Emptying the Notebook: Lobos get just what they needed in Denver win - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Lobos get just what they needed in Denver win

The UNM Lobo men’s basketball team, wearing special turquoise uniforms for the first time this season, lines up on the Pit floor before the singing of the National Anthem on Thursday against Denver. (ROBERTO E. ROSALES/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats, tweets, videos or anything else I managed to empty out of the old notebook after Thursday’s 87-67 Lobos win over Denver in the Pit:

Just what they needed

After Monday’s emotional loss to New Mexico State in front of 13,000 fans, Thursday probably couldn’t have been better in a number of ways for the Lobos.

First of all, the team is in the middle of three games in seven days. And with top players Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. logging a ton of minutes — 33.8 per game and 34.6 per game entering Thursday’s game, respectively — head coach Richard Pitino knew getting them some rest was necessary.

So, too, was getting some other guys off the bench going strong who hadn’t been doing so lately — namely K.J. Jenkins, who was still getting back up to speed after an ankle sprain, and freshman center Sebastian Forsling, who simply hasn’t played much.

Thursday night afforded Pitino the chance to do both with the way UNM took control of the game early and never looked back. He rested his top two players, got good play from bench guys and also had a quietly dominant performance from inconsistent big men Gethro Muscadin and Jay Allen-Tovar (more on their performances later in this column).

“Mash seemed very, very tired. House has been having a nagging injury,” Pitino said. “So yeah, it was great to get Sebastian going. It was great to get KJ knocking down shots. But you know, more than anything, we got to get better. And those guys who got to get healthy and Mash and House have played a lot of minutes.”

Oh, getting over that NMSU loss in a hurry was pretty big, too.

“That was one of the best crowds I’ve been a part of last game (against NMSU) you lose — an emotional loss. Then you got to bounce right back. You know how much time to you know, to kind of feel sorry for yourself,” Pitino said.

As for those two stars of the game, I’ll have more on Sebastian Forsling over the weekend as the fan- and team-favorite nice guy from Sweden had a killer postgame presser (you can see the video of his talk with reporters later in this column). For now, here’s the first dunk in the Lobo career of Forsling:

As for Jenkins, he scored all of his 21 points in the second half and his 3-point shooting (5-of-11) kept Denver at arms length down the stretch as the Pioneers tried sneaking back into the game, but never quite could.

Like I mentioned, I’ll have more on Forsling in the coming days.

The gamer

Here is the game story I filed from the Pit after Thursday’s game:

A number to know: 6

Thursday night, the Lobos beat Denver to improve to 6-4 this season.

Those six wins match the win total for the entire 2020-21 season when UNM went 6-16.

Another number to know: +21

They’ve been the target of fan criticism and media scrutiny this season.

So, let’s point it out when they do well.

Lobo big men Gethro Muscadin and Jay Allen-Tovar were quietly dominant on Thursday night. I say quietly because it seemed as though most people were paying attention to the popular freshman Sebastian Forsling playing his best game of the season and K.J. Jenkins taking over in the second half with his career-high 21 points.

But I bet Denver sure noticed Muscadin and Allen-Tovar.

The duo combined for 21 points, 21 rebounds, and both had a +21 on the plus/minus statline, meaning the Lobos outscored Denver by 21 points in the 21:35 Muscadin was on the court and the Lobos outscored Denver by 21 points in the 16:47 Allen-Tovar was on the court.

Their stats:

• 12 points
• 3-6 FG (1-2 3FG)
• 5-6 FT
• 11 rebounds (5 offensive)
• 2 assists
• 1 block

• 9 points
• 2-2 FG (0-0 3FG)
• 5-5 FT
• 10 rebounds (2 offensive)
• 3 blocks

Familiar face

Hey, we know that guy.

Albuquerque Academy graduate and current Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was at Thursday’s game, enjoying the action on the south baseline of Bob King Court sitting with his wife, Reagan, and near fellow Academy, and former Lobo hoops star, Chad Toppert.

More on Mashburn…

Mashburn had easily his worst shooting night of the season, going 2-of-11 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range. As Pitino said, maybe he was tired. He was, after all, second in the Mountain West entering Thursday’s game in minutes played per game (34.6).

Here is the log for Mashburn’s shooting in each game as a Lobo so far:

• vs. FAU: 6-16 (14 points)
• at Colo: 8-16 (20 points)
• vs. GSU: 7-14 (18 points)
• vs. MSU: 8-13 (21 points)
• vs WNMU: 7-11 (19 points)
• vs. UAB: 9-15 (26 points)
• vs. Tow: 9-18 (26 points)
• at NMSU: 6-13 (19 points)
• vs NMSU: 10-17 (26 points)
• vs. DU: 2-11 (10 points)

Still, his worst night as a Lobo so far was still good enough 10 points, extending his double-digit scoring streak to start his Lobos career to 10 games. That is something Lobo hoops SID Steve Kirkland noted in his postgame wrap up is the first time that has happened to start a season since Kendall Williams did so in the 2013-14 season.

Advantage: Lobos

Denver and UNM haven’t played in 51 years. So, Thursday finally brought to an end the more than half century that the series between the two had been tied, 21 wins for the Pioneers and 21 wins for the Lobos.

The 43-game series now stands at:
• UNM: 22 wins
• DU: 21 wins

See you again in 2072, Pioneers?

Lobos brought the D against DU

The Lobos haven’t been a good defensive team this season, but they were on Thursday, especially early.

Fifteen minutes into the game, the Pioneers had hit just five of 25 shots — some of that was a cold shooting night, but a lot can be credited to the Lobos making Denver uncomfortable, both with speeding them up to play at a pace they weren’t comfortable with and with the same pressure defense they’ve played much of the season, just without the same success.

It was the defense, not the Lobos offense, that Pitino said was the reason his squad took control of the game midway through the first half and never looked back.

“The first half, we were guarding, which we just have not been very good defensively,” Pitino said. “But 31% (DU shot 31.3% in the first half), and I think Denver is a good offensive team. They move the ball well. They run good action. So, to set the tone early, and then to go on a run was great to see.

“You know, the second half was not as good, obviously (DU shot 46.9% and scored 40 points).”


The announced attendance for Thursday’s Denver at UNM game in the Pit: 8,046

Through six home games, the Lobos are averaging 9,126 fans per game. How does that rank in the Mountain West?

Avg. home attendance in MWC
• 11,957 – San Diego State (5 home games)
• 9,126 – New Mexico (6 home games)
• 7,763 – Utah State (4 home games)
• 7,083 – Boise State (4 home games)
• 6,963 – Nevada (3 home games)
• 5,074 – Colorado State (6 home games)
• 4,992 – UNLV (5 home games)
• 3,465 – Wyoming (5 home games)
• 3,308 – Fresno State (5 home games)
• 1,376 – Air Force (4 home games)
• 1,341 – San Jose State (4 home games)

Meanwhile, in New Jersey…

Apparently there was other basketball going on in the country on Thursday night, not just the Denver Pioneers at UNM Lobos.

Another week in college basketball this season and another No. 1 can’t hold on to that that top spot.

Rutgers upset No. 1 Purdue in the Jersey Mike’s Arena on Thursday night thanks to this Ron Harper, Jr., buzzer beater:


Here are the plus/minus stats from Thursday night’s Lobos win over Denver with minutes played in parenthesis:

+21 Gethro Muscadin (21:35)
+21 Jay Allen-Tovar (16:47)
+18 Saquan Singleton (23:22)
+17 K.J. Jenkins (25:18)
+16 Jaelen House (20:57)
+7 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (21:15)
+2 Birima Seck (2:42)
+1 Taryn Todd (21:56)
+1 Jeremiah Francis III (7:12)
-1 Sebastian Forsling (18:25)
-3 Javonte Johnson (20:31)

Line ’em up

Here’s a look at a few of the lineup combinations the Lobos used on Thursday and how they faired:

> Jaelen House, K.J. Jenkins, Saquan Singleton, Jay Allen-Tover, Gethro Muscadin
> Time on court: 5:20
> Score differential: +12 (17-5)
> Points per possession: 1.65

> K.J. Jenkins, Taryn Todd, Saquan Singleton, Javonte Johnson, Sebastian Forsling
> Time on court: 4:12
> Score differential: -4 (9-13)
> Points per possession: 1.31

And what about that starting lineup? The one Richard Pitino has now used five games in a row and six of the teams 10 games this season?

> Jaelen House, Jamal Mashburn Jr., Taryn Todd, Javonte Johnson, Gethro Muscadin
> Time on court: 6:46
> Score differential: +1 (8-7)
> Points per possession: 0.75
> Note: Offensively, the starters were pretty bad on Thursday. Whether it was the defense or an awfully slow shooting start for the Pioneers, the cold shooting of UNM didn’t hurt them because Denver was worse early on.

Around the Mountain

The Lobo game was the only thing happening around the Mountain (West) on a quiet Thursday after what was a busy Wednesday:


• No. 11 Arizona 94, Wyoming 65
• No. 24 BYU 82, Utah State 71
• Montana 66, Air Force 48
• UNLV 76, Seattle 56
• San Diego State 66, Cal. State-Fullerton 56
• San Francisco 71, Fresno State 63


• New Mexico 87, Denver 67


• Prairie View A&M (0-8) at Boise State (5-4), 7 p.m. MT

Mountain West standings

Through Thursday’s game, here are the records for Mountain West teams:

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

Don’t compare scores!!!

But if you do…

Denver has now played three Mountain West schools, all on the road (at the site of the Mountain West school). Here’s how they did:

• Nov. 24: Air Force 66, Denver 65
• Dec. 2: Wyoming 77, Denver 64
• Thursday: New Mexico 87, Denver 67

Again, I strongly advise against looking at scores to compare teams, but since we’re already in the middle of this…

Since Air Force, Wyoming and New Mexico all three play at three very different speeds, meaning there are more possessions in a UNM game than there are a Wyoming game and a ton more than in any snails-pace Air Force game, just looking at scores isn’t ideal either. So, that’s why points per possession was invented.

SIDE BAR: Basically, the PPP stat is used to compare teams that play at different speeds. If each game had the exact number of possessions, their points per possession can be multiplied by that number of possessions, and you’d have a better comparison than just looking at scores alone.

Anyway, here are the PPP for Denver’s three games vs. Mountain West schools this season (per KenPom.com):

• Nov. 24: Air Force 1.03, Denver 1.02
• Dec. 2: Wyoming 1.20, Denver 1.00
• Thursday: New Mexico 1.23, Denver 0.94

So, while New Mexico allowed Denver to score the most points (67) of the three games, they did it in a 71-possession game. Both the Air Force and Wyoming games were 64-possession games, per KenPom.com. So, the Lobos actually had the best defensive performance against Denver (statistically speaking) of the three MW schools.

How? If all three games were played at the same speed, or same number of possessions, say 100, then Air Force would have allowed 102 points to Denver, Wyoming 100 and New Mexico just 94.

OK, I’ll stop the analytics stuff now…

VIDEO: Postgame presser

Here is the postgame media interviews with UNM Lobo coach Richard Pitino and players K.J. Jenkins and Sebastian Forsling:

Stats and stats

Here is a picture of the postgame stat sheet handed out in the media room on Thursday: New Mexico 87, Denver 67

And for those who prefer the digital version, here you go: New Mexico 87, Denver 67

Up next…

Up next for the Lobos is a Sunday afternoon affair (1 p.m.) against the UTEP Miners.

UTEP, under first-year coach Joe Golding, is 4-4 (2-4 vs. DI teams) and has lost its last two: Last Friday to New Mexico State on a last-second 3-pointer by Jabari Rice and Tuesday night in Kansas, 78-52.

Signing off…

Like the old days when the TV stations would sign off with the National Anthem, I’ll sign off this ETN with the National Anthem that was performed Thursday night in the Pit…

(seriously, kids. TV stations didn’t used to just be on all night)

Home » Sports » College » Emptying the Notebook: Lobos get just what they needed in Denver win

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