Emptying the Notebook: Lobo freshman Birima Seck's beautiful, pointless game - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Lobo freshman Birima Seck’s beautiful, pointless game

Lobo forward Birima Seck
UNM forward Birima Seck, right dribbles around Western New Mexico University’s Josiah Turner during their game in the Pit on Monday night. (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’s 88-63 Lobos win over Western New Mexico University in the Pit:

Seck’s beautiful, pointless night

Birima Seck fell to the court hard.

With 9 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first half of Monday night’s game against Division II Western New Mexico, the 6-foot-11 freshman from Senegal stayed down on the south end of Bob King Court as the team trainer and head coach Richard Pitino tended to him.

It was the last thing Pitino wanted to see for any of his players in a game that was scheduled as a tune-up for the upcoming two-day Las Vegas Invitational on Thursday and Friday.

After several moments on the floor, and with both teams now back at their benches, Seck was finally helped up to his feet with fans and teammates still concerned.

Then, as he started making his way to the bench and couldn’t hide what has to be the biggest smile on the roster, Pitino said something to him and gave him a playful shove in the back — not exactly the norm for coach/player interactions after such a moment.

“Being too dramatic is what happened,” Pitino joked about the incident when asked about it in the postgame press conference. “I think he got hit in the stomach. I told him to toughen up, put on some weight. Birima is going to be a really good player. He’s doing all that all for raw talent. … We’ll put on that weight. And I think that skill level will keep coming. I like him a lot. I’m excited about him. He’s a great kid. And he’s fun to mess around with.”

Pitino said he probably couldn’t share with reporters what exactly he told Seck when the two were on the way back to the team bench. But once the player got back to the bench, several of his teammates burst out in laughter at something he said.

“I bet a smile was on his face to the whole time, too,” said teammate K.J. Jenkins when asked about that unique first half moment when Seck was laying on the court. “Every time. Man, that’s what Birima is — the smile on his face. If anything’s going wrong — the ups and downs — Birima is always gonna have that smile on his face. And I’m proud of the young fella.”

Seck would return to the game, injury free, and quietly put together quite the remarkable statline for the Lobos.

In 24 minutes, 34 seconds on the court, Seck tallied a came-high 10 rebounds, blocked four shots and had zero points. He only took one shot — a 3-point attempt in the second half.

He’s now up to 21 rebounds and zero points scored on the season.

“It really doesn’t surprise me,” Jenkins said of the 10 rebound, zero point stat line. “That’s what he does. He’s good at that.”

While it may not surprise his teammates, what Seck pulled off on Monday night isn’t exactly commonplace.

According to Sports-Reference.com, in the 359 games played by the University of New Mexico since the start of the 2010-11 season — the furthest back the site can track game-by-game statistics — Seck is the only Lobo to have a 10-rebound, 0-point game.

Across all 358 Division I teams playing in that 11-year span, only 17 times has a player had a game with at least 10 rebounds, at least four blocked shots and zero points.

As for his coach’s desire he put on some weight, Seck is trying. He proudly boasted to reporters in an interview a few weeks ago about how he had already added eight whole pounds to his 6-11 frame since he arrived in Albuquerque over the summer, bulking up from 187 pounds to his current weight of 195 pounds.

The gamer

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

He said it (or tweeted it)

While Richard Pitino said Monday that the team didn’t know for sure if Saquan Singleton would play Thursday in Las Vegas, Nev., against UAB, the 6-6 senior guard seems to think he was given the news he’s been waiting a couple months for, clearing him to play.

After the game, Singleton tweeted, “I’m back. Now it’s time to roll.”

Here’s what I wrote last week about Saquan and his return to the practice court:

House update

Richard Pitino said Jaelen House, who sprained his ankle in Saturday’s win over Montana State, went through shootaround during the day Monday and lobbied to play, but the coach shot that down as Monday’s game, given the opponent, wasn’t worth taking any chances, even if House has been the team’s leader in points, assists, steals and minutes played before the injury.

But it’s clear House is close enough to being ready to play that they’re making game-day decisions about his status, which Pitino said would likely be the case again for Thursday’s game in Las Vegas against UAB.

Don’t compare scores!

But if you do…

WNMU has now played three Division I teams this season (all counted as exhibitions for the Mustangs, the norm for D-II teams when they play D-I programs).

• Grand Canyon 85, WNMU 59
• UTEP 85, WNMU 57
• UNM 88, WNMU 63

I have no idea what status of starters for GCU or UTEP being in or out was, just that UNM played without Jaelen House, the team’s leader in points, assists, steals and minutes per game.

Jeremiah Francis appreciation

Returning Lobo guard Jeremiah Francis III got the start Monday in place of the injured Jaelen House and had season highs just about everything: points (6), assists (7) and minutes (29:14).

With three smaller guards in front of him in the rotation, and primarily one in Jaelen House at the primary point guard spot who has had a special start to the season before his ankle injury on Saturday, Francis hasn’t had much opportunity to play so far.

Pitino made clear on Monday that the playing time in this case isn’t necessarily a sign Francis isn’t ready.

“JF hasn’t played a lot. That’s probably has a lot to do more with Jaelen House than it does JF,” Pitino said. “He has had an awesome attitude. He comes to work every day and works hard. So when you can reward those guys to play, you want to do it.”

Monday, when Francis not only played, but played well, his teammates loved it.

“Jeremiah is very humble, you know?” said Lobo guard K.J. Jenkins. “I can’t say anything bad about him. His attitude has been great you know handling you know not playing a lot of minutes but man it’s just it’s just a joy to watch when the guy you know that’s worked hard goes out there and gets to play the game he loves.”

But let’s take this a step further.

It wasn’t just nice to see Francis get some run for the first time this season, he actually did something very few Lobos have done in the past decade in dishing out seven assists with zero turnovers.

In the 359 games UNM has played since the start of the 2010-11 season (again tapping into that Sports-Reference.com database), just 17 have featured a Lobo dishing out at least seven assists without committing a turnover — a feat accomplished by just 10 Lobos in that span:

The last time a Lobo had at least seven assists and no turnovers in a game was Dec. 17, 2019, when J.J. Caldwell had 9 assists and zero turnovers in what would be the final game he ever played for UNM before he was suspended and never returned to the court.

UNM’s 7 assist/0 turnover games since 2010-11

• Kendall Williams (7 times)
• Tim Jacobs (2 times)
• Jeremiah Francis III
• JJ Caldwell
• Drue Drinnon
• Jamal Fenton
• Hugh Greenwood
• Tony Snell
• Chris McNeal
• Dairese Gary

Attendance

The announced attendance for Monday night’s WNMU at UNM game in the Pit: 8,047

For the season, here’s what the attendance figures have been announced as for the Lobos five games:

HOME
• 9,084 (Saturday vs. Montana State)
• 8,553 (Nov. 10 vs. Florida Atlantic)
• 8,047 (Monday vs. Western New Mexico)
• 8,010 (Nov. 15 vs. Grambling State)

ROAD
• 7,115 (Nov. 13 at Colorado)

As Gethro goes?

Gethro Muscadin played just 14:19 on Monday. So it was a good thing he didn’t waste anytime getting his 10 points.

The Lobos are now 4-0 in games Muscadin scores in double figures and 0-1 in games he’s held under 10 points.

After Saturday’s game against Montana State, when Muscadin had a double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots, teammate Jamal Mashburn Jr. had this to say:

“That’s my guy. I mean, ‘G’ plays hard. He rebounds. When he’s locked in, he’s one of the best bigs in the Mountain West — in the country. I really believe that.”

Line ’em up

The Lobos on Monday used their fifth different starting lineup in five games this season. The injury to Jaelen House created the latest need for a shift in personnel.

Here’s a look at some notable lineup combinations from Monday:

Starting 5:
• Jeremiah Francis/Jamal Masburn Jr./Taryn Todd/Javonte Johnson/Gethro Muscadin
• 8:41 on court
• Score differential: +1 (UNM 13, WNMU 12)

Best lineup:
• K.J. Jenkins/Jamal Masburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Jay Allen-Tovar/Birima Seck
• 3:34 on court
• Score differential: +8 (UNM 8, WNMU 0)

Worst lineup:
• Clay Patterson/Jeremiah Francis/Jordan Arroyo/Birima Seck/Sebastian Forsling
• 5:22 on court
• Score differential: -5 (UNM 11, WNMU 16)

Meanwhile, in Sioux Falls…

So, Year 3 of the Steve Alford era with the Nevada Wolf Pack isn’t off to the start many in Reno or around the Mountain West predicted. The Wolf Pack has stumbled out of the gate to a 1-4 start to the season and got beat up 102-75 at South Dakota State on Monday night.

Around the Mountain

The Mountain West had five games Monday and play two games on Tuesday.

MONDAY
• South Dakota State 102, Nevada 75
• Colorado State 71, Northeastern 61
• New Mexico 88, (DII) Western New Mexico 63
• Wyoming 68, Grand Canyon 61
• Fresno State 70, Pepperdine 63

TUESDAY
• Nevada vs. George Mason (Sioux Falls, S.D.), 5 p.m. MT
• Northern Colorado at San Jose State, 8 p.m. MT

Mountain West standings

Here are the records in the Mountain West through Monday’s games:

6-0 Colorado State
4-0 Fresno State
4-0 Wyoming
4-1 Air Force
4-1 New Mexico
4-1 Utah State
3-1 San Diego State
3-2 Boise State
3-2 UNLV
1-3 San Jose State
1-4 Nevada

Strong start for the league

The Mountain West continues a strong start to the season in non-conference play.

While it’s not quite there so far, the non-conference win percent for the league is in the neighborhood of what it was in the 2012-13 season, which I consider the high-water mark for the conference as it got more than half its membership into the NCAA Tournament (five of nine teams).

Don’t get me wrong, it still matters who you play. You can’t just schedule cupcakes and expect racking up cheap wins will get you an invite to the Big Dance, but it should surprise nobody that the 2012-13 season was also the league’s best non-conference win percentage (.761).

So far this season, the Mountain West is 37-15 (.712) in non-conference games. The tweet below, which includes the all-time non-conference records for the league, was from before Monday’s games so has a different number for this season than the updated one just mentioned.

Through five

As for the Lobos’ start to the season, they’re doing their part for sure.

With Monday’s win, the Lobos are 4-1 on the season. That is the same record they program has held through five games now 10 times in the 23 season history of the Mountain West Conference, which started in the 1999-2000 season:

• 5-0: 4 times
• 4-1: 10 times
• 3-2: 6 times
• 2-3: 3 times
• 1-4: 0 times
• 0-5: 0 times

Series update

UNM is now 19-3 all time vs. Western New Mexico University in regular season games (not including exhibition games for the Lobos).

Monday marked the first time the two teams played in a regular season game since 2004. The last time WNMU beat UNM was 1954.

Bean there, done that

For the second straight week, Utah State senior forward Justin Bean has been named the Mountain West Player of the Week. This week was a no-doubter.

Bean led the Aggies to a Myrtle Beach Invitational championship, averaging 24.7 points and 14.0 rebounds while shooting a nice 69.0% from the floor.

As for this week’s Freshman of the Week, Air Force guard Ethan Taylor got the nod after helping lead the Falcons to a 3-0 week, averaging 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

Here’s the count for the season:

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
• Justin Bean, Utah State (Nov. 15)
• Justin Bean, Utah State (Nov. 22)

FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
• Alvaro Cardenas, San Jose State (Nov. 15)
• Ethan Taylor, Air Force (Nov. 22)

Poll Position

No Mountain West teams were ranked in Monday’s latest AP Top 25 poll, but Colorado State got 30 points, sitting eight spots out of being ranked (No. 25 Xavier has 102 points).

The Rams appeared on 11 of 61 voter ballots this week, with a high vote of No. 21 by Chris Murray of Nevada Sports Net in Reno. I also had the Rams on my AP Top 25 ballot this week, placing them at No. 23.

In the Coaches Poll, both CSU (11 points) and Utah State (10 points), appeared in the “others receiving votes” portion of the poll.

Plus/minus

Here are the plus/minus numbers from Monday’s Lobo game with minutes played in parenthesis:

+33 K.J. Jenkins (25:27)
+28 Jay Allen-Tovar (20:19)
+26 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (26:10)
+25 Birima Seck (24:34)
+12 Jeremiah Francis III (29:14)
+7 Taryn Todd (17:40)
+6 Javonte Johnson (21:04)
+2 Gethro Muscadin (14:19)
-1 Sebastian Forsling (10:12)
-5 Jordan Arroyo (5:22)
-8 Clay Patterson (5:39)

Video: Presser with Pitino

Here is the video of Richard Pitino talking with reporters after Monday’s game in the Pit:

Stats and stats

Here is a link to a picture of the box score handed out on press row after Monday’s game: New Mexico 88, Western New Mexico 63

And here is a link to the digital stats at GoLobos.com: New Mexico 88, Western New Mexico 63

Up next…

Thursday, UNM vs. Alabama-Birmingham (Las Vegas Invitational), 5 p.m., FS1, 770 AM/96.3 FM

The Friday matchup, depending on who wins/loses on Day 1 of the four-team event, will feature the Lobos playing either Towson or San Francisco.


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