Emptying the Notebook: Gethro is gone; Lobo bench carries load - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Gethro is gone; Lobo bench carries load

Gethro Muscadin EM
Gethro Muscadin works on free throws during an Oct. 1 practice in UNM’s Rudy Davalos practice facility. The 6-10 sophomore this week was dismissed from the team. (Eddie Moore/Journal)
Here are some extra notes, quotes, videos, stats and whatever other odds & ends I could empty out of the old notebook after Tuesday’s 68-54 Lobos win over Norfolk State in the Pit:

Good bye, Gethro

About an hour before game time on Tuesday, UNM sent out an email announcing 6-foot-10 staring center Gethro Muscadin, the Kansas transfer who had averaged 9.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game this season, had “left the program.”

Said Richard Pitino after the game: “My biggest thing with Gethro is — we spoke after SMU (Sunday’s game) and I think we both agreed that it wasn’t the right fit for him. And, you know, other than that, we wish him nothing but the best. Hopefully we can help them find a spot that is the right fit for him. We’ll help him with whatever we can moving forward.”

To be clear, despite Pitino saying it was a mutual decision, the Journal has confirmed with people in and outside of the UNM program that there wasn’t much of a decision to be made.

Muscadin was dismissed from the team and can now transfer to another program. If he goes to a Division I program, he will have to sit out a year. Going the junior college route for a year to work on grades and keep playing before trying again in a year for DI scholarship might be the best route for him.

Sunday against SMU, Muscadin lost his starting job and didn’t seem to respond well. Even after playing 7 minutes, 30 seconds of productive basketball in the first half, he returned to the court without his team at halftime and stood well outside the team huddles looking disinterested during timeouts in the second half and didn’t get in the game in the final 20 minutes.

The SMU game wasn’t the first time Muscadin had been in Pitino’s doghouse this season, dating back to preseason and later during the team’s loss at Colorado.

As the scholarship count now stands with Muscadin and 6-11 Valdir Manuel transferring out of the program (he never played this season), the Lobos now have two open scholarships for the 2022-23 season. UNM signed in Novmeber three prep recruits to National Letters of Intent.

The gamer…

Here is the gamer I filed from the Pit on Tuesday night…

A number to know: 7

The Lobos won game No. 7 this season on Tuesday. That surpasses last season’s win total of 6.

The bench…

The Lobos bench on Tuesday was very good. Statistically, it was dominant.

First, there’s the 26-4 advantage UNM had over Norfolk State in bench scoring.

Second, there was the fact that the five players who did NOT start for the Lobos on Tuesday each had double-digit plus/minus numbers … BY HALFTIME!

The plus/minus stat is how the score changes when a player is on the court, so in the first half Tuesday, the Lobos increased their lead — by a lot — when all the bench players were on the court.

“The bench was very good and made some good plays,” Pitino said. “I need to go to them more, for sure.”

Forward Emmanuel Kuac, who played a lot of minutes at the ‘5’ spot not vacated by Muscadin, had a breakout game off the bench in a lot of ways (11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and a ton of crowd-pleasing energy). I plan to write a little more on him soon.

He said it

“It was very obvious that the 8,000 people that showed up appreciated the way that we were playing. That’s what I want our program to be about.” — Richard Pitino

Colorado State game…

So, about that Colorado State game in the Pit next Tuesday (Dec. 28).

The Rams, currently 10-0 and ranked No. 21 in the country, are currently on a COVID pause that cost them the chance to play their past two scheduled games. Those games were against Tulsa on Saturday and against No. 10 Alabama on Tuesday, which would have been a HUGE opportunity for the Rams to build a solid postseason résumé since their nonconference schedule has been OK, but certainly not great.

Making matters worse for the Rams, Alabama replaced CSU with Davidson on Tuesday and all Davidson did was go to Birmingham, Alabama, in the C.M. Newton Classic and upset the Crimson Tide 79-78.

But, I digress.

As things stand now, the Rams’ next scheduled game is Dec. 28 in the Pit against the Lobos. But their COVID pause will extend into next week.

It seems clear now the only reason the game hasn’t been officially announced as being canceled as of this writing is because the league just hasn’t done so yet. But there’s a reason.

Current Mountain West COVID protocols dictate any team that can’t play a game this season due to its own COVID-19 case count on the team will be issued a forfeit. Well, the league isn’t about to let its nationally-ranked, 10-0 team get loss No. 1 to the Lobos due to a COVID pause.

Instead, what I suspect will happen on Wednesday is a meeting with Athletic Directors and league officials to rework the season protocols that will allow this game to be rescheduled (if possible in both teams’ schedules) at a later date.

Stay tuned…

And if all this sounds familiar, it should. A UNM/CSU football game was called off last year due to COVID cases on the Rams roster. Then with players for both teams warming up on the court at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, the teams were called back to the locker rooms and the Feb. 9 and 11 games were postponed due to a COVID matter tied to Lobos assistant coach Scott Padgett.

That was earlier this calendar year, so this happening again should seem a little bit like de ja vu.

House call

Jaelen House had what Pitino hinted at being maybe his best game of the season, certainly in terms of classic point guard play.

The 6-foot transfer from Arizona State had 16 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover, 4 steals, shot 4-of-8 from the field and 6-of-8 from the free throw line.

He controlled the game much of the 27:01 he was on the court.

And he also did some of this…

And this…

Another number to know: 80

The Lobos won a game scoring fewer than 80 points for the first time this season.

Entering Tuesday’s game, the Lobos ere 6-0 when scoring more than 80 points and 0-6 when scoring fewer than 80 points.

OK, one more number to know: 6

The Lobos tied a season low for turnovers with six.

The Lobos are turning the ball over on 14.7% of their possessions in the 12 Division I games they’ve played, which ranks 16th in the country out of 358 Division I teams.

In 643 games Norfolk State has played in the since the 2001-02 season when KenPom.com started recording such statistics, only seven Spartans opponents had a better one-game turnover rate than UNM’s 8.7% on Tuesday.

Cheers!

Talk about a promotion. At San Jose State basketball games, the beer is literally cheaper than the water.

So, maybe I was wrong…

In Tuesday’s preview article in the Journal, I had a note at the bottom of the article that read:

“FREE THROW FUN: If you enjoy free throw shooting, Tuesday’s game is for you. As of Monday evening, the Lobos ranked No. 3 out of 358 Division I teams in the country in free throw attempts (286) and Norfolk State was tied for 15th (258).

Welp…

UNM was averaging 23.8 FTAs per game, and tied their season low with 17 attempts on Tuesday.

And Norfolk State was averaging 21.5 FTAs and tied their season low with 11 attempts on Tuesday.

So, what do I know?

There is this, though. I quoted Pitino in an article over the weekend saying: “We want to make more free throws (than) they attempt.”

On Tuesday, even in a season-low 17 attempts, the Lobos still made 12 (70.6%). And the Spartans attempted 11. So, the goal of making more than they attempt was met by the Lobos.

For those scoring at home, the Lobos have made “more than they attempt” four times this season, and made the same number many as the other team attempted twice:

• Tuesday: UNM 12 FTs / Norfolk St. 11 FTAs
• Nov. 20: UNM 22 FTs / Montana St. 19 FTAs
• Dec. 6: UNM 14 FTs / NMSU 5 FTAs
• Dec. 9: UNM 26 FTs / Denver 17 FTAs

And there have been two pushes for good measure…
• Nov. 25: UNM 15 FTs / UAB 15 FTAs
• Nov. 30: UNM 35 FTs / NMSU 35 FTAs

Francis, finally…

Backup point guard Jeremiah Francis III played 12:59 on Tuesday, had 3 points (he hit his first 3-pointer of the season, though had only taken two prior), had two assists and zero turnovers.

His play drew plenty of praise from his coach and he has been getting love from teammates all season, despite his not playing a ton.

“I’m happy for Jeremiah Francis,” Pitino said. “I’ve needed to find more playing time for him and he was ready to go. An unbelievable attitude at all times.”

The Ohio native who transferred to UNM a year ago from North Carolina said all the right things in his first postgame media session as a Lobo.

“I’ve just been grinding every day in practice, you know? I’m not really worried about myself — worried about the team,” Francis said. “I just kept my head on straight. I can’t sit there and pout because I’m not getting minutes. I just got to keep grinding and fighting in practice. That’s what I’m going to do — just keep bringing my positive energy to this team.”

Block party

The Lobos recorded nine blocks in Tuesday night’s game: 3 apiece from Jay Allen-Tovar and Emmanuel Kuac, and 1 apiece from Sebastian Forsling, Taryn Todd and Jeremiah Francis.

In 354 games played in the decade from the 2010-11 season through the 2020-21 season, the UNM Lobos recorded seven games with nine or more blocked shots (six vs. Division I opponents), according to Sports-Reference.com.

Through the first 13 games of the Richard Pitino era, the Lobos have recorded five games with nine or more blocked shots (four vs. Division I opponents).

Attendance

The announced attendance for Tuesday night’s game in the Pit: 8,105

Run, run, run…

Tuesday was a game of runs. Here’s a look…

• The game started with a series of mini scoring runs back and forth… 5-0 Lobos, 5-0 Spartans, 6-0 Lobos, 4-0 Spartans and it was 11-9, UNM with the lead.

Then this happened…

• 16-2, Lobos: From the 13:08 mark in the first half to the 7:12 mark — sparked almost exclusively by Emmanuel Kuac and Jay Allen-Tovar — the Lobos went on a 16-2 run to take a 27-11 lead…

• 9-0, Spartans: UNM took its largest lead of the game at 19 points (37-18) with a minute left in the first half. Norfolk State hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining in the half then opened the second half with six straight for the 9-0 total run to cut the lead to 37-27 with 17:53 remaining in the game.

• 7-0, Spartans: after chipping away all second half at the Lobos lead, a 7-0 run for Norfolk State from 5:30 mark to 4:20 remaining and UNM’s lead was down to 54-52, leading to a Lobos’ timeout. Then…

• 14-2, Lobos: UNM closed on a 14-2 run in the final 4:09. Game over, 14-point Lobos win.

Plus/minus

Here are the plus/minus numbers from Tuesday’s game for the Lobos, including minutes played in parenthesis:

+22 Saquan Singleton (20:59)
+21 Emmanuel Kuac (22:40)
+16 Jeremiah Francis (12:59)
+10 K.J. Jenkins (12:00)
+7 Jay Allen-Tovar (15:56)
+7 Javonte Johnson (24:04)
+3 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (30:05)
-2 Jaelen House (27:01)
-7 Taryn Todd (16:56)
-7 Sebastian Forsling (17:20)

Line ’em up

There were 14 unique lineup combinations used by the Lobos in Tuesday’s game. Here’s a look at a few notable ones:

STARTING LINEUP (and) WORST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Todd/Johnson/Forsling
• Point differential: -3 (14-17)
• Time on court: 9:23
NOTE: The same starting lineup in Sunday’s game vs. SMU also had a minus-3 point differential and was on the court together in that game for 7 minutes, 41 seconds. No other combination of players on Tuesday played together longer and no other lineup had a worse point differential.

BEST LINEUP
• Who: Francis/Jenkins/Singleton/Kuac/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +10 (13-3)
• Time on court: 6:12
• Note: What’s interesting about this particular lineup is it is entirely bench guys. Not a starter or two and then bench players, but entirely bench players. And just two days prior, in the loss to SMU, the best statistical lineup in that game was five different players (House/Mashburn/Todd/Johnson/Muscadin).

Meanwhile, in Logan…

The Utah State Aggies beat Portland State, 81-62, on Tuesday night to improve to an impressive 9-4 in nonconference play.

And when things are going your way, like they are for the Aggies so far this season, they’re really going your way…

Around the Mountain

There were five games around the Mountain (West) on Tuesday and four more coming on Wednesday.

TUESDAY
• Santa Clara 79, San Jose State 57
• New Mexico 68, Norfolk State 54
• Utah State 81, Portland State 62
• Tarleton State 67, Air Force 45
• Utah 55, Fresno State 50

WEDNESDAY
• Wyoming vs. Stanford, 3:30 MT (Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii)
• Boise State at Washington State, 6 p.m. MT
• UC San Diego at San Diego State, 7 p.m. MT
• San Diego at UNLV, 8 p.m. MT

Mountain West records

Here are the Mountain West records through Tuesday’s games:

Mountain West records through Tuesday:
10-0 Colorado State
9-1 Wyoming
9-3 Fresno State
9-4 Utah State
7-3 San Diego State
8-4 Boise State
7-4 Air Force
6-4 Nevada
7-5 UNLV
6-5 San Jose State
7-6 New Mexico

Video: Pitino, Francis, Kuac

Here’s the postgame press sessions with Richard Pitino, Jeremiah Francis III and Emanuel Kuac, as posted to the Journal’s YouTube page:

Stats and stats…

Here is the postgame stat sheet from Tuesday’s game: New Mexico 68, Norfolk State 54

And if you’d like to look at the digital version: New Mexico 68, Norfolk State 54

Until next time…

As this will be the last ETN column before Christmas, here’s hoping your stockings get stuffed with something good this year.

And if you don’t do Christmas, I promise you can still go stuff a sock with goodies this weekend, if you’d like and nobody will care.

Go ahead. We’ve all earned it this year.

Home » Sports » College » Emptying the Notebook: Gethro is gone; Lobo bench carries load


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