Emptying the Notebook: Aggie/Lobo rivalry is heated again - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Aggie/Lobo rivalry is heated again

UNM coach Richard Pitino, left, meets with New Mexico State coach Chris Jans at midcourt before the game Monday night in the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)
Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, videos or any other odds & ends I could empty out of the old notebook after Monday’s wild Aggies 78-76 overtime win in the Pit over the Lobos to even the season series at 1 game apiece:

Let’s begin at the end

While there was a lot to enjoy about Monday’s rivalry game, the reality is it will forever be remembered by college basketball fans in these parts by the way it ended and the postgame antics.

So, let’s start with some context.

NMSU coach Chris Jans admitted showing his team video of Jaelen House kicking the Aggies logo and Javonte Johnson slamming the ball down on it after last week’s Lobo win in Las Cruces.

Isabel Gonzalez of the LoboLair posted a video of the end of the game last week in Las Cruces — a video I hadn’t seen until Monday night.

I’m not sure if that was the video Jans showed his team or not, but he also said after the game he wasn’t showing the video to his players so they would mimic it, but so they would be motivated for the game. He also wanted to make clear the situation didn’t just come out of nowhere. It was, at least on some level, a response to the Lobos doing something similar, albeit to a much lesser degree.

“Just for some context, you know, when we got beat soundly at our place, there was some of that by their players and I’m not gonna lie to you, I showed my team it,” Jans told reporters. “I’m not gonna lie to you. It was motivation. We needed to do what we had to do to to get the hair and our back to stand up and understand what we’re about to face. And so I did show the.

“I certainly didn’t tell them to do it. And I’m not condoning it. I’m not happy with it. And we’re going to talk about it. But I just want to make sure everybody understands how it got to this point.”

So, fast forward to Monday’s game, with the pregame motivation in mind of what the Lobos did last week in the Pan Am Center. When the Aggies won, and did so in emotional, dramatic fashion, the player met in the middle of the court for some payback.

Social media had a field day with the postgame antics, diluting what was a very close, exciting game with a game-winner that will go down in the books of this 117-year old rivalry series as one of the most dramatic (hard to beat a buzzer beater on the road in overtime).

And to their credit, neither Lobo coach Richard Pitino nor Jamal Mashburn had much gripe about about what the Aggies did. Pitino said he was more offended by his team’s defensive breakdown on the play to leave Pryor an open lane to the basket, and Mashburn nailed his response to a question about it like it was a midrange jumper.

So, here we are.

Depending on what shade of red you wore to the games this past week, the actions after Monday’s games were “classless,” to steal a popular Lobo fan term from Twitter on Monday night, or justifiable as a they started it sort of response.

From my perspective, this rivalry has not been this promising in a long time.

Let’s just look at the past 14 years since that marks a coaching change for both programs — the Steve Alford era for UNM and the Marvin Menzies era for NMSU, both hired in 2007.

Alford and then Craig Neal dominated the rivalry with Menzies. One year of Paul Weir in NMSU and you saw the series split 1-1. But after that for three years the story was always about that coaches — Weir who left NMSU vs. Jans who replaced him.

This past week, after a year of the rivalry being taken away, in two exciting, and very memorable (for all sorts of reasons from blackouts to logo stomps), each team won in the rival’s gym. And the focus was once again on two programs that seem to me to be headed for many years of what a rivalry should be — passion, some game-day bad blood, excited games, and like it or not, a little bit of both teams winning.

The Rio Grande Rivalry is alive and well.

The gamer

Here is the game story I filed from the Pit media room after Monday’s game…

And for those who may have forgotten last week’s Game 1 in the rivalry, here is the game story I filed from the Pan Am Center in Las Cruces six days prior…

Attendance

The announced attendance at Monday’s NMSU at UNM game was 13,018

That’s the largest indoor crowd in the state of New Mexico for an event since Jan. 29, 2020. That was a pre-pandemic game in the Pit when the Lobos welcomed to town a 21-0, top-10 ranked San Diego State team in front of an announced crowd of 13,241.

Here are the past 10 announced attendances in the Rio Grand Rivalry (five in Albuquerque, five in Las Cruces):

• 13,018 — Monday (Albuquerque)
• 6,208 — Nov. 20, 2021 (Las Cruces)
• 14,448 — Dec. 14, 2019 (Albuquerque)
• 7,268 — Nov. 21, 2019 (Las Cruces)
• 6,777 — Dec. 4, 2018 (Las Cruces)
• 14,393 — Nov. 17, 2018 (Albuquerque)
• 12,768 — Dec. 9, 2017 (Albuquerque)
• 6,839 — Nov. 17, 2017 (Las Cruces)
• 6,298 — Dec. 10, 2016 (Las Cruces)
• 13,892 — Nov. 18, 2016 (Albuquerque)

Rebound, they did

As noted in Monday’s game-day preview article in the Journal, the Aggies have dominated the boards in this series since Chris Jans has been coach in Las Cruces.

And the single biggest deficiency with the Lobos so far this season has been its poor rebounding.

That’s why it was so unusual that the Lobos outrebounded the Aggies (39-35) last week in Las Cruces in that 101-94 UNM victory.

Monday, it was NMSU back to winning on the boards overall, 45-41, though UNM did get the edge on offensive boards (10-7).

In the eight-game Chris Jans era, the team that has won the rebounding category on the stat sheet has gone 6-2.

Here is NMSU’s rebounding advantage over the Lobos (most of the time) in the eight-game Chris Jans era as coach of the Aggies:

2021
• Monday (Abq.): plus-4 (45-41 — 10-7 offensive rebs.)
• *Nov. 30 (LC): minus-4 (35-39 — 8-10 offensive rebs.)
*only time in 8 rivalry games with UNM a Chris Jans team was outrebounded

2019
• Nov. 21 (LC): plus-8 (37-29 — 15-8 offensive rebs.)
• Dec. 14 (Abq.): plus-2 (35-33 — 12-10 offensive rebs.)

2018
• Nov. 17 (Abq.): plus-9 (31-22 — 10-5 offensive rebs.)
• Dec. 4 (LC): plus-21 (52-31 — 13-10 offensive rebs.)

2017
• Nov. 17 (LC): plus-25 (50-25 — 25-9 offensive rebs.)
• Dec. 9 (Abq.): plus-6 (44-38 — 15-9 offensive rebs.)

A familiar face

With nine days off between games for his Iona Gaels, proud papa Pitino made his return to the Pit on Monday.

Rick Pitino, father of Lobos coach Richard Pitino, sat courtside for the game in the arena he won two NCAA Tournament games at in 2005, coached in a Lobo Invitational back in 1980 and was even an assistant for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse in a 1978 Lobo Invitational.

So, what did the elder Pitino think of Monday’s game?

Maybe that’s why we still haven’t seen a contract between Iona and UNM to play a game in the Pit, something I’ve been asking Richard Pitino about since his first day on the job…

The freebies don’t come easy

Neither team will use Monday’s game as an example of their prowess at the free throw line.

First, UNM. The Lobos have been very good at the charity stripe this season, but left nine points at the line as they shot 14-of-23 (60.9%) on free throws.

When you are tied at the end of regulation and then lose by two in overtime, missing any free throws can be bothersome, but nine is especially painful, and it was a group effort. Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn combined to go 8-of-8 on FTs. The rest of the team was 6-of-15.

Now for NMSU. The Aggies went 2-of-5 (40.0%) on FTs. But maybe even more troubling than the low percentage was the fact that they hardly got to the line at all.

In fact, according to KenPom.com, Monday’s free throw rate of 6.8 for NMSU is the second lowest in the KenPom era for the team dating back to 2002.

Free throw rate (FTA/FGA) measures how many free throws a team shoots in relation to how many shots a team takes. NMSU’s 5 free throw attempts divided by its 74 shot attempts is significantly below the team’s 28.5% rate for the season and below the national average of 30.2.

Mashburn is rolling, but…

Jamal Mashburn Jr. has now scored 26 points in three of the past four games for the Lobos, but all three have been losses.

From my seat, I don’t see it as large enough sample size to read much into it somehow being correlated to their struggles, just a coincidence. Sometimes players going off for a ton of points means he’s taking over and others aren’t getting involved. I haven’t seen that yet with Mashburn. In fact, he seems to very much be a let the game come to him type, but we’ll see how things play out the rest of the season.

What we do know, is that in the past 11 seasons (since the 2010-11 season, to be exact), Sports-Reference.com tells us that there have been 57 times when a Lobo has scored 26 or more points. Mashburn now has three of them in just nine games played.

That’s 33% of his games he has scored 26 or more. The Lobos leader in 26 point games since 2010-11 is Elijah Brown, who had 14 of them in just 63 games played, a rate of 22.2%.

The list:

Lobos w/ 26pts or more since 2010-11
(games played in parenthesis)
• 14 – Elijah Brown (63)
• 5 – Vance Jackson (60)
• 4 – Cameron Bairstow (134)
• 4 – Kendall Williams (137)
• 4 – Tim Williams (54)
• 3 – Alex Kirk (101)
• 3 – Jamal Mashburn Jr. (9)
• 3 – Cullen Neal (68)
• 2 – Dairese Gary (135)
• 2 – Drew Gordon (61)
• 2 – Jaelen House (8)
• 2 – Makuach Maluach (121)
• 2 – Phillip McDonald (133)
• 2 – Jaquan Lyle (29)
• 1 – Sam Logwood (116)
• 1 – Corey Manigault (64)
• 1 – Anthony Mathis (101)
• 1 – Chris McNeal (34)
• 1 – Tony Snell (69)

Presser with Pitino (and Jans)

He was the postgame media session with UNM Lobo coach Richard Pitino and NMSU coach Chris Jans, as posted to the Journal’s YouTube page:

Allen’s bounce back

Teddy Allen isn’t looking to make friends with opposing fan bases, so the fact he didn’t exactly endear himself to Lobo fans on Monday won’t keep him up at night.

But he did have a really strong performance in the Pit on Monday night and, since I pointed out in this same ETN column last week that he didn’t have a great game despite scoring 31 points, I should give him credit where deserved for his performance on Monday.

Last week, he had the worst plus/minus figure (-11) in the game, meaning in the 38 minutes he was on the court, the Aggies were outscored by 11 points. I also noted that UNM’s Jaelen House, who also scored 31 points last week, had a +12 in that game, meaning the swing between those two players was 23 points (not that they necessarily were playing on the court at the same time all game).

Well, on Monday, Allen led NMSU with 20 points on 10-of-21 shooting (0-for-5 from 3-point range) and pulled down 11 rebounds while posting a solid +6, meaning the Aggies outscored UNM by six points in the game-high 42:57 he was on the court. And, staying consistent with the House comparison I made last week, House had a game-worst -7 on Monday in 38:20, meaning the two players had a +/- swing of 13 points.

A number to know: 15.8%

According to KenPom.com, the Aggies had a 15.8% chance of winning with 1:22 left in regulation when the Lobos were leading, 67-64, and NMSU’s Jabari Rice had just missed a shot in the paint, leading to a K.J. Jenkins rebound and a UNM possession to milk some clock and maybe add to their lead.

They actually did a pretty good job of that, leading to a Javonte Johnson baseline jumper with 54 seconds left — a shot that went in and out, and led to the Aggies getting a rebound and scoring on Rice layup with 40 seconds remaining.

That 15.8% win probability for the Aggies was the lowest of the game for NMSU, also representing an 84.2% win probability for the Lobos that slipped away after that point.

Another number to know: 13.3%

NMSU hit just 13.3% of its 3-pointers on Monday (2-of-15 to be exact).

That’s the worst shooting percentage from beyond the arc for the Aggies since going 2-for-18 (11.1%) in a Nov. 14, 2018, loss vs. Saint Mary’s.

OT? OK

In the 226-game history of the NMSU/UNM series, Monday was the 13th time the game went to overtime.

The record in those games:
• UNM 7 wins
• NMSU 6 wins

As for the where…
• Albuquerque: 8
• Las Cruces: 4
• *El Paso: 1
*The 1961 game was part of the Sun Bowl tournament played in El Paso

No. 2 halftime entertainment

UNM went with an interesting halftime promotion on Monday that they hadn’t used yet this season: Racing toilets.

It’s unclear if it was intentional or not. But amid last week’s power outage at the Pan Am Center, they announced fans could no longer use the restrooms. On Monday night in the Pit, as seen in the video below, there were definitely working toilets in the Pit.

He said it K.J. Jenkins

Lobo guard K.J. Jenkins played on Monday for the first time in essentially three games with a sprained ankle (he missed the past two games and all but three minutes of a third after hurting his ankle in Las Vegas).

The 6-foot-2 guard had 7 points, 2 rebounds and a team-best +6 on the plus/minus chart (UNM outscored NMSU by six points in the 21:49 Jenkins was on the court).

So, then, I had to ask.

Me: “How’s the ankle?”

Jenkins: “It’s better.”

Me: “100 percent?”

Jenkins: “I’m going to go out there and give 100% whatever (percentage) my ankle’s with.”

So… not 100%, but good enough to play and clearly it was good enough for him to help the Lobos quite a bit on Monday.

Plus/minus

Here are the plus/minus numbers for both teams for Monday’s game in the Pit with minutes played in parenthesis:

NMSU AGGIES
+10 Mike Peake (20:11)
+8 Yuat Alok (18:11)
+8 Levar Williams (13:06)
+6 Teddy Allen (42:57)
+6 Jabari Rice (41:22)
+1 Nate Pryor (34:18)
-4 Johnny McCants (25:21)
-6 Marchelus Avery (3:37)
-8 Mario McKinney Jr. (5:50)
-11 Will McNair (20:07)

UNM LOBOS
+7 Jay Allen-Tover (23:25)
+6 K.J. Jenkins (21:49)
0 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (42:18)
-1 Javonte Johnson (39:28)
-3 Saquan Singleton (22:27)
-5 Taryn Todd (12:42)
-7 Gethro Muscadin (24:31)
-7 Jaelen House (38:20)

Line ’em up

The worst lineup of the game for UNM on Monday night was the starting lineup of Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Taryn Todd/Javonte Johnson/Gethro Muscadin.

That group was outscored by nine (19-10, NMSU) in the 9 minutes, 57 seconds they were on the court together.

Never a good thing when your starting five gives you the worst scoring differential of the game.

The best for the Lobos? The small ball lineup of Jaelen House/K.J. Jenkins/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Jay Allen-Tovar.

That unit was on the floor together for 8:23 and outscored NMSU by 4 (17-13).

No other grouping of Lobos had a better score differential in the game than that units plus-4.

Oh, those runs…

Last week in Las Cruces, NMSU had one scoring run of 6-0.

That’s it. No other run in the game was better than a pedestrian 5-0 run before the Lobos had an answer at every turn for the Aggies trying to build some momentum in the Pan Am Center.

On Monday, it wasn’t as though they had a lot more, but they had enough. NMSU had three scoring runs of 6-0 or better, and it helped (somewhat) fend off the hostile Pit crowd a time or two:

• 6-0 (16:46 to 15:04 1st half): NMSU went from down 5 to lead 6-5
• 7-0 (2:57 1st half to 19:14 second half): NMSU went from down 31-22 to down 31-29 early in the second half to keep the game from getting away
• 8-0 (16:37 to 15:06 second half): NMSU went from down 36-31 to leading 39-31

Around the Mountain

There were two games around the Mountain (West) on Monday night and just one coming on Tuesday:

MONDAY
• New Mexico State 78, New Mexico 76 (OT)
• Pepperdine 82, San Jose State 69

TUESDAY
• Boise State at Cal. State-Northridge, 8 p.m. MT/7 p.m. PT

Mountain West records

Through Monday’s games, here are the records around the Mountain West:

9-0 Colorado State
8-0 Wyoming
7-1 Air Force
7-1 Fresno State
6-2 Utah State
5-3 San Diego State
5-4 New Mexico
4-4 Boise State
4-4 Nevada
4-4 San Jose State
4-5 UNLV

NET rankings

Monday was the first time the NCAA released this season’s NET rankings — the system designed to get rid of the outdated RPI and be a tool for the Selection Committee to use when trying to determine which teams should be in the NCAA Tournament and which teams should not.

The first several weeks of the NET rankings are HIGHLY misleading about where a team might end up because it is based on such a a small sample size of games. Nevertheless, being rating high is always better than being rated low.

And, on Day 1 of the NET rankings, there’s what the Mountain West looked like:

12 Wyoming
27 Colorado State
52 Utah State
93 Fresno State
110 Boise State
113 San Diego State
145 New Mexico
152 Nevada
194 San Jose State
198 Air Force
251 UNLV

More Mountain West…

One last update on the Mountain West. Monday’s Mountain West Player of the Week award went to Wyoming’s Graham Ike, who averaged a double-double in three wins last week for the Cowboys: 23.3 points, 11.0 rebounds.

2021-22 MWC Player of the Week:
• Nov. 15: Justin Bean, Utah State
• Nov. 22: Justin Bean, Utah State
• Nov. 29: A.J. Walker, Air Force
• Dec. 6: Graham Ike, Wyoming

And the Mountain West’s Freshman of the Week award went, again, to Air Force’s Ethan Taylor after he posted career highs in points (15), assists (8) and steals (4) while also grabbing a team-best eight rebounds in the Falcons’ 76-58 home win over Army.

2021-22 MWC Freshman of the Week:
• Nov. 15: Alvaro Cardenas, San Jose State
• Nov. 22: Ethan Taylor, Air Force
• Nov. 29: Ethan Taylor, Air Force
• Dec. 6: Ethan Taylor, Air Force

Change things up…

Coach Heather Dyche’s Mountain West champion (x2) women’s soccer team was honored during halftime of Monday’s game:

Stats and more stats

Here is a picture of the postgame stat sheet handed out to reporters on Monday night in the Pit: New Mexico State 78, New Mexico 76 (OT)

And for those who prefer a digital version that UNM posts after each game, here you go: New Mexico State 78, New Mexico 76 (OT)

Up next…

FOR NMSU: The Aggies play at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT/4 p.m. PT

FOR UNM: The Lobos host Denver in the Pit at 7 p.m. on Thursday and then host UTEP on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Signing off with this…

With another Lobo/Aggie game in the books and another round of fans from both teams hating my coverage of the game, I sign off with this tweet from Monday night, clearly posted by somebody not in the state of New Mexico…


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

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