Emptying the Notebook: Lobo offense destroys usually defensive Air Force - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Lobo offense destroys usually defensive Air Force

Clune Arena on the campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Feb. 5, 2022. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats, thoughts, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after the 91-77 Lobos win at Air Force on Saturday night:

Closing time…

While the UNM Lobos jumped out to a huge 19-2 lead early on Saturday, the Air Force Falcons slowly, but surely chipped away at that 17-point deficit.

After an 18-8 start to the second half, UNM’s lead was down to 51-48 with 13:35 remaining when Richard Pitino called a timeout for the Lobos.

The timeout worked.

Instead of squandering the lead, over the final 13 minutes and 35 seconds of Saturday’s game, the UNM Lobos scored 40 points in 25 possessions, closing the door rather emphatically on the Falcons on their home court.

For context, 40 points over 25 possessions equals 1.6 points per possession. The national leader in that category out of 358 Division I teams this season is Purdue at 1.208 points per possession. For the game, UNM scored 1.282 PPP.

Air Force entered the game allowing just 0.98 points per possession.

• 40 points
• 25 possessions
• 14-of-18 field goals
• One stretch of 10-consecutive-made field goals … TEN IN A ROW!
• 10-of-12 free throws
• Three turnovers
• Lead grew from +3 to +21 at one point and game ended with it at +14

Of course the headline from the game was Jaelen House scoring 42 points, which was pretty much all my game story was about, but his backcourt mate Jamal Mashburn Jr. added 20 points.

For both first-year Lobo guards, a good amount of their scoring was in the closing time run in that final 13:35 with a lot of driving into the heart of the Falcons’ defense and either scoring or getting fouled.

“It might be the first game this year where the other team’s best players beat us. Like, hands down beat us,” Air Force coach Joe Scott said. “We’ve done a pretty good job of that this year.

“(House) is the key to their team, when I watch the game. The guy’s hard to guard.”

Now, in that same final 13:35, the Lobos defense allowed 29 points over 25 possessions, which isn’t exactly great, but we already knew that about the Lobos defense.

After all, entering the game, UNM’s 77.5 points allowed per game was ranked 330th out of 358 Division I teams.

“First half, we guarded them really well,” Pitino said. “Second half, we got a little bit of — we were celebrating too early. We’re not used to playing with a lead.

“But, yeah, I thought we were ready to go first half. We were terrific to put up 91 points — I believe Nevada was 75, if I’m not mistaken — very, very hard to do (against Air Force).”

How hard?

• Air Force allowed 62.0 points per game entering Saturday, good for 26th best in the country.

UNM outscored that by 29 points.

• Air Force’s previous high points allowed all season was 75 by Nevada on Jan. 15.

UNM beat that by 16 points.

• Air Force had allowed more than 42 points in a half twice all season before Saturday, a span of 40 halves of basketball.

UNM broke 42 points in both halves Saturday — 43 points in the first half and 48 points in the second half.

• 48 (2H) – Saturday vs. UNM
• 46 (2H) – Dec. 21 vs. Tarleton State
• 45 (2H) – Dec. 4 vs. Army
• 43 (1H) – Saturday vs. UNM
• 42 (2H) – Jan. 22 vs. Colorado State

Richard Pitino has said it more than once this season, and Saturday it appeared to ring true again.

“Offense isn’t our problem.”

Added House when asked about what the team needs to do to add some consistency from game to game considering they were just coming off a 25-point loss at San Diego State:

“I just feel like it’s our defense,” House said. “We just got to lock in on defense because I think the offense will come. I think we’re a pretty good offensive team. So once we start playing defense consistently, I think the wins will start piling.”

The gamer…

Here is the gamer I filed from courtside at Clune arena on Saturday night:

A number to know: 8

Jaelen House had a career-high eight rebounds on Saturday.

Oh, that’s not the statistic you came to read about?

Another number to know: 42

OK, so on Jaelen House’s career rebounding night, he also managed to score 42 points, which I supposed isn’t too bad for a guy who exerted so much effort concentrating on rebounding.

Just how good was his scoring performance?

Bring on the lists!

• Most points by a Lobo in game:
1. 50 – Marvin Johnson vs. Colorado State (3/2/78)
2. 47 – Kenny Page vs. Illinois Tech (12/21/79)
t3. 46 – Kendall Williams at Colorado State (2/23/13)
t3. 46 – Marvin Johnson vs. Kentucky State (12/5/77)
5. 45 – Toby Roybal vs. Montana (1/11/56)
t6. 44 – Kenny Page vs. BYU (1/15/81)
t6. 44 – Kenny Page vs. UTEP (3/1/80)
t8. 43 – Ruben Douglas at San Diego State (2/24/03)
t8. 43 – Ruben Douglas vs. Wyoming (2/15/03)
t10. 42 – Jaelen House at Air Force (Saturday)
t10. 42 – Greg Brown vs. UTEP (2/5/94)

• Most points by a Lobo in a half:
t1. 33 (1H) – Kenny Page vs. UTEP (3/1/80)
t1. 33 (2H) – Ruben Douglas vs. Wyoming (2/15/03)
3. 28 (2H) – Jaelen House vs. Air Force (Saturday)
t4. 27 (2H) – Kenny Page vs. BYU (1/15/81)
t4. 27 (2H) – Marvin Johnson vs. Kentucky State (12/5/77)
t4. 27 (2H) – Willie Long vs. BYU (1/29/70)

And here are some other bullet points of note from House’s performance:

• 42 points is the most ever allowed by Air Force in a Mountain West game. The previous high was 38 points by Jalen Harris of Nevada in 2020.
• His 42 points is the second most scored by a Mountain West player this season behind only the 45 UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton scored Jan. 28 at Colorado State. No other Mountain West player has scored more than 35 this season.
• House’s 42 points came on 15 made field goals and 8-of-9 free throws. The 15 made field goals is the most by a Mountain West player this season.

Road House…

As the list above shows, the top 10 scoring performances in UNM history feature just three games in which the Lobos were on the road:

• Williams 46 at CSU
• Douglas 43 at SDSU
• House 42 at Air Force

Speaking of…

Since you asked (or didn’t, I don’t know), here’s a a flash back to a tweet from Feb. 23, 2013, from that amazing Kendal Williams game up the road at Colorado State:

Terms of engagement…

OK, finally for some non-Jaelen House scoring notes, though he certainly has a hand in this aspect of the game, too.

Air Force entered Saturday’s game ranked 345th out of 358 Division I teams in tempo, meaning their slow, deliberate style usually leads to low-possession games.

And, frankly, regardless of how much success they may or not be having in the win/loss column, Air Force has always been successful in dictating the pace of play in games for the past two decades in the Mountain West.

“Their defense will slow down the game just as much as their offense,” Lobos coach Richard Pitino said earlier in the week previewing the matchup.

Air Force plays slow. The Lobos do not.

The result on Saturday? The 71-possession game was the most of the season for an Air Force game.

Who doesn’t love a buzzer beater?

Of this halftime buzzer beater, Jaelen House told me after the game, “You know it’s my night if I’m making shots like that.”

But he wasn’t alone…

Jaelen House wasn’t alone out there on Saturday.

In fact, two players had what on most nights would have been headliner-worthy statlines:

• Jamal Mashburn Jr. scored 20 points, the 10th time this season he scored 20 or more points.

“Mash was great tonight,” House said.

• Jay Allen-Tovar was a problem on defense for the Falcons, especially in the first half and he ended the night with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.

Here’s three of House’s points all set up by Allen-Tovar’s defense…

Block party, watch party…

Jay Allen-Tovar’s four blocks on Saturday, plus three other Lobos adding one apiece for a total of seven, gives UNM a total of 110 on the season.

With an average to date of 4.78 blocks per game and at least nine more games to play (eight regular season games plus at least one play-in round game in the Mountain West Tournament), the Lobos are on pace for 153 blocks.

That would rank third all-time at UNM.

172 – 2013-14
159 – 1991-92
146 – 1989-90
145 – 1999-2000
141 – 1990-91

153 – current pace of 2021-22 Lobos


The announced attendance at Clune Arena on Saturday was 2,723

As always at an Air Force game, there was a good amount of Lobos fans, both from Northern New Mexico who make the drive but also from good sized UNM alumni chapters in both Colorado Springs and Denver.

Here is a list of the announced attendances at each of the Lobos road games this season:

• 10,951 at SDSU (Jan. 31)
• 7,224 at Nevada (Jan. 1)
• 7,115 at Colorado (Nov. 13)
• 6,516 at Colorado State (Jan. 19)
• 6,208 at New Mexico State (Nov. 30)
• 5,368 at Wyoming (Jan. 22)
• 3,860 at UNLV (Jan. 11)
• 2,723 at Air Force (Saturday)

Video: Pitino, Mashburn and House

Here is the postgame video of my interviews I recorded and posted on the Journal’s YouTube page from courtside after the game:


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

+18 Jay Allen-Tovar (34:59)
+17 Javonte Johnson (30:59)
+15 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (38:41)
+14 Jaelen House (40:00)
+9 K.J. Jenkins (23:56)
+5 Saquan Singleton (19:07)
-2 Birima Seck (2:34)
-2 Taryn Todd (4:43)
-2 Sebastian Forsling (2:19)
-2 Jordan Arroyo (2:42)

+8 Nikc Jackson (30:20)
-3 Carter Murphy (16:48)
-4 Camden Vander Zwaag (29:54)
-7 Jeffrey Mills (13:55)
-10 A.J. Walker (38:56)
-14 Jake Heidbreder (40:00)
-18 Joseph Octave (20:27)
-22 Lucas Moerman (9:40)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos used 10 unique lineups on Saturday and Air Force used just seven. I think that’s the fewest combined lineups used this season that UNM has played in.

Before I break down the lineups, I wanted to note that the change in the starting lineup and the very, very small number of minutes for true big men on Saturday — for both teams — was all about the matchup and styles of play of the two teams.

Saturday was about guard play, plain and simple.

No need look for any deeper meaning for just 2:19 of playing time for 7-footer Sebastian Forsling or the 2:34 for 6-11 Birima Seck.

It was the same for Air Force. The Falcons’ 6-10 starting center, Lucas Moerman, played just 9:40 in the game and in that time Air Force was outscored by 22 points.

Now, on with the lineup breakdowns…

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

• Who: House/Mashburn/Jenkins/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +11 (30-19)
• Time on court: 12:21
• NOTE: After Monday’s loss at San Diego State, I wrote this: “When your worst lineup combination is your starting lineup, you know you probably just had a long night.”

Well, after Saturday, I’ll tweak that and write this: When your best lineup combination is your starting lineup, you know you probably just had a good night.

• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +9 (28-19)
• Time on court: 10:02
• NOTE: This group didn’t play quite as long as the starters, but had a higher points per minute output. So the “best” was probably the starting five, but this could have been it just as easily and Saquan Singleton’s contributions should be noted somewhere in this column. He and Jenkins were the only swap from this lineup to the starting lineup, and the two combined for more than 22 minutes.

• Who: House/Mashburn/Todd/Johnson/Forsling
• Point differential: -3 (1-4)
• Time on court: 1:08
• NOTE: No lineup had worse than a -3 point differential. This group was only on the floor together 1:08, so hard to really look too much into these stats.

You heard about the new game, right?

In case you haven’t heard, UNM on Friday evening did announce there is a new, previously unscheduled game coming up on Friday against NAIA school Northern New Mexico.

When the Mountain West told the Lobos they would not be getting the previously postponed San Diego State game in the Pit back on the scheduled, that left UNM with only one game scheduled in the first 14 days of February and what would have been a 10-day game before their next game Feb. 15 against Wyoming.

Well, they tried to get a Division I team to come to the Pit. But, as you can imagine, not many exactly have an opening in mid-February. So, the Lobos will pay $5,000 to Northern New Mexico for a game next Friday to both recoup at least a little bit of the lost revenue from the lost San Diego State game and also they hope to not get rusty over what would have been a 10-day break between games.

My article from Friday evening on the new game:

Meanwhile, back in Albuquerque…

The UNM women’s team wasn’t as fortunate as the men on Saturday, losing to a buzzer beater to Wyoming in the Pit, 60-59.

Here is colleague Ken Sickenger’s write up from the Pit on the game:

Saturday marks just the second time this season the Lobo men won on the same calendar day as the Lobo women lost, which has as much to do with the Lobo men having a losing record as it does to the Lobo women having a winning record:

• Nov. 20: Men beat Montana State at home, women lost a Houston
• Saturday: Men beat Air Force on the road, women lost to Wyoming at home

Around the Mountain…

There were three games around the Mountain (West) on Saturday, the third day in a row of a four-day span of some big conference matchups. Here’s a recap and look ahead to Sunday’s games:

• Utah State 78, San Jose State 62
• Wyoming 72, Boise State 65

• Colorado State 58, San Diego State 57
• Fresno State 73, Nevada 56

• Utah State 90, UNLV 75
• Boise State 76, San Jose State 60
• New Mexico 91, Air Force 77

• Nevada at San Diego State, 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)
• Wyoming at Fresno State, 4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. MT (FS1)

Mountain West standings…

Through Saturday’s games, here is how the Mountain West standings are looking:

9-1 Boise State
7-1 Wyoming
7-3 Colorado State
6-3 Fresno State
4-3 San Diego State
6-5 Utah State
5-5 UNLV
3-6 Nevada
3-7 Air Force
2-8 New Mexico
0-10 San Jose State

Oh, that KenPom…

The Lobos, despite their struggles in the most important of all statistics (wins/losses), continue to climb in the computer rankings like KenPom.com, which ranks teams based on combining offensive and defensive efficiencies and plugs it all into a formula that includes rating the opponents, and so on. These are often pretty much the same formulas used to set sports betting lines.

Long story short, the Lobos started the season ranked 287 in KenPom.com.

As of Saturday night, they are 142.

Stats and stats…

Here is a look at the postgame stat sheet: New Mexico 91, Air Force 77

And if you prefer a digital version, here you go: New Mexico 91, Air Force 77

Up next (and after)…

As mentioned above, the Lobos have a new “next” game, but since it’s a nonconference game, I figure I’ll list their next TWO games here since February is traditionally just meant for league play:

• UP NEXT: (NAIA) Northern New Mexico at the Pit, Friday, 7 p.m.

• AND THEN AFTER THAT: Wyoming at the Pit, Feb. 15, 7 p.m.

Grammer’s Guesses…

It was a 3-0 night for the Guesses on Saturday. I’m now at 24-27-1 on the season.

My daughter’s struggling coin has seen better days. Her coin flip picks go 1-2 and she’s at 20-31-1 on the season.

Until next time…

Until next time, Clune Arena (and the entire Cadet Field House) on the campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy…

(yes, in the same facility, Air Force has its basketball arena, hockey arena and an indoor track & field facility)

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Lobo offense destroys usually defensive Air Force

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