Emptying the Notebook: A glimmer of hope for Lobo bigs? - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: A glimmer of hope for Lobo bigs?

Lobo forward Jay Allen-Tovar, right, puts up a shot while being guarded by Boise State’s Mladen Armus Saturday in the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are a few extra stats, notes, quotes, tweets, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Saturday’s 71-63 Boise State win over the Lobos in the Pit:

Grading the bigs

Neither were supposed to be the Lobos’ center this season.

Especially not against a Boise State team that is one of the tallest teams in the country and is loaded with veteran big men.

And if all you did was look at the stat sheet and those lopsided rebounding numbers (Boise State won the battle of the boards 52-28 and 25-3 on the offensive rebounds), it would seem as though Lobo freshman Sebastian Forsling and junior Jay Allen-Tovar must have had really bad nights.

On the contrary. Both played well. Not better than Boise State, of course, but relative to the reality neither ever expected to be in a position to play big minutes at the center spot this season, Saturday offered some glimmers of hope that the the ‘5’ spot won’t be a total lost cause this season for UNM after all.


• 11 points
• 3-4 3-point FGs
• 4 rebounds
• 3 blocked shots
• 29:47 minutes

Allen-Tovar is a 6-foot-9 junior college transfer who has always been a face-up ‘4’ and had never played center before this season. And, he’s not been shy about showing his frustrations on the court for a variety of things, but including just how uncomfortable he is playing center.

Tuesday at UNLV, in fact, he was benched in the second half. Pitino actually said Saturday that Allen-Tovar not playing in the second half was his call, apparently through some halftime communication from his couch as he was away from the team with COVID, but was in contact with acting head coach Eric Brown plenty in pregame, halftime and postgame.

But Pitino said the two have had some great conversations this week and Allen-Tovar, who has taken a lot of heat from media and fans on social media this season when his frustrations on the court come across as a poor attitude.

“It’s amazing. Clearly — I mean Jay knows it. He doesn’t have great body language. He gets frustrated often. It’s very, very obvious. I’m not throwing him under the bus,” said Pitino of Allen-Tovar’s past struggles.

“He’s been so good. It was my call to not play him in the second half was UNLV because I just want a guy who has great enthusiasm and great body language. And I think he really saw it. I think he really did. And it’s just amazing. The last couple of days, me and him have had some great conversations. He’s been totally bought in. And he plays better.”

Pitino said Allen-Tovar’s practices heading into Saturday’s game were some of his best since coming to Albuquerque, leading the coach to say he wasn’t surprised to see Allen-Tovar play well Saturday.

“Listen. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but if you just pour yourself into the team and don’t worry about anything else, it helps you and it helps the team,” Pitino said. “The practices leading up to it were really, really good. So I’m not surprised now that he’s knocking down 3s, because the talents there. … So hopefully he can build some momentum off it.”


• 4 points
• 8 rebounds
• 3 offensive rebounds
• 1 blocked shot
• 15:38 minutes
• NOTE: Though he played fewer than 16 minutes, no other Lobo had more than four rebounds compared to his eight.

Because of visa issues, the 7-foot Forsling didn’t arrive at UNM until late August and still had to wait awhile after that before being cleared to practice fully with teammates, many of whom had already had months of workouts together.

The thought then was he would likely use a redshirt this season to preserve a season of eligibility and work on his body to be ready for hi college debut next year.

Things changed, of course, and with UNM down three centers, he’s now the starter at the position.

“We brought him in as a down-the-road-big,” Pitino said. “I don’t think any of us envisioned he’d be starting against Boise State and going against veteran big. And I thought he held his own and did a lot of good things. He still gets a little tired. I think strength and all that will help him. But we’re invested long term in him because he’s got great potential and because he’s coachable. …

“This will be really valuable for him this year. And I thought he was really good tonight.”

Forsling himself was very aware of his changing role on the team and what he and the team need to do to get better moving forward when he talked with media after the game. (Click HERE to go to his part of the postgame press conference or view the whole video below in this article)

“Obviously, everybody on the team knows what the problem is and we know what we need to do,” Forsling said. “And I need to take more responsibility as well. Because at the end of the day, I can’t let a guy have over 10 offensive rebounds. It’s just been tougher than the opponent.”

The gamer

Here’s the gamer written after Saturday’s Lobo loss that also published in Sunday’s print edition of the Journal:

A number to know: 24

The Lobos were outrebounded by 24 on Saturday (Boise State 52, UNM 28).

That’s tied for the sixth worst rebounding margin in UNM history. It’s also the worst rebounding margin ever for the Lobos in the Pit. A look at the dismal list:

-31 (53-22): vs. Utah State (Jan. 8, 2021 — in Lubbock)
-28 (58-30): at Colorado (Dec. 6, 2017)
-27 (56-29): at UNLV (Dec. 26, 1980)
-25 (50-25): at New Mexico State (Nov. 17, 2017)
-25 (46-21): at BYU (Feb. 5, 1987)
-24 (52-28): vs. Boise State (Saturday)
-24 (50-26): at Nevada (Jan. 25, 2020)
-24 (43-19): at San Jose State (Feb. 3, 2018)

But even more troubling than the overall rebounding numbers on Saturday were the offensive rebounding numbers, both the 25 — TWENTY FIVE! — the Lobos allowed Boise State to have and the mere three UNM managed to grab of their own.

That’s two games in a row the Lobos had only three offensive rebounds. When they did it at UNLV on Tuesday, it was a KenPom era-low 7.7% offensive rebound percent for UNM (the website KenPom.com started tracking such stats in the 2001-02 season). On Saturday, with a different amount of missed shots, grabbing just three offensive boards meant UNM posted a 10.0% offensive rebound percentage, good for fifth worst since the 2001-02 season.

What about those 25 offensive rebounds that Boise State managed to grab off their own missed shots? Well, that 50.0% offensive rebound percentage for the Broncos is the 8th highest for a Lobos opponent since the 2001-02 season.

Entering Saturday’s games, UNM ranked 311th in the country in rebounding margin at minus minus-4.1. UNM now has a rebound margin this season of minus-5.2 on the season. While I don’t know how all other teams did Saturday and might have rose or dropped on this list, I know that a minus-5.2 rebound margin entering Saturday’s game would have ranked 329th out of 358 Division I programs.

He said it: Pitino

“They’re bigger. They’re stronger. They’re older, for sure. But we got to be scrappier. We got to be dirtier. We got to be meaner, especially when you’re as undermanned as we are.” — Richard Pitino after the Lobos loss to Boise State

Another number to know: 0

Just last Saturday (Jan. 8), UNM starting forward Javonte Johnson scored a career-high 23 points with career highs in field goals made overall (8), field goals attempted (12), 3-pointers made (7) and 3-pointers attempted (9).

One week later, Johnson took zero shots.


So I asked. How much of that was Lobo teammates not finding him and how much of that was Javonte Johnson not asserting himself — something that he probably needs to start doing much more of this season on a roster that could really use a consisted scoring threat outside of its three top guards?

Here’s how Richard Pitino answered my question, which has some interesting nuggets that apply to other aspects of the offense, too:

“Yeah, probably a little bit of both. What I told the guys … I just said, you know, (against) Utah State, Javonte made seven 3s. We found him. We’re still struggling to find guys. …

“Obviously House and Mash have their moments where they take bad shots. But who is getting them shots? Right? And who’s getting Javonte shots?

“He should never play a game where he’s not shooting. He’s a key part. He obviously when he’s going but all the same plays around with Utah State we ran with him. So if a guy doesn’t shoot, it’s on the other four guys to find him. And I think that’s got to be the mentality for everybody.”

If you’d like to hear the exchange, I tweeted the audio and transcription of it here:

Where’s Taryn?

Guard Taryn Todd (6-foot-5) started all 13 nonconference games this season for the Lobos before making way to to the 6-6 Saquan Singleton for the Jan. 1 Mountain West opener at Nevada.

Todd averaged just 15.0 minutes in the first three league games, but then didn’t get off the bench Saturday against Boise State.

Pitino said it was nothing Todd did — “It’s not an attitude thing.” — it was just a move to get K.J. Jenkins more minutes to get his scoring on the floor in a game there clearly was no advantage to be had on the rebounding front.

I’ll have more on the K.J. at the 3 factor the Lobos need to juggle now moving forward sometime in the next two days.

For now, here’s a K.J. Jenkins 3 from Saturday, one of four he made in a 15-point game for the junior off the bench:

Another number to know: 22

UNM scored 22 points in the first half of Saturday’s game.

It was the lowest scoring half of the season for UNM. That they came back in the second half to outscore Boise State 41-39 was impressive, if only because of how bad things could have been based on the way that first half looked offensively for the Lobos, who hit 8-of-20 shots in the first 20 minutes and were 2-of-8 from the free throw line.

Through 17 games (and 34 halves), the Lobos have been held below 30 points in a half just four times:

• 22: 1st half vs. Boise State (Saturday)
• 26: 2nd half at UNLV (Tuesday)
• 29: 1st half vs. Towson (Nov. 26 in Las Vegas)
• 29: 2nd half vs. Towson (Nov. 26 in Las Vegas)

What’s interesting (to me anyway) about those four halves is that two game in the same game (Towson) and the other two also came in consecutive halves — the second half Tuesday at UNLV followed by the first half Saturday in the Pit. UNM’s other 30 halves of basketball were able to avoid the depths of a sub-30 half.

Friends turned foes

I wrote in a Saturday preview article about Boise State’s Marcus Shaver Jr. and UNM’s Jaelen House being high school teammates and remain close friends today who still get together for offseason workouts each summer back in Arizona.

First, the story if you missed it:

So, how did the two buddies do on Saturday? Obviously the stat that matters most, and will be the one most often referred to in offseason workouts this summer in Phoenix, is that Boise State won the game. But individually, it looked like this:

• Points: 18
• 2FG: 2-4
• 3FG: 3-7
• FTs: 5-10
• Assists: 2
• Turnovers: 1
• Steals: 3
• Rebounds: 6

• Points: 21
• 2FG: 7-10
• 3FG: 1-3
• FTs: 4-7
• Assists: 7
• Turnovers: 4
• Steals: 2
• Rebounds: 3

And, of course, Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales grabbed a couple of picutres of the two from the game:

Points in the paint

UNM had been getting killed on points on the paint through its first three Mountain West games. While it was due in part to the reality that they fouled Boise State so regularly and then Boise State went on to miss so many free throws, the Lobos actually did make some solid points in the paint strides on Saturday:

> Points in paint for first 3 Mountain West games for UNM:
• Opponents: 45.3/game
• Lobos: 20.7/game

> Points in paint for Saturday’s Mountain West game vs. Boise State:
• Broncos: 30
• Lobos: 26


The announced attendance for Saturday’s game in the Pit: 8,279

Announced attendance.

Announced attendance.

Announced attendance.

I repeat it because while UNM (and ever sports entity) say it is the attendance, I’ve always used the “announced” because I’m not suggesting the number is accurate, nor that I came up with it.

So, there you go. There’s this game’s attendance update. No need to flood my social media or email inbox with comments about how many people are actually in the stands or anything political.

Those jerseys, though!

The Lobos went with the turquoise jerseys on Saturday. Looked pretty good to me…

The reality of uneven scheduling

Not that it’s anyone’s fault, really, but the way COVID pauses have hit Mountain West scheduling is really uneven.

By the time the Lobos completed Saturday’s game, they had played four Mountain West games before Wyoming had even tipped off in their first league game (the Cowboys played their first league game Saturday night).

That means in the next seven weeks of the regular season, a team like UNM has 14 more league games to play while Wyoming still has 17.

Speaking of Wyoming…

Who said being the last league team to play a conference game and having a long pause (Wyoming hadn’t played since Christmas Day) would be a problem?

Wyoming shook the rust with a big road win at Utah State on Saturday, 71-69, at Utah State. And in the process, this play happened…


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

+14 Mladen Armus (21:01)
+10 Marcus Shaver Jr. (32:53)
+10 Max Rice (23:14)
+6 Emmanuel Akot (34:16)
+3 Tyson Degenhart (32:17)
+3 Kasean Pryor (2:41)
+1 Lukas Minder (3:16)
0 Naje Smith (26:04)
-7 Abu Kigab (24:18)

+8 K.J. Jenkins (29:15)
-1 Birima Seck (6:48)
-3 Javonte Johnson (27:47)
-5 Jay Allen-Tovar (29:47)
-6 Jaelen House (32:01)
-7 Sebastian Forsling (15:38)
-11 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (34:38)
-15 Saquan Singleton (24:06)

Line ’em up

There were 12 unique lineup combinations used by the Lobos in Saturday’s loss to Boise State. That’s down from 21 in Tuesday’s loss at UNLV when no combination seemed to work.

Here’s a look at a few notable lineups, starting with the starters:

• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Forsling
• Point differential: -1 (3-4)
• Time on court: 3:53

• Who: House/Jenkins/Mashburn/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +8 (23-15)
• Time on court: 8:14
• NOTE: In a game the Lobos got outrebounded by 24 — sixth worst in program history — the best lineup they used was one that pretty much said forget trying to do what we can’t do. The Lobos went small with their three best scorers — House, Mashburn and Jenkins — all on the court together despite all three being 6-2 or shorter and Boise State starting four players 6-7 or taller. And the other two on the court? Not exactly traditional bigs, either. Javonte Johnson is a 6-6 wing playing power forward and 6-9 Jay Allen-Tovar is a face-up ‘4’ playing the center spot out of necessity in lineups like this.

• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: -7 (3-10)
• Time on court: 5:00

How about those cheerleaders?

I’m pretty perceptive. So when I saw these people lining up before the game on Saturday on the north baseline where cheerleaders usually are, I thought maybe, just maybe, something was up…

As it turns out, this was an alumni group (and some kids, obviously) filling in for the UNM Spirit and Cheerleading crew who was busy this week in Florida competing at nationals (they got sixth earlier this week, by the way).

So, these were some fill ins. And here’s another look from the Journal’s Roberto E. Rosales:

Remember this guy?

Former Lobo Vance Jackson, in his sixth season of college and now playing at East Carolina, has been really hitting his stride lately and is enjoying a long stretch of consistently high-level games.

After a career-high 35 points in a road loss Wednesday at Cincinnati, Vance went for 17 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in a 72-71 win over Memphis for a huge AAC win for the Pirates.

Postgame with Pitino

Here’s the postgame media session with UNM Lobo coach Richard Pitino and Lobo players Sebastian Forsling and K.J. Jenkins:

Meanwhile, in San Jose…

Next up for the Lobos is a road trip to Fort Collins on Wednesday to play the Rams.

So, how did the Rams do Saturday in their pre-Lobo warm up in San Jose?

Around the Mountain

There were four games around the Mountain West on Saturday and 13 scheduled for next week with games each night from Monday through next Saturday as COVID postponements are already coming fast and furious:

• Nevada 75, Air Force 68
• Boise State 71, New Mexico 63
• Colorado State 78, San Jose State 42
• Wyoming 71 Utah State 69

• Wyoming at Nevada, 5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. MT
• UNLV at San Jose State, 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT

• Air Force at Boise State, 7 p.m. MT
• Utah State at Fresno State, 8 p.m PT/9 p.m MT

• San Jose State at Wyoming, 7 p.m. MT
• New Mexico at Colorado State, 8 p.m. MT

• Boise State at Utah State, 7 p.m. MT
• UNLV at Air Force, 7 p.m. MT

• Fresno State at Nevada, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT

SATURDAY (Jan. 22)
• San Jose State at UNLV, noon PT/1 p.m. MT
• Colorado State at Air Force, noon MT
• New Mexico at Wyoming, 5:30 MT
• Boise State at San Diego State, 6:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. MT

Mountain West standings

Through Saturday’s games, your Mountain West standings:
3-0 Boise State
2-0 San Diego State
1-0 Wyoming
3-1 Colorado State
2-1 Fresno State
2-1 Nevada
1-2 Air Force
1-2 UNLV
1-3 Utah State
0-2 San Jose State
0-4 New Mexico

Meanwhile, those other Lobos…

How about a 6-0 Mountain West start to the season for the UNM women’s basketball team?

Stats and stats

Here is a look at the traditional stat sheet after Saturday’s game: Boise State 71, New Mexico 63

And here’s a look at the digital stats from the game: Boise State 71, New Mexico 63

Up next:

Things don’t exactly get easier for the Lobos next week, either. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, UNM plays at Colorado State and at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, UNM plays at Wyoming in Laramie.

Both of those games will be televised on CBS Sports Network and UNM will to be double-digit underdogs in both.

Grammer’s Guesses

Easily the most important news from Saturday is that the Guesses went 2-1-1 and I now sit at 7-8-1 on the season picking Mountain West games against the point spread.

And my daughter’s coin flip picks? Well, not so good on Saturday. She went 0-3-1 and she’s now 5-10-1 on the season and I was absolutely not above talking trash to her about it on Saturday night.

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: A glimmer of hope for Lobo bigs?

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