with 4 or more double-digit scorers: 3

2020-21 season (22 games)
• Games with 5 or more double-digit scorers: 0
• Games with 4 or more double-digit scorers: 4

Road trippin…

Grambling State finally gets to head home and get some sleep in their own beds after an opening week of college basketball road trip out west that saw the Louisiana squad play at Grand Canyon University on Tuesday (Nov. 9), Texas Tech on Friday and UNM on Monday.

The Tigers received a $75,000 check from UNM to play Monday’s game. I’m not sure what they made from the other two games, but November road swings like this are often a large part, sometimes the primary part, of funding the program for some schools in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

They seemed to have some fun with it. Over the weekend, on their drive from Lubbock to Albuquerque, they did the tourist thing at Blue Hole Lake in Santa Rosa.

Line ’em up

The Lobos had a total of 13 lineups in Monday’s game, 10 of which were on the floor for a minute or more together.

The most effective lineup that both played the most minutes together (11:16) and had the highest point differential over Grambling State (plus-17) consisted of:
• Jaelen House
• Jamal Mashburn Jr.
• Taryn Todd
• Javonte Johnson
• Gethro Muscadin

That group outscored GSU 28-11.

Meanwhile, in California…

How is that Tim Miles guy doing in his second stint in the Mountain West, this time at San Jose State after he was a finalist last March for the UNM Lobos job?

Well, the first half on Monday in Stanford sure looked good…

… and then came the second half …

Around the Mountain

There were six games around the Mountain on Sunday and Monday and one coming on Tuesday:

• Wyoming 85, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 45
• Colorado State 88, (NAIA) Peru State College 62

• New Mexico 86, Grambling State 61
• Fresno State 69, Idaho 62
• UNLV 64, North Dakota State 62
• Stanford 76, San Jose State 62

• Nevada at Santa Clara, 7 p.m. MT

Mountain West standings

Mountain West men’s hoops standings through Monday:

3-0 Colorado State
3-0 Fresno State
3-0 UNLV
2-0 Wyoming
2-1 New Mexico
1-1 Boise State
1-1 Air Force
1-1 Nevada
1-1 San Diego State
1-1 San Jose State
1-1 Utah State

Poll position

There were no Mountain West teams ranked in Monday’s first Associated Press Top 25 poll of the regular season, but Colorado State checked in six spots out of the rankings in the “others receiving votes” section, pulling in 15 points by appearing on nine voter ballots with a high ranking of 22 by Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe.

From the morning paper…

My game day preview feature in Monday’s Journal was on TCU transfer guard Taryn Todd, who has started all three games for the Lobos and is really filling a needed role right now in terms of providing toughness and physical, aggressive plays when needed, though not so much in terms of rebounding (to be fair, nobody on the Lobos roster has been good every game in rebounding).

Look at Todd’s numbers in the past two games:

• At CU: 12 points, 7 steals
• vs. GSU: 16 points, 4 blocked shots

In 26 games at TCU, Todd had 5 blocked shots.

Plus/minus numbers

Here are the plus/minus figures for the Lobos from Monday’s game against Grambling State with minutes played in parenthesis:

+31 Jaelen House (38:13)
+30 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (34:03)
+30 Gethro Muscadin (24:00)
+23 Javonte Johnson (29:14)
+14 Taryn Todd (32:54)
+3 K.J. Jenkins (10:15)
+2 Birima Seck (10:46)
-2 Sebastian Forsling (3:12)
-3 Jeremiah Francis III (4:35)
-3 Jay Allen-Tovar (12:48)

Stats and stats

Here’s a picture I tweeted of the traditional box score given to media: New Mexico 86, Grambling State 61

And here’s a link to the digital stats posted on UNM’s athletics website: New Mexico 86, Grambling State 61

Welcome back…

Fans (some) seem to be enjoying being back in the Pit this season. Here are a few tweets along those lines that caught my eye on the old Twitter app Monday night:

• • • 

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