Emptying the Notebook: Javonte Johnson emerging as consistent threat - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Javonte Johnson emerging as consistent threat

Javonte Johnson shooting a 3-pointer vs. Utah State
Lobo Javonte Johnson, right, shoots one of his seven made 3-pointers over Utah State’s Just Bean during Saturday’s game in the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, videos, tweets and whatever else I could empty out of the old reporting notebook after Saturday night’s 90-87 Lobos loss in overtime to the Utah State Aggies in the Pit:

Javonte’s career night

He’s started a dozen games for the Lobos this season and Saturday was hardly his first big night in the cherry and silver.

But it was easily the best offensive performance in the young career of forward Javonte Johnson.

He started the game 6-of-6 shooting — all 3-pointers — and finished the night with the following career high stats:

• 23 points (previous 16)
• 7 made 3s (previous 3)
• 9 attempted 3s (previous 6)

The hot hand has been something teammates have seen coming for awhile.

“Absolutely. I told him after this game, every time I go into paint, I’m looking for him (for a kickout pass),” Lobo guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. said. “Every time off a ball screen, I’m looking for him because he can really shoot the ball. And we’ve seen that.”

On the season, Johnson is now an eye-popping 27-of-52 from 3-point range, a clip of 51.9% that would lead the Mountain West if he had the requisite minimum of 2.5 made 3-pointers per game to qualify for inclusion among the league leaders in that statistic (he averages just 1.8 makes per game, good for 14th most in the league).

This is easy to say after what he did on Saturday, but maybe it’s time the guy shoots some more 3-pointers on a regular basis.

The gamer…

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

Kuac’s tough luck continues

After getting his first start of an already injury-riddled season, Lobo returning junior Emmanuel Kuac severely injured his left leg late in Saturday’s game, leaving the bench area on a stretcher and was taken to the hospital after the game.

From acting coach Eric Brown after the game: “I don’t know much. From a distance, it didn’t look good. Our medical staff right now is dealing with it. I haven’t had time to talk to them yet. But we’ll find out here shortly. But it didn’t look good from a distance.”

For now, we’ll leave it at that, but it was clear both from just seeing it and from rumblings around the team after the game that it could be a pretty serious injury for Kuac.

Albuquerque Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales had several pictures from the game, and in this group of four photos, the third one shows the reaction of the bench as Kuac was helped off the court:

Pitino out with COVID

Saturday morning, Richard Pitino reportedly felt symptoms of COVID-19, took a self test at home and was, indeed, positive.

So he wasn’t at Saturday’s game and won’t be at Tuesday’s game as recently adopted Mountain West safety guidelines call for a five day isolation period after a positive test for any vaccinated player, coach or other Tier 1 person (people most directly in contact with players on a daily basis).

Here is the story I posted Saturday about his absence:

Pitino was, naturally, a bit stir crazy (his words) on Saturday being away from his team during a game, not unlike earlier this season when the Lobos played against rival NMSU in a game the rival Aggies played without their head coach Chris Jans due to COVID.

Apparently Pitino had regular contact with the staff and team throughout the day via Facetime calls.

After the game, he spoke with the team in the locker room, staff said. And he also posted this on his Twitter feed:

As for what his absence means for the rest of the Lobo players and staff, the easy answer is this: Nothing if none show symptoms of COVID-19.

Per NCAA and Mountain West safety guidelines, vaccinated players and Tier 1 personnel only need to test if they show symptoms of COVID-19. As of Saturday, none had.

But based on the way almost all other Mountain West teams have already been hit with COVID-19 in recent weeks with multiple positive tests coming at the same time, one could assume based on Pitino’s close contact with coworkers and players that his won’t be the only positive case.

Maybe it will be, but that’s not how this virus has been hitting all other teams. When it hits one, it hits several.

Earlier in the week, the Mountain West adopted NCAA recommendations for COVID policies that include, primarily, the reduction of isolation for those testing positive with COVID-19 from 10 days down to five, assuming symptoms are gone.

Up next (for now)…

For now, the next Lobos game is scheduled for Tuesday night in Las Vegas against UNLV.

A number to know: 17

The Lobos hit a season-high 17 3-pointers on Saturday night.

After the UNM women’s basketball team set a conference record with 21 3-pointers made in their Thursday win over Utah State in Logan, Utah, the Aggies are probably pretty sick of the Lobos hitting from the outside about now.

Saturday night, the Lobo men’s team’s 17 3’s were on 34 attempts (50%) and gave them a 51-12 advantage on the long ball over the Aggies, who hit just 4-of-16. Of course USU almost matched that with their points in the paint advantage of 54-20, but more on that later.

A look at a few of the Lobo triples…

• K.J. Jenkins’ corner 3 to tie the game 76-76 to force overtime:

• A late banked-in 3-pointer for Jaelen House to put UNM up 73-72:

• And of course, I had to include another one of Javonte Johnson’s 3-pointers:

How out of character was if for the Lobos’ 3-point barrage?

It was only the third time this season in 15 games UNM has hit double-digit 3-pointers and the first since hitting 10 against Grambling State on Nov. 15.

UNM’s double-digit 3-point games this season:
• 17 – vs. Utah State (Saturday)
• 12 – vs. Florida Atlantic (Nov. 10)
• 10 – vs. Grambling State (Nov. 15)

It was also just the fourth time this season the Aggies allowed double-digit 3-pointers:

• 17 – at UNM (Saturday)
• 14 – vs. Richmond (Nov. 12)
• 12 – vs. New Mexico State (Nov. 19)
• 11 – at BYU (Dec. 8)

Another number to know: 87

The Lobos lost for the first time this season when scoring 80 or more points, falling to 6-1.

They had 76 in regulation and it took overtime to get to 80, so they are still 6-0 when scoring 80 or more points in regulation.

Gethro Muscadin

Former Lobo Gethro Muscadin, a close friend to many Lobo players, remains in a coma in a Kansas hospital after a Dec. 29 car crash near Topeka.

UNM before Saturday’s game asked fans to stand for a moment of silence and reflection in honor of Muscadin.

Oh, that defense…

The Lobos have a lot to be proud about from Saturday night.

Their second half defense isn’t one of those things. In a game they allowed 54 points in the paint and 70.4% shooting in the second half alone, the Lobos did enough to win, but also defended poor enough to lose. It could have gone either way, which is shouldn’t have been able to after how good the offense played.

This Justin Bean highlight shows how good he is at cutting, how good Rylan Jones is at passing and how bad UNM’s defense has been far too often at help defense.

As noted in my game story, look at this shooting turnaround by Utah State:

• First 16:08 of game:
> Utah State 6-of-23 shooting (26.1%)
> UNM led 33-19

• Final 28:52 of game:
> Utah State 27-of-37 shooting (73.0%)
> Aggies outscored Lobos 71-54

He’s Bean here awhile

For Lobo fans who feel like Justin Bean has been in the league forever, you’ll be happy to know the 6-foot7 forward from Oklahoma is, in fact, a senior.

Why does it seem like Bean has been at Utah State forever? Well, aside from the fact that he’s played eight games (and counting) against the Lobos, he’s also had huge games against UNM since his freshman season, even when playing alongside the headliner talents of Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta.

In fact, Bean’s 21 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday night in the Pit was the fourth time he’s posted a double-double against the Lobos in his college career, the first coming March 14, 2019, in a Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals win in which he had 14 points and 15 rebounds.

His four double-doubles vs. UNM:
• Saturday: 21 points/11rebounds (senior)
• 1/8/2021: 13 points/13 rebounds (junior)
• 3/5/2020: 10 points/15 rebounds (sophomore)
• 3/14/19: 14 points/15 rebounds (freshman)

So when Utah State posted on social media about Bean’s milestone 36th double-double, moving him to third all-time in school history, maybe they should have thanked the Lobos, too.

Thoughts on House

I wrote a preview article Saturday about Jaelen House that included quotes from him and Pitino talking about the need for the dynamic 6-foot-0 point guard to find the right balance between attacking and looking for his own shot and creating for teammates.

Saturday was a bit of mixed bag.

Clearly in the first half the ball movement was fantastic for UNM as they built a big lead — a huge improvement over last week’s Nevada game when Pitino said afterward there was a lack of trust on the team on offense.

House was a big reason for the Lobos huge first half. He set the table for his team, and finished the game with an efficient 6 assist/1 turnover statline.

But he also looked unsure at times of when he should shoot — like he was thinking too much about not shooting.

That’s not good. His advantage is his lightning quick play. Any hesitancy negates all that.

Saturday, his hesitancy resulted in two troubling numbers:

• 3-of-14 FGs (21.4%)
• O free throw attempts

The second it probably the most worrisome for UNM if it continues.

It was the first time this season House didn’t attempt a free throw and for a team dependent on getting offense at the free throw line, they need House leading that charge. His attack mode had resulted in his attempting 5.8 free throws per game entering Saturday.

Finding that balance between attack mode and slow it down to set up for teammates remains a work in progress.

Jake Griego starts things off!

Starting things off with a bang on Saturday night was 91-year-old Korean War veteran Jake Griego with his always awesome rendition of the National Anthem (he’s a regular once-a-year performer at Lobo games in recent years, and I remember him doing an Albuquerque Isotopes game last season, too).

I wish I would have caught the beginning of his performance, but here’s most of it:

Another number to know: +4

The Lobos out-rebounded Utah State 35-31, for a +4 margin.

Cooooooooooooop!!!!!!

The Pit still very much loves itself some Michael Cooper.

The former Lobos star was on hand Saturday, signing autographs and memorabilia at half time. He was also recognized on the court during a first half timeout.

Attendance

The announced attendance Saturday in the Pit was 8,338

Attendance around the league, as is the case around the country, has been rough this season.

Here’s a look at all the announced home attendances through the Mountain West’s seven games played so far this season:

• 10,323 — CSU at SDSU (Saturday)
• 8,338 — Utah State at UNM (Saturday)
• 7,224 — UNM at Nevada (Jan. 1)
• 5,082 — SDSU at UNLV (Jan. 1)
• 4,977 — Air Force at CSU (Jan. 4)
• 1,123 — Utah State at Air Force (Dec. 29)
• n/a — Fresno State at Boise State (Dec. 28)
(Boise State has not reported an attendance fro the Dec. 28 game for some reason)

VIDEO: Brown, Mashburn, Johnson

Here is a video I put together of the postgame presser with acting coach Eric Brown and Lobo players Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Javonte Johnson:

Plus/minus

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

UNM
+10 Emmanuel Kuac (15:00)
+5 Saquan Singleton (33:44)
+4 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (37:44)
-1 Javonte Johnson (37:27)
-2 Jaelen House (38:38)
-6 Sebastian Forsling (17:31)
-7 K.J. Jenkins (14:25)
-9 Taryn Todd (10:29)
-9 Jay Allen-Tovar (19:59)

Utah State
+8 Steven Ashworth (20:26)
+6 Sean Bairstow (36:20)
+6 Max Shulga (12:29)
+5 Trevin Dorius (14:52)
+3 Justin Bean (43:24)
0 Brandon Horvath (24:39)
-2 R.J. Eytle-Rock (35:37)
-3 Rylan Jones (32:43)
-8 Zee Hamoda (4:30)

Line ’em up

There were 15 unique lineup combinations used by the Lobos in Saturday’s loss to Utah State, including a new starting lineup with Emmanuel Kuac getting the nod over recent starting center Sebastian Forsling.

Saturday was the first time the Lobos in 15 games had more returning players from last season’s team than newcomers in the starting five.

Here’s a look at a few notable ones:

STARTING LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Kuac
• Point differential: +8 (22-14)
• Time on court: 9:57

BEST LINEUP
• See above. The starting lineup was the best statistical lineup of the night for the Lobos. Too bad it’ll be the last time we see it for some time with the Kuac injury.

WORST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Forsling
• Point differential: -5 (25-30)
• Time on court: 12:41

Meanwhile, in San Diego…

The San Diego State social media team made the point well.

The years change… San Diego State’s defense does not.

Around the Mountain

There were just two league games, and one short notice blowout by San Jose State against a non-DI program, that were scheduled Saturday around the Mountain West after another week of tons of postponements.

Here’s a look at Saturday’s games and a look at the schedule coming up for the midweek games, at least as we know them now:

SATURDAY
• San Diego State 79, No. 20 Colorado State 49
• Utah State 90, New Mexico 87 (overtime)
• Wyoming at Fresno State (postponed)
• UNLV at Air Force (postponed)

Noncoference
• San Jose State 118, Bethesda University 43

TUESDAY
• San Jose State at Fresno State, 7 PT/8 MT
• New Mexico at UNLV, 8 PT/9 MT

WEDNESDAY
• Utah State at Colorado State, 6 MT
• San Diego State at Wyoming, 8 MT
• Boise State at Nevada, 7:30 PT/8:30 MT

Mountain West standings

Through Saturday, here are the league standings in a league that has already seen 12 games postponed over the first two weeks:

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

Road woes

Winning on the road is hard. One week into January, here is a list of true road game records in the Mountain West this season (not neutral court games, just true road games played in another team’s gym):

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

Stats and stats

Here’s a look at the stat sheet handed out after Saturday’s game: Utah State 90, New Mexico 87 (OT)

And for a digital version of the stats, here you go: Utah State 90, New Mexico 87 (OT)

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 1-1 on Saturday.

I got the Lobos +7 correct, but missed on the Colorado State +2.5 pick. My daughter’s coin flip picks, meanwhile, went 2-0. So…

Standings through 7 games:

• My daughter’s coin flip picks: 4-3
• Grammer’s Guesses: 4-3

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