Emptying the Notebook: This time, Lobos close the deal on Pokes - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: This time, Lobos close the deal on Pokes

Lobos Jaelen House, left, and Saquan Singleton, right, defend Wyoming’s Hunter Maldonado in Tuesday’s 75-66 UNM win over the Cowboys in the Pit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
Here are some extra notes, quotes, videos, stats and whatever other odds & ends I managed to empty out of the old reporter’s notebook after Tuesday’s 75-66 Lobos win in the Pit over No. 22 Wyoming:

Closing time…

Closing time hasn’t always been winning time for the UNM Lobos.

UNM had played itself right into the thick of a lot of games this season in the final minutes without a lot to show for it.

At least until Tuesday, when it came out on the right side of what was a one-possession game with under 1 minute showing on the clock.

Before we walk through how the Lobos closed the door on Wyoming on Tuesday — something they couldn’t manage in the two-point loss in Laramie in the first game between these two teams, here’s a quick recap of the painful 1-7 record UNM had entering Tuesday in games that they were within 5 or fewer points in the final two minutes of a game:

• LOSS: Colorado 87, UNM 76 (Nov. 13)
> UNM trailed 77-74 with under 2:00 left to play

• WIN: UNM 81-78 (Nov. 20)
> UNM’s only one-possession win of the season

• LOSS: New Mexico State 78, UNM 76 – OT (Dec. 6)
> Overtime loss and crazy game-winner at the overtime buzzer to the rivals? Yeah, this one stung

• LOSS: Nevada 79, UNM 70 (Jan. 1)
> UNM led by as many as nine then trailed by as many as 19. In the final minute, they had the deficit back down to five before the rally fizzled

• LOSS: Utah State 90, UNM 87 – OT (Jan. 8)
> UNM squanders 17 point lead for another one-possession overtime loss on its home court

• LOSS: Colorado State 80, UNM 74 (Jan. 19)
> A Javonte Johnson 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining had UNM down 4 with 49 seconds left in Moby Arena

• LOSS: Wyoming 93, UNM 91
> The Lobos felt Jamal Mashburn Jr. was fouled with 13 seconds remaining and should have been shooting two FTs with a chance to tie the game on the road in Laramie. Instead, the foul went in favor of the Cowboys, Richard Pitino got a technical and the Lobos lose their third one-possession game of the season

• LOSS: Fresno State 65, UNM 60
> UNM clawed back within one bucket on a Jaelen House make with 45 seconds left before losing by five

So, there is is. UNM’s 1-7 record before Tuesday night in games that were still within five in final 2 minutes of a game.

But this time was different. They weren’t rattled down the stretch. They answered every Wyoming surge with a big bucket, defensive stand or, in the case of K.J. Jenkins, a big rebound and held off the hard-charging Cowboys, who previously had been the kings of the close calls.

How did the Lobos stay so focused and poised down the stretch?

“You ever see old school where Will Ferrell’s in the locker room screaming not to freak out? That was me in the huddle,” joked Lobos coach Richard Pitino.

Truth is, while his team is very inexperienced together, they closed the game like veterans who had been in that situation before, mainly because they had. Only this time, they got the bounces and makes in closing time to go their way.

“Just trying to calm them down to the best of our ability,” Pitino said of the actual late-game huddle dynamics with his team during timeouts. “Obviously it’s a big game. I think, more than anything, we just kept focusing on rebounding. I thought rebounding was the key to the game. …

“Great composure. And guys made plays.”

Tuesday, the game was tied 49-49 at the under 8 media timeout.

With 7:57 left, Jay Allen-Tovar hit the first free throw on a 1-and-1 and missed the second. But K.J. Jenkins — and 6-feet-2-inches of him — managed to fight for the offensive rebound on the play (one of his seven rebounds) and House later hit a 3-pointer with 7:32 remaining.

That four-point possession for the Lobos made it 53-49.

Wyoming, and star post Graham Ike in particular, kept hitting buckets or getting fouls to keep it close, though.

But every time he did, the Lobos answered.

Like when Jenkins, the team’s best shooter who hadn’t hit a shot all game, drained this 3-pointer with 6:09 left for a 58-51 lead:

Or when Jaelen House hit this bucket with contact in the lane with 3:24 left for a 66-59 lead:

And the dagger 3-pointer here from Jay Allen-Tovar for a 71-65 lead with 43 seconds remaining seemed to decide the game:

How good was the Lobos offense in closing time on Tuesday night?

Consider this:

Wyoming hit seven of its final 10 shots of the game and added five made free throws in the final 8:20 once it tied the game at 49-49 and still couldn’t ever take control of the game.

Why? Because the Lobos, and House in particular, made play after play, and closed the game hitting seven of its final eight shots of and added seven points at the free throw line after that 49-49 tie.

The gamer…

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

Don’t look now, but…

Don’t look now, but, the Lobos have won four of their past five games. And while three have come against an NAIA school and the two teams in the 10th (Air Force) and 11th (San Jose State) spots in the Mountain West standings, you can’t deny UNM was playing really well of late with one exception: The Jan. 31 blowout loss at San Diego State.

And, of course, you can’t argue they just beat nobodies when Tuesday’s win was against the No. 22 ranked team in the country that was also alone in first place in the MWC standings before the loss.

A court storm? Really?

Yes, really.

Some Lobo faithful may say a court storm against a 22nd ranked team — especially the Wyoming Cowboys who aren’t exactly one of the program’s top rivals — should be beneath UNM. And I admit, it looked a little odd to me when it was happening.

But the more I thought about it, there are three main reasons the couple hundred fans pretty much all from the student section (at least at first) who were on the court celebrating Tuesday’s win was just fine:

1. Wyoming rushed the court twice in the same week earlier this very month with wins over unranked teams, sort of getting the attention of the rest of the league. (more on this on the next note below)

2. The UNM program has not just struggled for wins this season, but had an entire season played outside of the state last season and is on an 8-year postseason drought that has also included on- and off-court drama. This was needed.

3. And the BIGGEST reason why there was no problem with the court storm on Tuesday, or with Wyoming’s two court storms earlier in the month, is this: It’s a game! Let fans and let the players have fun and quit telling people how happy or unhappy to be.

I’m pro court storm! (well, just sometimes)

Snake bit in the Pit…

Snake called his shot.

As I just wrote above, I’m ALL FOR COURT STORMS!

But when you do them, as Wyoming did not long ago against Boise State and Colorado State in games that were neither vs. ranked opponents nor for a league title (there was still more than a calendar month to go in the season when both those happened), then others take notice.

Apparently Snake, a good friend of Boise State coach Leon Rice (seriously), didn’t forget. And in case Wyoming thought people might forget about the pregame video they posted and then deleted of the unique Lobo super fan saying he couldn’t wait to rush the court on Wyoming Cowboy players as they walked into the arena on Tuesday, their good friends down the road at DNVRSports, which covers Colorado State athletics, recorded it and posted it for the rest of the world to see.

A number to know: 7

The Lobos have now won seven of the last 10 games they’ve played against ranked opponents visiting the Pit.

Here’s the list of the past 10 times a nationally-ranked team has played in the Pit:

• Tuesday: UNM 75, No. 22 Wyoming 66
• Jan. 29, 2020: No. 4 San Diego State 85, UNM 57
• Jan. 5, 2019: UNM 85, No. 6 Nevada 58
• Dec. 17, 2017: No. 23 Arizona 89, UNM 73
• Jan. 3, 2015: UNM 68, No. 24 Colorado State 53
• Feb. 22, 2014: UNM 58, No. 6 San Diego State 44
• Jan. 9, 2013: UNM 65, No. 24 UNLV 60
• Feb. 18, 2012: UNM 65, No. 11 UNLV 45
• Jan. 18, 2012: No. 16 San Diego State 75, UNM 70
• Jan. 29, 2011: UNM 86, No. 9 BYU 77

Speaking of celebrations…

It was one thing for the long-suffering Lobo fans, the ones who did show up, to let some frustrations out Tuesday night in the Pit with some rushing the court after the win.

But let’s not forget the actual players who have been losing and taking all the heat this season in the rebuild also just picked up their first win over a ranked team in the Richard Pitino era.

So, here’s what their locker rook looked like after the win:

And the social media team at UNM had some fun, too, tapping into its Toy Story bag of tricks for a postgame graphic to illustrate a win over the Cowboys:

Sebastian Forsling appreciation

Sebastian Forsling, the 7-foot freshman from Sweden, wasn’t exactly thrilled with his performance in Laramie on Jan. 22 when Wyoming’s Graham Ike finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and hit 11-of-13 free throws.

Obviously it wasn’t all on Forsling, but as the starting center, he felt a lot of guilt about not doing a better job of slowing Ike down that game.

“For me, everything was just about me and him,” Forsling said. “Last game, I was kind of struggling to keep him from scoring. This time, it was more about pride. It was more about myself — what I needed to do. Of course it’s about the team, but I wanted me to feel better.”

I’d say he accomplished that, easily playing like the Lobos’ first half MVP. With Forsling doing the heavy lifting in the 12:43 he played in the first half, Ike was held to 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting with 2 turnovers and didn’t draw a foul.

And Forsling had three blocked shots and handled a lot (not all) of the defense one-on-one, allowing the Lobos not to have to double-team every time Ike touched the ball, which creates so many open looks for other Cowboys.

Forsling’s final stat line was an otherwise unimpressive 0 points, 2 rebounds, 3 blocks and he fouled out with 7 minutes left in the game.

Ike went off in the second half, scoring 24 of his 26 points in the final 20 minutes and drawing seven fouls — some of that damage was against Forsling, but mostly as Forsling was on the bench.

But it was how Forsling got the Lobos through a half of the game without Ike getting going in the post or at the free throw line that seemed to set the tone. When he took over in the second half, no other Wyoming player seemed involved.

In fact, the second half scoring for Wyoming looked like this:

• 24 points – Graham Ike
• 5 points – Hunter Maldonado
• 4 points – Jeremiah Oden

That’s it. Only three players scored for Wyoming in the second half.

He said it (or tweeted it)

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein tweeted this Tuesday night:

Saquan/Hunter, Hunter/Saquan…

Another Lobo with a stat line that won’t wow you but who had a huge contribution to the win was senior Saquan Singleton, who was injured and didn’t play in the 2-point loss in Laramie on Jan. 22.

The 6-foot-6 guard finished with just 5 points and 2 rebounds in 18:50, but did two things that the Lobos maybe don’t win without.

First was long before game time. Singleton played Hunter Maldonado all week in practice, simulating the backdown post up game and versatile style of play for the 6-7 Maldonado.

“They’re really hard to guard,” Pitino said. “I think having ‘Sae’ helped, because we didn’t have in the first game. Putting him on Maldonado and not having to scramble, which is really unsettling for a coach when you run all over the place, but I thought our prep leading up to (the game) was really good. I thought our coaching staff did a great job and we did a good job of simulating what it is they try to do.”

So Singleton first helped set up the Lobos entire defense by a good week in practice of simulating Maldonado, but then in his 18:50 on the court on Tuesday, he did a good job of defending Maldonado himself, too.

The Lobos were at plus-10 in his time on the floor and the Cowboys were at minus-9 in Maldonado’s time on the court (he played all 40 minutes).

Maldonado, one of the frontrunners for Mountain West Player of the Year, finished with the following stat line:

• Points: 9
• 2FG: 2-11
• 3FG: 0-1
• FTs: 5-8
• Rebounds: 5
• Assists: 4
• Turnovers: 8

Attendance

The announced attendance for Tuesday’s game in the Pit: 8,208

Another number to know: 1

Wyoming outscored UNM by 1 at the free throw line on Tuesday.

Wyoming was 14-of-19 at the charity stripe to UNM’s 13-of-18 at the line.

That’s a HUGE difference from the Jan. 22 meeting in which Wyoming outscored the Lobos at the free throw line 27 to 9.

In 12 Mountain West Conference games, the Wyoming Cowboys have made as many or more free throws than their opponent even attempted in 9 of 12 games.

Tuesday was one of the only three times that didn’t happen this season.

One for the archives…

The last time a ranked Wyoming team played in the Pit was in January 1988 when Fennis Dembo was leading the No. 5 Cowboys.

The Lobos beat that No. 5 Wyoming squad, and on Tuesday night in the crowd of mostly students who rushed the court in celebration after the game, one fan had a print out of the 1988 Albuquerque Journal sports section covering that big Lobos win, including a column from Rick Wright, who still works at the Journal and was in the office on desk duty on Tuesday night.

Streak buster…

The Lobos trailed Wyoming 33-30 at halftime on Tuesday and, obviously, came back to win.

With the assist here to UNM Sports Information Director Steve Kirkland, Tuesday ended a 30-game losing streak for the Lobos when trailing at the half.

The last time they trailed at halftime and won the game was Dec. 22, 1999, in a game against Houston Baptist.

Lobo fans might also remember that game for some other notable news.

That night, the 11-2 Lobos announced just prior to the Houston Baptist game that point guard J.J. Caldwell and center Carlton Bragg would be suspended while UNM’s Title IX office was investigating allegations against them from offseason incidents — neither of which ever resulted in criminal charges.

Caldwell never played again and Bragg returned briefly only to later be dismissed after a DUI charge. After starting that season 11-2 with those two in the starting lineup, the Lobos ended the season with a 19-14 record and went 7-11 in Mountain West play.

House call

Jaelen House’s last four Mountain West games:

• vs. Wyoming: 34 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds
• vs. Air Force: 42 points, 2 assists, 8 rebounds
• vs. San Diego State: 3 points, 0 assists, 2 rebounds
• vs. San Jose State: 18 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds

Three out of four ain’t bad.

Video: Pitino, House, Forsling

Here’s the video I put together of Richard Pitino, Jaelen House and Sebastian Forsling talking to reporters after Tuesday’s game:

Plus/minus

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

UNM
+14 Jay Allen-Tovar (33:38)
+10 Saquan Singleton (18:50)
+9 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (37:42)
+8 Jaelen House (36:55)
+5 K.J. Jenkins (19:45)
+1 Javonte Johnson (30:17)
+1 Sebastian Forsling (16:48)
-1 Taryn Todd (1:15)
-2 Jordan Arroyo (4:50)

WYOMING
+4 Hunter Thomson (7:58)
+3 Noah Reynolds (4:35)
-3 Xavier DuSell (12:40)
-8 Brendan Wenzel (32:42)
-9 Hunter Maldonado (40:00)
-9 Drake Jeffries (40:00)
-10 Jeremiah Oden (30:03)
-13 Graham Ike (32:02)

Line ’em up

The Lobos used 12 unique lineups on Tuesday night and the Wyoming Cowboys used just seven lineup combinations.

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

STARTING LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Johnson/Allen-Tovar/Forsling
• Point differential: -1 (19-20)
• Time on court: 11:30
• NOTE: UNM’s starters played more than 25% of the game and it was pretty much even (they were outscored by one point).

But I want to use this little bit of space to point out the numbers for Wyoming’s starting five — a unit that was on the floor together more than half of the game (20:44). That group of five — the starting five for the Mountain West Conference leading Wyoming Cowboys — was outscored 44-33 — by the Lobos on Tuesday night and was held to 0.8721 points per possession.

For those who follow the Wyoming Cowboys and how efficient and disciplined their starting five has been this season, these numbers are quite remarkable.

BEST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Jenkins/Singleton/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +6 (12-6)
• Time on court: 4:03
• NOTE: This unit, even with Saquan Singleton on the floor who gets a lot of heat for his shooting problems and how that helps opposing teams be able to crowd the paint and play off him, actually scored a very impressive 1.8072 points per possession.

WORST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Jenkins/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: -2 (12-14)
• Time on court: 4:10
• NOTE: This group scored just fine, posting a nice 1.5464 points per possession clip. But they also allowed 14 points over that same span — another reminder that the Lobos defense is still a ways away. Spread out over a 40 minute game, that’d be like allowing about 140 points.

Meanwhile, in San Diego…

The Aztecs had been eagerly waiting three weeks for their rematch with Utah State after an 18-point road loss in Logan, Utah, on Jan. 26.

They returned the favor Tuesday, handing the Utah State Aggies a 19-point loss, 75-56:

Around the Mountain

There were three games around the Mountain (West) on Tuesday. Here’s a look at those results and the schedule for the next couple days…

TUESDAY
• New Mexico 75, No. 22 Wyoming 66
• San Diego State 75, Utah State 56
• Nevada 81, San Jose State 72

WEDNESDAY
• Boise State at Air Force, 8 p.m. MT (FS1)
• UNLV at Fresno State, 7:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

THURSDAY
• Colorado State at New Mexico, 7 p.m. MT (TheMW.com)
• Nevada at San Jose State, 9 p.m. PT/10 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

Mountain West standings

Here are the Mountain West standings through Tuesday’s games:

10-2 Boise State
10-2 Wyoming
10-3 Colorado State
8-3 San Diego State
6-5 Fresno State

Top 5 get bye into MWC Tournament quarterfinals

6-6 UNLV
6-8 Utah State
5-8 Nevada
3-8 New Mexico
3-9 Air Force
0-13 San Jose State

Stats and stats

The postgame stat sheet I took a picture of and posted after the game had some errors in the shooting percentages, so the picture here reflects those errors. The link to the digital stats will have the correct percentages. All the points and other stats are correct, though.

Tuesday’s postgame stat sheet: UNM 75, Wyoming 66

And here is the digital version of Tuesday’s postgame stats: UNM 75, Wyoming 66

Grammer’s Guesses…

I did it. I pulled off the perfect night in picking games.

The Guesses were perfect in going 0-for-3, dropping me to a sad, sad 29-36-2 on the season.

My daughter’s coin flip picks went 2-1 and she’s pulled close to me at 28-37-1 on the season.

Up next…

Things don’t get easier for the Lobos. Just about 46 hours after Tuesday’s court storm after beating the league-leading Wyoming Cowboys, the Lobos will be taking the court in the Pit again, this time against the preseason league favorite Colorado State Rams.

The game is at 7 p.m., will be streamed on TheMW.com.

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: This time, Lobos close the deal on Pokes


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