Emptying the Notebook: UNM's shooting woes continue at Nevada - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: UNM’s shooting woes continue at Nevada

Lawlor Events Center
Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nevada, on Jan. 1, 2022. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)
RENO, Nev. — Here are some extra notes, quotes, videos, stats and whatever other odds & ends I could empty out of the old notebook after Saturday’s 79-70 Lobos loss to Nevada in the Lawlor Events Center in Reno:

Going cold…

Just a few weeks ago, we thought there was one clear fact about the Lobos: They may not defend much, but offense wasn’t going to be their problem. This team sure could score some points, even leading the Mountain West in points per game entering league play this past week.

Well, about that…

In Saturday’s 79-70 road loss to Nevada, UNM shot 35.9% (23-64) from the field, marking the fourth consecutive game the team was held under 40% shooting.

The team that could shoot well hasn’t really been, well, shooting well.

UNM’s last four games shooting:

• 35.9% — Saturday loss at Nevada
• 34.8% — Dec. 21 win vs. Norfolk State
• 37.7% — Dec. 19 loss vs. SMU
• 39.7% — Dec. 12 loss vs. UTEP

Once one of the better shooting teams in the country earlier this season, the Lobos now are ranked just 241st out of 358 Division I teams in Effective FG%, per KenPom.com. (effective FG% weighs made 3-pointers heavier than made 2 pointers since their value is more).

UNM’s effective FG% of 47.7% is below the national average of 49.6% and ranks 9 in the 11-team Mountain West. UNLV (47.0%, ranked 265) and San Diego State (46.7%; ranked 277) are the only two below them right now and, if you’ve seen those two teams play, well, you know the Lobos being in the same realm as those two in terms of offense isn’t a good thing.

The Journal was unable to interview Pitino on Saturday night for a variety or reasons, but he told 770 AM radio in his postgame interview that he felt players lost their trust in one another in the second half, quit passing and when the ball stopped moving, the shots quit falling.

UNM assisted on eight of 12 made baskets in the first half. It was five assists on 11 made baskets in the second half.

And it was their coldest shooting stretch of the night when the game changed for good.

Jamal Mashburn Jr. hit a jumper with 10:10 left in the game, making the score a still competitive 52-48 in Nevada’s favor. The Lobos didn’t hit another shot until another Mashburn jumper with 3:40 remaining to make the score 69-54.

And what happened in the 6 minutes, 38 seconds between those two made shots by Mashburn you ask? Let me tell you:

• Nevada outscored UNM 17-3
• UNM shot 0-9; Nevada shot 7-of-10
• UNM had five TOs; Nevada had two TOs

At one point in the stretch, Nevada had its biggest lead at 69-50.

Yes, the Lobos got hot shooting from that point, even hitting 6-of-6 FGs in its rally that cut the 19-point deficit down to five in the final minute, but it was too little too late.

With the Lobos size and defensive shortcomings this season, they won’t win many games shooting the way they have been lately, especially for that 6:38 span in the second half on Saturday.

The gamer

Here’s the game story I filed shortly after Saturday’s game (note, between the game running long, early holiday print deadlines and the Lobos booking it out of the arena in a hurry to catch their charter flight home, there are no quotes and there I couldn’t get a postgame interview with Richard Pitino or players):

A number to know: 17

The 17 turnovers by UNM was the second most the Lobos have committed in a game this season. It was the third time this season they’ve committed more than 15.

Most Lobo TOs this season:
• 20 – Nov. 25 loss to UAB in Las Vegas (86-73)
• 17 – Saturday loss at Nevada (79-70)
• 16 – Dec. 12 loss vs. UTEP (77-69)

Saquan fares well

Before hurting his ankle (he also landed on his back really hard once in the second half), Lobo senior guard Saquan Singleton fared well in his first start of the season.

The 6-foot-6 guard, starting in place of Taryn Todd, scored a season-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting (the rest of the Lobo roster shot 29.8% on Saturday). He also had three assists, four rebounds and a steal in just 18:13 played as the injuries and foul trouble (he had four) kept him on the bench far more than the Lobos would have liked.

And, for those well aware of Saquan’s shooting struggles, it should be noted he was 100% of 3-pointers (1-1) and free throws (1-1). The lone taken, and made, free throw was after this highlight reel dunk, and one, off the foul from Warren Washington:

New Year Day hoops history

This was the third consecutive New Year the UNM Lobos (and the reporter who covers them) rang in the new year while on the road.

In fact, the past three years have been in:

• San Jose (2020)
• Lubbock (2021)
• Reno (2022)

A year ago, there wasn’t a New Year’s Day game, but rather a two-game “home” series for the Lobos played in Lubbock’s Rip Griffin Center against Nevada on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2.

I know. Nobody feels too bad for the guy who gets paid to go watch basketball all over the west, but after FaceTiming my family back home to do a count down with them in another time zone for the third year in a row, it got me thinking.

How have the Lobos done all-time in Jan. 1 games and why do they all seem to be on the road?

First off, there haven’t been a ton of Jan. 1 games for the Lobos. Remember, college basketball used to generally avoid games on January 1 so as not to interfere with the biggest college football day of the year, but that’s been watered down a bit with tons of bowl games moving up before and even after Jan. 1.

Of the 10 Jan. 1 games the Lobos have played, just one since 1968 has been played in the Pit.

The entire Jan. 1 history looks like this:

• Jan. 1, 2022: at Nevada (L, 79-70)
• Jan. 1, 2020: at San Jose State (L, 88-85)
• Jan. 1, 2017: at San Diego State (W, 68-62)
• Jan. 1, 2011: at Dayton (L, 76-73 2OT)
• Jan. 1, 2010: vs. Dayton (W, 68-66)
• Jan. 1, 2007: at Texas Tech (L, 70-68)
• Jan. 1, 1968: vs. Denver (W, 87-76)
• Jan. 1, 1966: vs. Denver (W, 87-66)
• Jan. 1, 1955: vs. Arizona (W, 83-64)
• *Jan. 1, 1949: vs. Abilene Christian (W, 46-44)
*The 1949 game was in a tournament in Portales

So the Lobos’ Jan. 1 record all-time is 6-4, but just two wins in their last six and they’ve only played one game in the Pit on New Year’s Day in the past 54 years.

So, will the Pit get any January 1 games of its own anytime soon?

While we’re at it…

Let’s put a bow, as ugly as it might be, on the Lobo hoops record for the calendar year of 2021…

• Lobo men’s hoops in 2021: 10-19

That’s 3-13 in the 16 games played in 2021 last season and 7-6 in the 13 games played this season.

On to 2022…

Backcourt comparisons

In Saturday’s preview article in the Journal, I quoted Richard Pitino saying the following about Nevada’s experienced backcourt duo of Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge, Jr.:

“I think Sherfield and Cambridge are what we hope our backcourt evolves into. Cambridge has got more size, certainly, but they’ve got experience.”

The article also noted that while Sherfield and Cambridge entering Saturday’s game combined for 47.7% of Nevada’s points per game, UNM’s Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. were combining for 44.0% of UNM’s points per game.

Here’s the article for those interested:

So, how’d the two starting backcourts fare on Saturday after the comparison talk?

Nevada’s Sherfield/Cambridge
• Sherfield / Cambridge
> Points: 10 / 18
> Assists: 10 / 0
> Turnovers: 3 / 2
> 2FG: 1-5 / 5-9
> 3FG: 1-3 / 1-11
> FTs: 5-6 / 5-5

> 28 points
> 10 assists
> 5 TOs
> 6-14 2FG (42.9%)
> 2-14 3FG (14.3%)
> 10-11 FT (90.9%)

New Mexico’s House/Mashburn
• House / Mashburn
> Points: 18 / 17
> Assists: 6 / 1
> Turnovers: 3 / 2
> 2FG: 3-11 / 3-9
> 3FG: 1-5 / 3-8
> FTs: 9-10 / 2-3

> 35 points
> 7 assists
> 5 TOs
> 6-20 2FG (30.0%)
> 4-13 3FG (30.8%)
> 11-13 FT (84.6%)

A number to know: 13

While Nevada’s twin 7-foot starters Warren Washington and Will Baker scored 13 of Nevada’s first 15 points on Saturday, they scored just 11 of the Wolf Packs next 64.

Still, the duo was pretty dang good, with matching stat lines of 12 points each and 11 rebounds each for a combined 24 points and 22 rebounds.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the state…

There were two Mountain West games played in Nevada on Saturday.

The home team in Las Vegas didn’t fare as well as the home team in Reno.

He said it

Though I wasn’t able to get an interview with Richard Pitino on Saturday night, UNM included this quote from the postgame interview he did with UNM’s broadcast partner 770 AM:

“In the first half, we looked really good. We were totally under control. It’s a 40-minute game and in the second half, we broke down trust. We have to give these guys more answers from an offensive flow standpoint. Since we don’t have a true post presence, we have to have great ball movement, which we do not have right now. In the first half, we ran the same offense and did a lot of good things. We just broke down trust in a big way in the second half. We have to have a great week of practice and get some trust back with each other.”

Series history

The Lobos’ series with Nevada is getting ugly for UNM.

The Wolf Pack lead the series 11-7 and have won six in a row and 10 of the last 11.

UNM led the series 6-1 after a March 5, 2016, win over the Wolf Pack. Five days later, the Eric Musselman-coached Pack beat the Craig Neal-coached Lobos in the Mountain West Tournament, starting what has been a rather one-sided series ever since.

Neal, now the associate head coach at Nevada, lost his last three times coaching against Nevada, including the historic 25-point come back win in overtime for Nevada on Jan. 7, 2017.

Then Paul Weir’s Lobos went just 1-6 vs. Nevada, including two losses a year ago in Lubbock, Texas. The only win against the Wolf Pack in Weir’s tenure, and only win in the last 11 times the two teams played, was when UNM handed Musselman’s undefeated, No. 6 in the country Wolf Pack their first loss of the 2019 season with a bead down, 85-58, in the Pit.

But the Lobos have since lost six in a row with Saturday’s nine-point loss being the only time the final margin was in single digits.

SERIES: Nevada 11, New Mexico 7
IN RENO: Nevada 6-3
IN LAS VEGAS: Nevada 1-0
IN LUBBOCK: Nevada 2-0


The announced attendance in the Lawlor Events Center on Saturday was 7,224.

The Lobos are having their attendance issues this season, as well, but still rank No. 2 in the Mountain West in average home attendance with an average of 8,922 per game. Saturday’s game was the highest announced home attendance of any game the Lobos have played outside the Pit this season (though there is absolutely zero chance the Nov. 30 game in Las Cruces didn’t outpace Saturday’s Lawlor crowd by at least 1,000 in actual attendance).

Here are the true road game attendances this season the UNM Lobos have faced, as announced by the home teams:

• 7,224: Saturday at Nevada
• 7,115: Nov. 13 at Colorado
• 6,208: Nov. 30 at New Mexico State


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

+6 Saquan Singleton (18:13)
+4 Sebastian Forsling (16:03)
-2 Jeremiah Francis (4:18)
-4 Jay Allen-Tovar (22:02)
-5 Javonte Johnson (17:58)
-6 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (34:09)
-7 Jaelen House (32:17)
-8 Taryn Todd (19:44)
-10 Emmanuel Kuac (23:15)
-13 K.J. Jenkins (12:01)

+11 Desmond Cambridge Jr. (35:39)
+10 Grant Sherfield (36:09)
+10 Kenan Blackshear (28:41)
+7 Warren Washington (25:55)
+4 Alem Huseinovic (5:57)
+3 Tre Coleman (32:53)
+1 Will Baker (23:43)
-1 Daniel Foster (11:03)

Line ’em up

There were 18 unique lineup combinations used by the Lobos in Saturday’s loss at Nevada, including a new starting lineup with Saquan Singleton getting the nod over usual starter Taryn Todd. Here’s a look at a few notable ones:

• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Forsling
• Point differential: -1 (8-9)
• Time on court: 4:13

BEST LINEUP (part 1)
• Who: House/Mashburn/Todd/Allen-Tovar/Forlsing
• Point differential: +9 (20-11)
• Time on court: 6:58
• NOTE: This lineup scored 1.7 points per possession, had 11 rebounds and three assists

BEST LINEUP (part 2)
• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Kuac
• Point differential: +8 (8-0)
• Time on court: 2:58
• NOTE: This lineup wasn’t even on the court three minutes together, but outscored Nevada 8-0, so certainly worth a mention as a possible “best lineup” of the night.

• Who: House/Mashburn/Todd/Allen-Tovar/Kuac
• Point differential: -5 (2-7)
• Time on court: 5:25

Around the Mountain

There were five scheduled games around the Mountain West for Saturday, but just two that were played due to COVID-19 postponements.

The opening week of Mountain West play had nine games scheduled, of which four were played. Here’s a look at the entire first week of games and the schedule, for now, for Week 2 (there is a good chance teams that missed Saturday games, like Fresno State and Boise State, might have to miss upcoming games):

Tuesday (Dec. 28)
• Boise State 65, Fresno State 55
• No. 20 Colorado State at New Mexico (postponed)

Wednesday (Dec. 29)
• Air Force 49, Utah State 47
• Nevada at San Jose State (postponed)
(Nevada scheduled a fill-in game on the same day, which it lost 88-61 at No. 6 Kansas)

Saturday (Jan. 1)
• San Diego State 62, UNLV 55
• Nevada 79, New Mexico 70
• Boise State at Wyoming (postponed)
• Air Force at Fresno State (postponed)
• San Jose State at Utah State (postponed)

Tuesday (Jan. 4)
• Air Force at Colorado State
• Boise State at Utah State (already postponed)
• Wyoming at Nevada

Wednesday (Jan. 5)
• Fresno State at San Diego State
• UNLV at San Jose State (already postponed)

Mountain West standings

Here is what the Mountain West standings look like through Saturday’s games (only league games matter for league standings):

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

Meanwhile, in Las Cruces…

The NMSU Aggies, after a COVID postponement cost them their first league game, started WAC play 1-0 with a Saturday home win over Chicago State…

Stats and stats

Here’s a picture of the postgame stat sheet from Saturday’s game: Nevada 79, New Mexico 70

And if you want a digital version, here you go: Nevada 79, New Mexico 70

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 2-0 on Saturday, pulling even at 2-2 against the spread on the season through four Mountain West games played thus far.

My daughter’s coin flip picks went 1-1 on Saturday and she’s also at 2-2 on the season.

Until next time

Until next time, Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nevada, …

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