Emptying the Notebook: House's historic game vs. SJSU - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: House’s historic game vs. SJSU

UNM’s Jaelen House (right) is all smiles as he walks off the court a winner with Lobos head coach Richard Pitino on Friday night in the Pit. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

Here are some extra notes, stats, tweets, video and other odds & ends I emptied out of the old notebook after Friday’s 86-70 Lobos win over San Jose State in the Pit:

House’s historic game

When Jaelen House is playing like he was on Friday night in the Pit — and for the past couple weeks, for that matter — the Lobos’ offense is going to have a shot against just about anyone.

Yes, UNM’s defense is still what it is (a problem), but games are decided by points, and scoring them is half that equation — the part of the equation the Lobos don’t have much of a problem with most nights.

And House is a big reason why.

Friday House thoroughly controlled the game from start to finish with a stat line not seen in Division I basketball in more than a year:

• 18 points
• 13 assists
• 7 rebounds

According to BasketballReference.com, no Division I player has had at least 18 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds in a game since Jan. 22, 2021, when Oakland’s Jalen Moore had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists against Detroit Mercy.

Some might be quick to point out the opponent, San Jose State, is in last place in the Mountain West standings, but it is just as fair to point out no other player has done against them this season what House did on Friday.

In fact, no other Mountain West player has had 13 assists in a game this season and just seven players nationally have had more than 13 in a game.

“Give credit to my teammates for making shots making me look good,” said House.

OK, but there’s more to it than that. House had a hand making them all look good on Friday, too, in a game that had five Lobos score in double figures and saw the offense have an impressive 21 assists on 32 made baskets. And UNM scored 1.323 points per possession.

In his past five games, House is averaging 18.8 points and 7.6 assists.

Jamal Mashburn Jr., who scored a game-high 23 points on Friday, said what House did Friday may have had better results than other nights, but it’s what the 6-foot transfer from Arizona State has basically been doing all season.

“I think that’s the same Jaelen,” Mashburn said. “I mean, what y’all see is what y’all get every day from him. He plays with a fire, intensity, and he can get in the lane anytime he wants.

“He kind of showed it with 13 assists this game. We were able to knock down shots for him and he made us look really good today.”

House’s 13 assists also pulls him up to 104 on the season in 20 games played, giving him an average of 5.2 per game, good for fourth in the league.

Here’s a look at a few of House’s assists on Friday:

• An early find of freshman center Sebsatian Forsling…

• Finding a cutting Saquan Singleton on a baseline out of bounds play…

• And finishing a fast break with an alley-oop to Jay Allen-Tovar (who could have given House 14 assists had he completed the alley-oop at the end of the first half)…

As mentioned above, House’s 13 assists are the most by any Mountain West player this season.

There have been six games (from four players) with double-digit assists in a game. The list:

• 13 — Jaelen House (UNM) vs. SJSU on Friday
• 12 — Hunter Maldonado (Wyoming) vs. SJSU on Jan. 19
• 11 — Hunter Maldonado (Wyoming) at Nevada on Jan. 17
• 10 — Grant Sherfield (Nevada) vs. Pepperdine on Nov. 30
• 10 — Ethan Taylor (Air Force) vs. Nevada on Jan. 15
• 10 — Grant Sherfield (Nevada) vs. New Mexico on Jan. 1

The gamer

Here is the gamer I filed from the Pit after Friday’s game:

A win is a win is a win

Win No. 1 in league play keeps the Lobos from matching last season’s 0-8 start in Mountain West play, which is the worst for the Lobos in the 23-season existence of the conference.

Sure, 1-7 isn’t wonderful, but it ain’t 0-8.

“League wins are hard to find, especially with just where we’re at right now,” said Lobos coach Richard Pitino.

A number to know: 23

Maybe I should have called this section “A number AND letter to know.”

Jamal Mashburn Jr. scored 23 points on Friday. While he’s scored more than 23 five other times this season, this was the highest point total for Mashburn in a Lobos win this season.

So, 23 and a W.

To be clear, this isn’t some dig at Mashburn suggesting his high-scoring games are bad for the team. Not at all. He’s taken the Lobos on his shoulders in more than a few games when nobody else was hitting shots and, in some cases, when nobody else was really even trying to take shots.

When the Lobos are doing well, he has often been content letting them get theirs while the team is winning.

Friday, it was a good thing to see both his offensive game being fairly unstoppable (I mean, a 6-2 shooting guard getting 23 points and six rebounds on just 12 shots is about as efficient as it gets).

Jamal’s stat line on Friday:

• Points: 23
• 2-point FG: 6-7
• 3-point FG: 3-5
• Free throws: 2-2
• Rebounds: 6
• Assists: 1
• Turnovers: 1
• Steals: 1
• Minutes: 37:36
• Plus/minus: +16

In Mashburn’s previous five games, he hit just 6-of-22 3-pointers (27.3%), so his 3-of-5 from beyond the arc on Friday was certainly a welcome sight.

And when he’s left this open and teammates find him (Javonte Johnson in this case), he’s going to hit a lot of them.

He said it: Pitino

“We can’t be frauds and say, ‘Well, when we lose, don’t worry about the result. We’re going to keep learning.’ We won. Great, but let’s still continue to learn and grow.” — UNM coach Richard Pitino after beating San Jose State

Another number to know: 15

The Lobos outrebounded San Jose State 38-23 for a season-best plus-15 rebounding margin.

Of those 38 boards, eight were offensive rebounds for UNM, leading to a rare 14-2 advantage in second chance points.

House, who tied a career-high in rebounds with seven, clapped during his postgame presser with media when he saw the rebounding number on the stat sheet and said he couldn’t even recall having outrebounded an opponent this season. UNM actually has on more than one occasion, but has been on the wrong end of that stat far more often than not.

“We did them like other teams do us,” House said of the rebounding dominance. “We got to keep doing that. Attack the glass.”

UNM and San Jose State entered the game as the two worst teams in rebounding margin on the season. After the game, they still are, but in MWC games, UNM is at minus-6.3 rebound per game and SJSU is now at minus-11.3.

Don’t I know you?

Hey, look! It’s Richard Pitino and Tim Miles, the former Big Ten coaching foes turned friends who are now in charge of the two Mountain West rebuilding projects.

Of course most know Miles was the other finalist for the vacant UNM job last March when Pitino was hired and has a successful Mountain West past with his time at Colorado State.

He’s got a near-impossible task getting that SJSU program going, but it’s great to see him back in the league.

I wrote in Friday’s game preview article in the Journal about Miles and Pitino’s mutual respect for one another. Take a look:

Oh, those 3s…

The Lobos hit 10 (of 22) 3-pointers on Friday.

After hitting double digit 3-pointers in just two of their first 14 games this season, the Lobos have now hit 10 or more in five of the past seven games.

Another number to know: 92:29

Of the 100 possible minutes for UNM players in the second half, 92:29 were played by five players:
• 20:00 – Jaelen House
• 20:00 – Jamal Mashburn Jr.
• 20:00 – Javonte Johnson
• 17:03 – Jay Allen-Tovar
• 15:26 – K.J. Jenkins

The other minutes went to Sebsatian Forsling (6:43) and Birima Seck (0:48).

Like every ETN, I break down the key lineup combinations in the “Line ’em up” section below, and there I explain why I think this happened instead of playing reserves down the stretch of a blowout win.

Basically: This group of five was playing very well and the Lobos needed this win, without a sloppy finish and the Pit fans groaning down the stretch, so Pitino rode the hot hands of those five.

Roster updates

Saquan Singleton, who started the first four games of the Mountain West schedule then missed the past three games with a toe injury, did return to action on Friday, but just for 3:01, all in the first half.

“I just thought they were going zone, and I felt like we had decent control of the game,” said Pitino when asked why Singleton was limited, if available. “I was just hoping, let’s get him healthy. He’s looked better in practice. But you know, we need him out there. I mean, we could have used him at Wyoming to guard (Hunter) Maldonado. But them playing zone had a lot to do with it and I thought we could just hold off on it.”

Pitino did go with shooters down the stretch, so this makes sense.

As for players like walk-on Jordan Arroyo, who played recently, and scholarship players like Jeremiah Francis III and Taryn Todd, no reason was given as to why they didn’t play, but the same zone reasoning could apply to both.

Rising KenPom numbers

It doesn’t matter to some, but it does show improvement.

The Lobos’ 16-point win on Friday over San Jose State led to a 14-spot jump on the KenPom.com ratings (1 through 358).

UNM is now at 152 in the ratings.

The Lobos started the season at 287 and are one of just seven teams (less than 2% of Division I teams) to have made a 100-spot climb this season in the rankings. Two of the other six teams have been on the Lobos’ schedule (Towson at +160 spots and Wyoming at +126 spots entering play Friday).

After finishing last season as No. 303 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, UNM entered Friday’s game ranked No. 163 in the NET.

Plus/minus

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

UNM
+17 Jaelen House (37:56)
+16 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (37:36)
+15 Javonte Johnson (34:41)
+14 K.J. Jenkins (31:24)
+12 Jay Allen-Tovar (33:37)
+7 Sebastian Forsling (14:11)
0 Birima Seck (7:34)
-1 Saquan Singleton (3:01)

San Jose State
+2 Caleb Simmons (14:47)
-2 Shon Robinson (24:53)
-4 Josh O’Garro (9:57)
-4 Myron “MJ” Amey Jr. (15:21)
-9 Trey Anderson (29:58)
-12 Alvaro Cardenas (19:16)
-14 Omari Moore (33:21)
-14 Trey Smith (28:06)
-23 Tibet Gorener (24:21)

Line ’em up

The Lobos used nine unique lineups in Friday’s game while SJSU used 24.

Yes, just nine combinations for UNM, including one that was on the court together 22:29, a season high for any lineup combination in one game. And it was 24 lineup combinations for the Spartans, with 22 of those 24 not seeing three minutes together.

Anyway, here’s a look at some of the notable ones for the Lobos, starting with the starters:

STARTING LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Johnson/Allen-Tovar/Forsling
• Point differential: +3 (21-18)
• Time on court: 7:48
• NOTE: Not bad for the starting five with 2.6 points scored per minute and three assists to just one turnover together.

BEST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Jenkins/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +8 (50-42)
• Time on court: 22:29
• NOTE: While the Lobos could have used a comfortable double-digit win to get everyone on the roster more minutes, the team also really, really just needed a comfortable win for its own mindset moving forward and that of the fans. No groans or sighs from the Pit crowd were wanted if that lead dropped to 4 or 5 as several players who never see the floor scrambled to hold onto a lead.

So, when Pitino found a combination that worked in the second half, he rode it out. Simple as that.

Five players played 92:29 of the possible 100 second half minutes. and why not? This group had 14 assists to 7 turnovers and scored 2.2 points for every minute it was on the floor.

WORST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Jenkins/Allen-Tovar/Forsling
• Point differential: 0 (0-0)
• Time on court: 1:27
• NOTE: I picked a lineup for the sake of filling this section out, but to be honest, the Lobos didn’t have any lineup combination do that badly. Three had 0 point differentials, meaning in the time they were on the court, they scored the same as San Jose State, and two lineups had minus-1 differentials, but neither of those were on the court together even 50 seconds.

Attendance

The announced attendance for Friday’s SJSU at UNM game in the Pit: 8,277

Mountain West announced attendances from Friday night’s games:

• 8,277: San Jose State at New Mexico
• 8,083: UNLV at Colorado State
• 2,579: Boise State at Fresno State
• 1,702: Wyoming at Air Force

Speaking of home games…

As January comes to a close and there’s just five weeks left in the season, it’s curious that the Mountain West has rescheduled a ton of those postponed COVID games for teams around the league, but the Lobos are still missing two home games that were postponed over the past month.

And not just two missed home games, two missed home games that would likely be the two biggest draws in the Pit in Mountain West play.

Colorado State was undefeated and nationally ranked when COVID in its program led to the Dec. 28 game in the Pit being postponed. Now, the league isn’t in a rush to reschedule it as CSU is an NCAA Tournament hopeful and having them travel to play a struggling Lobos team that may not help their computer rankings just isn’t of much interest for anyone but UNM.

San Diego State was scheduled to play in the Pit on Jan. 15 until COVID on its roster led to the game being postponed with no urgency by the league to reschedule that game. The league moved up a Feb. 8 game with Boise State to the Jan. 15 slot in the Pit, so UNM didn’t lose the Jan. 15 date, but does now have a hole in February that the league doesn’t seem interested in filling at this point as SDSU is also an NCAA Tournament hopeful and for the same reasons listed above for CSU, getting them to Albuquerque for a game isn’t a priority.

Now, the Lobos have a grand total of 1 game scheduled through the first two weeks of February (Feb. 5 at Air Force).

If the league isn’t going to make the CSU and SDSU games in Albuquerque be played, they should at a minimum allow UNM to play a non-conference game so the Lobos can make up at least a small portion of their lost gate for a home game, even if it’s against someone like Northern New Mexico.

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins…

UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton scored 45 points on Friday night and and the Runnin’ Rebels, 15-point underdogs, destroyed Colorado State in Moby Arena.

While the tweet above reads “Statement made,” as with so many games in this league, I don’t know for sure what the statement is other than every game in this league is a whole new world.

After all, the same UNLV team that won by 14 on Friday in Colorado against the team getting the most votes this week in the AP Top 25 poll is the same UNLV team that was in Colorado 8 days prior and lost by seven points at Air Force.

And look at San Diego State, UNM’s next opponent, for an even better example of the up and down league.

Here are the Aztecs’ past four games:
• Win by 30 over previously undefeated team
• Lose in game you only score 37 points
• Win by 25 against UNLV
• Lose by 18 to a 1-5 team

Anyway…

Around the Mountain

There were four games around the Mountain West on Friday, one on Saturday and then a new week of games for the league, and the Lobos, starts again on Monday:

FRIDAY
• Wyoming 63, Air Force 61
• UNLV 88, Colorado State 74
• New Mexico 86, San Jose State 70
• Boise State 68, Fresno State 63 (OT)

SATURDAY
• Utah State at Nevada, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

MONDAY
• Colorado State at Wyoming, 6 p.m. MT (FS1)
• New Mexico at San Diego State, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT (FS1)

Mountain West standings

Through Friday’s slate of games…

8-0 Boise State
5-1 Wyoming
6-2 Colorado State
3-2 San Diego State
4-3 Fresno State
4-4 UNLV
3-3 Nevada
3-5 Air Force
2-5 Utah State
1-7 New Mexico
0-7 San Jose State

Video: Pitino, House, Mashburn

Here is the postgame media session with Lobos coach Richard Pitino and players Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr., as posted to the Journal’s YouTube page:

Stats and stats

Here is the final stat sheet from Friday’s game: New Mexico 86, San Jose State 70

And here is the digital version of the stats from Friday’s game: New Mexico 86, San Jose State 70

Up next…

The Lobos next play on Monday night at San Diego State at 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT in a game that will be broadcast on FS1.

Grammer’s Guesses

Welp, I’m still bad at picking games.

In fairness, I don’t see many people doing very well right now picking Mountain West games, I just happen to be the one posting a pick for every game, every night.

My daughter and I go 1-3 on Friday. My Guesses are just 15-23-1 on the season and her coin flip picks are 16-22-1.

One more from me…

Of all the stats I post in this column, this is definitely one of them:

The Lobos are 1-0 since I’ve returned to in-person coverage of the team after a two-game COVID/cover from home hiatus.

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