Emptying the Notebook: Even hurt, Fresno State's star was big factor vs. Lobos - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Even hurt, Fresno State’s star was big factor vs. Lobos

Fresno State star center Orlando Robinson, right, is defended by UNM freshman Sebastian Forsling in the first half of Tuesday’s game in the Pit. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats and other odds & ends I emptied out of the old notebook after Tuesday’s 65-60 Lobos loss to Fresno State on Tuesday night in the Pit:

NOTE: This was the first men’s hoops game in the Pit that I’ve missed in person in 10 seasons since hired to cover the Lobos by the Journal. My COVID hiatus didn’t keep me from watching from home and keeping close tabs on things by text messages, though. I still wrote the game story and this column, but I wasn’t there in person for postgame interviews or other in-arena observations or videos.

Big O, big factor

I think one clip from Tuesday’s game can sum up an awful lot about both teams this season.

With 4:26 left in the game, Orlando Robinson, Fresno State’s 7-foot star center who Lobos coach Richard Pitino on Monday said was a first round NBA Draft pick, drives the ball in the paint on a bad ankle (more on that below), stops and fakes over his shoulder before spinning around for a pretty fadeaway jumper all while being defended by UNM’s 6-foot-6 walk-on center Jordan Arroyo.

Again, late in a close conference game, one team’s future NBA center is making tough buckets in the lane and one team has a 6-6 walk-on playing center because they have lost three other scholarship players they thought would be playing there this season and the one who started Tuesday’s game — freshman Sebastian Forsling, who was supposed to be redshirting this season — was in foul trouble, opening the door for almost 11 minutes needed by the local walk-on.

As he did for stretches in the first half Saturday at Wyoming against Graham Ike, the other “best big man” in the Mountain West,” Arroyo did fine for the most part. But he is a walk-on and the guys he’s guarding are putting up numbers at the ‘5’ spot this season that are among the best in the entire country.

But that is where the Lobos are right now.

And where the Fresno State Bulldogs are right now is sitting with a 14-5 overall record and 4-2 in league play thanks in large part to Robinson, who I wrote about in a preview article in Tuesday morning’s Journal.

He is, as Pitino described on Monday, a “prototypical NBA big. (He’s) what they’re looking for. … I think Robinson just oozes NBA when you look at him.”

So, when he left the game with 17:44 still showing on the first half clock after rolling his ankle, it seemed to bode well for the Lobos’ chances. Instead, the rest of the Fresno State roster decided to hit shots all over the court in the first half and build a huge lead in the absence of their star center.

But as the Lobos made their come back in the second half, so did Robinson.

He had stayed back in the locker room at halftime getting some extra treatment then limped down the ramp and back into the game. He was still hurt, but his team was in need as the Lobos had rattled off a 16-3 run to get back in the game (some after he was already back in).

In the end, his mere presence on the court down the stretch was better than any number on the stat sheet — both for what it did to the Lobos and how they had to defend and in terms of the boost it gave his teammates. Still, basketball is a game with stats. So, let’s take a look at how did Robinson did against the Lobos on Tuesday, bad ankle and all:

• 11 points
• 4-7 FG
• 3-4 FT
• 15 minutes
• 4 rebounds
• 3 assists

That may have been one of the few chances this season for Pit fans to see a future NBA player in person, and it was limited by injury. But good news for Robinson is he returned and hopefully he won’t miss any more time as a result of the injury.

For the Lobos, there won’t be another one like him coming to town, but still, it’s back to the drawing boards for the team still looking for Mountain West win No. 1 this season.

The gamer and a bonus…

Here is the game story filed after Tuesday’s game:

And though I wasn’t there in person on Tuesday, columnist Rick Wright was and we were lucky enough to get him to offer up a column on where this program is in Year 1 under Richard Pitino:

A number to know: 15-17

The Lobos made 15 of 17 free throws on Tuesday night.

And while free throw talk this high in the ETN column may be a bit boring, but what it means for the Lobos getting to the line is pretty significant.

In the Lobos first 16 games this season, they made 10 or more free throws every game and they attempted 17 or more in 15 of those 16 games.

But then came an almost head-scratching three game stretch of:

• 5-of-14 FTs vs. Boise State (Jan. 15)
• 2-of-4 FTs at Colorado State (Jan. 19)
• 9-of-11 FTs at Wyoming (Jan. 22)

A 16-of-29 total showing at the charity strip over THREE GAMES! Consider in the Nov. 30 win at New Mexico State alone the Lobos hit 35-of-42 free throws.

Maybe more troubling in the recent three-game stretch was the discrepancy in points at the free throw line with their opponents in those games. As the Lobos stopped getting to the line, they seemed to be sending their opponent there more.

Here’s a look at UNM’s point differential at the free throw line in those three games:

• minus-16 vs. Boise State (Jan. 15)
• minus-18 at Colorado State (Jan. 19)
• minus-18 at Wyoming (Jan. 22)

Tuesday, Fresno State was 14-of-22 at the line, meaning the Lobos were:

• plus-1 vs. Fresno State (Tuesday)

They’re free. Take advantage of them.

Starter still missing

Starting senior guard Saquan Singleton missed his third-consecutive game with a toe injury.

Richard Pitino said Monday that Singleton was “day-to-day”, which I assume is the same status heading into Friday’s game.

Oh, that start

Jay Allen-Tovar started things off Tuesday night with a 3-pointer.

3-0, Lobos.

Good start. Much like Saturday when the Lobos got started with Allen-Tovar scoring seven points in the first 1:50 of the game at Wyoming and setting the tone for UNM’s offense right away.

But Tuesday, as you may have still been settling into your seat, taking off your coat, by the time you looked back up it was 7-3 Fresno State.

Then 14-5.

Then 21-7.

And finally 26-9 when things seemed to calm down a bit — both with Fresno State finally starting to miss a few shots and the Lobos starting to hit some.

But Fresno State hit its first EIGHT(!) shots and 10 of its first 12.

Guard Anthony Holland did much of the damage, hitting three of his team’s six first half 3-pointers and he led all scorers at halftime with 14 points…

Needless to say, it was a pretty awful start to the game for the Lobos, who trailed 26-9 at the end of the “first quarter” of the game (at the 10:00 mark of the first half).

Here is a look at the worst four “1st quarter” results (what the score was at the 10:00 mark of the first half) for the Lobos this season:

• minus-17 (9-26): Tuesday vs. Fresno State
• minus-14 (8-22): Nov. 26 vs. Towson
• minus-11 (13-24): Dec. 19 vs. SMU
• minus-9 (10-19): Jan. 11 at UNLV

And for balance, here’s a look at the Lobos best four “1st quarter” results (what the score was at the 10:00 mark of the first half):

• plus-12 (21-9): Dec. 21 vs. Norfolk State
• plus-11 (22-13): Jan. 1 at Nevada
• plus-9 (17-8): Jan. 8 vs. Utah State
• plus-6 (15-9): Dec. 6 vs. New Mexico State

It’s interesting that three of their best starts came in three consecutive games Dec. 21 through Jan. 8.

Regardless, fast starts are good. The Lobos should try more of those.

A number to know: 0

The Lobos remain winless in Mountain West play.

Zero wins.

Seven losses.

Lots of reasons for it, but it’s also approaching historical places, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. After all, through the first 21 years of Mountain West play, UNM had never started worse than 0-3 (2007 Ritchie McKay season).

Then came a year ago when all best were off, the Lobos played a COVID season entirely outside the state of New Mexico and started 0-8 in Mountain West play when it finally got its first win vs. San Jose State, who happens to be UNM’s opponent on Friday in the Pit.

This year’s Lobos are 0-7 in MWC play and three of those have come in the Pit.

The wrong part carried over

The second half of Saturday’s game in Laramie against the Wyoming Cowboys was some exciting basketball to watch. The Lobos scored 57 points, hit seven 3-pointers, shot 65.6% from the field and had a chance in the closing seconds to pull off a huge upset on the road before losing by two — 93-91.

But in that same closing 20 minutes, Wyoming shot 72.7% from the field, scored 52 points and posted a blistering 1.405 points per possession (37 possessions).

UNM wished some of that offense would carry over to the first half on Tuesday. Instead, it got more of that second half Wyoming defense. Fresno State hit its first eight shots, as already noted, and finished the first half hitting shooting 60% from the field, scored 41 points and posted a blistering 1.367 points per possession (30 possessions).

So, for the final 20 minutes on Saturday and first 20 minutes on Tuesday — the elapsed 40 minute time of a full game — the Lobos defense allowed the following:

• 93 points
• 66.0% FG (31-of-47)
• 1.388 points per possession
• 2.3 points allowed per minute

Meanwhile, in Boise…

I interrupt this ETN on the Fresno State/UNM game to remind you that on Tuesday night, two undefeated Mountain West teams that the Lobos have already played — 6-0 Boise State and 4-0 Wyoming — played each other in Boise on Tuesday night.

And the winner was…

He said it: Justin Hutson

Here’s a quote from a fourth-year coach of a program that sounds a lot like what the first-year coach of the Lobos program hopes his team, and the Lobo fanbase, can hear/read.

The quote is in reference to his team’s growth and ability to win when facing adversity — both being on the road and without their star center:

“That’s what we’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to get better. You’re supposed to have returners and then you have returners and they get older, then you’re supposed to be pretty good. That’s how you’re supposed to build a program.

“Sometimes you’re going to take a step back. Sometimes the other team is going to be the hammer and you’re going to be the nail. It’s just going to happen. But I was proud of the way we responded tonight, and responded when Orlando went out.” — Fresno State coach Justin Hutson

Looks familiar

So, what does it do to have a big who can finish anywhere near the basket when Jaelen House (or any other Lobos guard) drives inside the arc and draws some attention?

Well, for two consecutive games, both in the second halves, Jaelen House has driven to about the same free throw line extended spot, drawn defensive attention and found a cutting Jay Allen-Tovar sliding in on the baseline for a highlight dunk.

First, Tuesday’s version against Fresno State in the Pit:

Second, Saturday’s version in Wyoming:

He said it: That dunk

Speaking of those dunks listed above, I asked Jay Allen-Tovar on Monday about the dunk in Wyoming, which came with him drawing a foul as Graham Ike was late to get back and fouled him.

My question was whether he got a lot of texts after the game about that dunk. His answer:

“Yeah, I got a lot. But I wish I got some text messages about us winning.”

Suits & Sneakers week

The annual Coaches vs. Cancer initiative to raise awareness and money for childhood cancer around college basketball is ongoing. For the Lobos, their Suits & Sneakers game was on Tuesday. Here’s the players getting the work out before the game:


The announced attendance for Tuesday’s game in the Pit: 8,033

Several commented on social media on it being nice to have a decent student section again and that was in large part to members of the UNM Lobo club hockey team sitting there.

There have been five Mountain West games so far this week. Here’s a look at the announced attendances of each game (Tuesday game unless noted):

• 10,528 — UNLV at San Diego State (Monday)
• 8,292 — Wyoming at Boise State
• 8,033 — Fresno State at UNM
• 5,675 — Nevada at Colorado State
• 1,743 — Air Force at San Jose State

Minus one…

There was one usual attendee who wasn’t in the Pit for the first time in a decade for a Lobo men’s basketball game…

Tuesday was Day 5 of my COVID quarantine and with no fever and symptoms pretty much gone, I’m confident I’ll be back for Friday’s game in the Pit.

Another number to know: 5

UNM hit just five 3-pointers on Tuesday (of 24 tries). It had hit a double digit amount of 3-pointers in three consecutive games before Tuesday and four of the last five.

The five made 3s is tied for second fewest after hitting just 4 against Towson.


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

+6 Jay Allen-Tovar (31:36)
+3 K.J. Jenkins (29:08)
-1 Sebastian Forsling (20:54)
-2 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (38:21)
-3 Taryn Todd (8:39)
-8 Jaelen House (36:21)
-9 Jordan Arroyo (10:48)
-11 Javonte Johnson (24:13)

Fresno State
+9 Isaiah Hill (34:27)
+8 Orlando Robinson (14:31)
+7 Leo Colimerio (33:10)
+5 Destin Whitaker (11:37)
+3 Jordan Campbell (8:06)
+2 Donavan Yap (23:36)
+1 Robert Vaihola (20:33)
-2 Anthony Holland (38:30)
-4 Deon Stroud (10:34)
-4 Braxton Meah (4:56)

Line ’em up

The Lobos had 13 unique lineup combinations in Tuesday’s game. Fresno State used 18.

Here’s a look at a few notable UNM lineups, starting with the starters, which for the Lobos was where things got ugly right away:

• Who: House/Mashburn/Johnson/Allen-Tovar/Forsling
• Point differential: -11 (7-18)
• Time on court: 5:19

• Who: House/Mashburn/Jenkins/Allen-Tovar/Forsling
• Point differential: +9 (18-9)
• Time on court: 9:20
• NOTE: Just one tweak: K.J. Jenkins for Javonte Johnson and the worst lineup of the game turned to the best.

Around the Mountain

It’s another busy week around the Mountain West and Tuesday featured four games. Here’s a look at the week’s schedule of games:

• San Diego State 80, UNLV 55

• Colorado State 77, Nevada 66
• Fresno State 65, New Mexico 60
• Boise State 65, Wyoming 62
• Air Force 63, San Jose State 53

• San Diego State at Utah State, 9 p.m. MT

• no games scheduled

• Wyoming at Air Force, 4 p.m. MT
• UNLV at Colorado State, 7 p.m. MT
• San Jose State at New Mexico, 7 p.m. MT
• Boise State at Fresno State, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT

Mountain West standings

Through Tuesday’s games…

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

Stats and stats

Here’s the traditional looking stat sheet from Wednesday’s game: Fresno State 65, New Mexico 60

And here’s the digital version of the stats: Fresno State 65, New Mexico 60

Up next

Up next for the Lobos is a Friday game agains San Jose State (0-6) at 7 p.m. in the Pit.

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 2-2 on Tuesday and I’m at a still pretty embarrassing 14-19-1 on the season.

My daughter’s coin flip picks got me on Tuesday with a 3-1 night and she’s now at 15-18-1 on the season.

Until next time…

Well, hopefully that’ll do it for my COVID protocols hiatus. Tuesday was the first time I’ve missed a Lobo game in the Pit since I was hired by the Journal.

It wasn’t fun.

I still worked, just from my bedroom at home away from fans in the Pit and away from my family, who I’m thinking is enjoying dad being locked up in his room awhile.

Anyway, unlike the way I sometimes end these things with an empty arena picture, tonight, I leave you with this (and hope I don’t have to see it again anytime soon)…

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Even hurt, Fresno State’s star was big factor vs. Lobos

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