Emptying the Notebook: Another frustrating February for Lobos? - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Another frustrating February for Lobos?

The Provident Credit Union Event Center on the campus of San Jose State University on Jan. 1, 2020. (File photo by Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats and other tid bits I emptied out of the old notebook after Sunday’s 71-55 Lobos loss to the San Jose State Spartans in the Provident Events Center on the campus of San Jose State University:

Frustrating February?

After a 1-7 month of January, the Lobos have now gone 3-2 so far in February (2-2 in Mountain West games, 1-0 in nonconference games).

But on Sunday, the way the Lobos looked down the stretch in their 71-55 loss to a previously winless San Jose State, was troubling considering UNM is in a six-game stretch over the final 13 days of the month with little time to rest.

“Just all around, I thought it was disappointing,” Lobo coach Richard Pitino said of Sunday’s performance, and added as he did after Thursday’s Colorado State game that energy just seems to be off a bit with his team. “We’re kind of in the dog days of February right now, and we look like it.”

February has certainly been a weirdly-scheduled month for UNM, thanks to the Mountain West Conference.

The league did UNM no favors when it reshuffled previously postponed games around the conference, but somehow left UNM with only one game scheduled over the first 14 days of the month while all 10 other MWC teams had either four or five.

UNM did add a nonconference game on Feb. 11 vs. NAIA Northern New Mexico College, but it was hardly the same level of competition as conference play and was just a weird time for a non-league game.

UNM went from one league game Feb. 1-14 to now having six league games Feb. 15-28. Sunday was supposed to be the easiest in the stretch, at least looking at records. But it was rather concering if you’re a Lobo fan to see the energy and effort, or lack of, down the stretch on Sunday.

Sure UNM beat nationally-ranked Wyoming last Tuesday and even led Colorado State at halftime on Thursday, but the legs looked tired in the second half vs. the Rams and they shot just 30.8% from the field while CSU win by 15.

Sunday at SJSU, the Lobos’ legs, r focus in general, never looked ready. UNM shot just 28.6% in the first half. And while there was some good offense for UNM in the first part of the second half, the Lobos never looked very locked in on defense. UNM closed the game hitting only two if their final 12 shots from the field over the final 9 minutes while the Spartans won going away.

So, despite what seemed like some positive momentum with the team winning four of five games, they are now just 2-2 in Mountain West games this month with a tougher road ahead.

And history isn’t exactly on their side.

In the past 8 seasons — the same eight seasons since the last NCAA Tournament berth for the program in 2014 — the month of February has been brutal to the Lobos.

Both Craig Neal and Paul Weir only had one winning February in their respective four-year UNM coaching careers — the first season for both followed by three losing records each in February.

And for Neal, there was even that brutal 0-for-8 February in 2015 after entering the month 6-3 in Mountain West play.

LOBOS MWC RECORDS IN FEBRUARY

(Richard Pitino era)
• 2022: 2-2* (.500)

(Paul Weir era)
• 2021: 1-3
• 2020: 2-6
• 2019: 2-5
• 2018: 5-2

• TOTAL: 10-16 (.385)

(Craig Neal era)
• 2017: 3-4
• 2016: 3-5
• 2015: 0-8
• 2014: 6-1**

• TOTAL: 12-18 (.400)

* Does NOT include the Feb. 11 nonconference win over NAIA Northern New Mexico
** Last NCAA Tournament team at UNM

This season’s Lobos rest of February schedule looks like this:

• Tuesday at Utah State
• Saturday vs. Air Force
• Feb. 28 at Fresno State

The gamer…

Here was the gamer I filed Sunday afternoon after the Lobos loss:

A number to know: 28.6

The Lobos shot 28.6% in the first half of Sunday’s loss at San Jose State on 8-of-28 shooting. It was just the third half in 13 Mountain West Conference games (26 halves) in which the Lobos were held under 30% shooting for a half.

Still, despite the horrible shooting, they were tied 25-25 at the break. In the team’s other horrible shooting halves, the opposing team built large advantages. Sunday, the poor shooting half wasn’t the problem for the Lobos as much as their horrible defense in the second half.

Still, a better first half could have changed a lot.

Here’s a look at the three times UNM has been held under 30.0% shooting in a half in league play and what the score of that half ended up being:

• 28.0% – 2nd half at UNLV (Jan. 11)
> UNLV 45, UNM 26

• 28.6% – 1st half at San Jose State (Sunday)
> SJSU 25, UNM 25

• 29.6% – 2nd half at San Diego State (Jan. 31)
> SDSU 36, UNM 25

The Lobos on Sunday started the game hitting 1 of 11 shots and later ended the game hitting just 2 of their final 12 shots.

In between, was better, of course, but teams don’t often win games with 3-of-23 shooting stretches like UNM managed if you combine their start with their finish.

He said it…

As bad as the first half offense was, the second half Lobos defense was nothing short of embarrassing for the team and head coach Richard Pitino.

Here’s what Pitino told me after the game:

“In the second half we just we did not compete at the level that we need to compete at to beat anybody in this league. And you know, I think San Jose — I think coach (Tim) Miles is getting them playing the right way. And we just we just did not compete at the level we need to compete at.”

Homecoming for JAT…

With family and friends in the stands, Jay Allen-Tovar did manage a solid offensive game on Sunday in his hometown, where he went to high school just about few mies away from the Provident Events Center.

His defense, or the defense of any Lobo on Sunday, was pretty bad, but he did score 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field (5-of-9 on 2s, 0-of-2 on 3s). It was his fifth-consecutive game scoring in double figures and eighth in the past nine games after reaching double figure scoring in just four of the Lobos’ first 18 games.

Triple-double trouble

SJSU’s 6-6 guard Omari Moore went off for the Spartans on Sunday, and has sort of been building to this for a few years now against the Lobos.

Take a look:

• March 4, 2020: As a freshman, Moore scored 17 points in a Mountain West Tournament loss to the Lobos, though had just four rebounds and three assists.
• Jan. 23, 2021: In a game played at Dixie State University against the Lobos, Moore had his first double-double vs. UNM with 14 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out five assists.
• Jan. 28, 2022: In their first meeting this season in the Pit, Moore filled the stat sheet again with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
• Sunday: Moore did it all with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Moore is one of 19 Division I players to have recorded a triple-double this season (one of them, Auburn’s 7-foot-1 post star Walker Kessler, has had two of them in the Tigers’ 27 games).

Air Force freshman Ethan Taylor is the other Mountain West player to have a triple-double this season, having posted his 14 point, 10 rebound, 10 assist triple-double in a Jan. 15 home loss to Nevada.

In the 23-year history of the Mountain West, there have been seven players post a triple-double with this season being the first time it’s happened twice, interestingly from players on the two last place teams.

Here are the seven triple doubles posted by Mountain West players (league started in the 1999-2000 season):

MOUNTAIN WEST TRIPLE DOUBLES

• Omari Moore, San Jose State, vs. UNM (Sunday)
> 18 points
> 10 rebounds
> 10 assists

• Ethan Taylor, Air Force, vs. Nevada (Jan. 15, 2022)
> 14 points
> 10 rebounds
> 10 assists

• Marvin Coleman, UNLV, vs. UNM (Jan. 18, 2020)
> 11 points
> 12 rebounds
> 11 assists

• Winston Shepard, San Diego State, vs. IPFW (March 15, 2016)
> 10 points
> 10 rebounds
> 12 assists

• Jalen James, San Jose State, at Houston (Dec. 7, 2013)
> 12 points
> 13 rebounds
> 10 assists

• Justin Williams, Wyoming, vs. Utah (March 10, 2006)
> 10 points
> 15 rebounds
> 12 blocks

• Mark Dickel, UNLV, vs. Miss. Valley State (Sunday)
> 18 points
> 10 rebounds
> 10 assists

What about the Lobos?

If you’re wondering, the Lobos have had just two triple-doubles in program history, with both coming in the same season by the same player.

UNM ALL-TIME TRIPLE DOUBLES

• Luc Longley vs. Penn State (March 28, 1990)*
> 17 points
> 14 rebounds
> 10 assists
* This game was in the NIT.

• Luc Longley vs. Hardin-Simmons (Nov. 24, 1989)
> 23 points
> 15 rebounds
> 10 blocks

House rules…

With his dad, former NBA champion Eddie House, serving as analyst for the CBS Sports Network call of the game on Sunday, Jaelen House had a rough game.

On the one hand, it’s not like any other Lobo was exactly doing well on offense, so how much trouble would UNM have been in if not for him at least scoring his 14 points and getting to the free through line six times (he hit all six at the charity stripe, something he’s doing with regularity of late, but more on that later).

But for the game, House shot 3-of-15 and had just one assist and four turnovers.

Sunday and the second half of Thursday’s loss to CSU were bad shooting runs for House, but he’s still on a crazy tear over the past four Mountain West games.

JAELEN HOUSE PAST 4 MWC GAMES
• Points: 25.8 ppg
• 2FG: 22-44 (50.0%)
• 3FG: 11-26 (42.3%)
• FTS: 26-27 (96.3%)
• Rebounds: 18 (4.5/game)
• Assists: 11 (2.3/game)
• Turnovers: 22 (5.5/game)
• Steals: 14 (3.5/game)

Three-way free throw race

As mentioned above, House has hit 26-of-27 free throws in his last four league games. So it’s not all that surprising that he’s in the mix for the free throw shooting crown this season — one that’ll be fun to watch over the next two weeks.

As we hit the home stretch of the Mountain West season three point guards — House along with Colorado State’s Isaiah Stevens and Nevada’s Grant Sherfield — are all hitting FTs a very high rate.

MOUNTAIN WEST GAMES FT%
1. Isaiah Stevens, CSU — 90.9% (50-55)
2. Jaelen House, UNM — 90.2% (55-61)
3. Grant Sherfield, Nevada — 88.9% (48-54)

OVERALL SEASON FT%
1. Isaiah Stevens, CSU — 89.3% (75-84)
2. Jaelen House, UNM — 87.5% (112-128)
3. Grant Sherfield, Nevada — 88.9% (88-101)

Among those In both the conference and the overall season stats, there is only one other player in the entire league even hitting better than 80% of his free throws — SDSU’s Matt Bradley (82.0% in league games and 80.4% overall this season).

Also, Fresno State’s Anthony Holland is shooting 90.3% from the FT line in league games, but at just 28-of-31, he hasn’t attempted enough FTs per game to qualify to be included among the league leaders. To qualify, one must average 2.5 made FTs per game. Holland is at 2.3.

Familiar face…

San Jose State’s Majok Kuath got his first start of the season for the Spartans (it was just his fifth game played after not being available until February). But even though he hasn’t played much this season, a pair of Lobos already knew him well.

Kuath was a high school teammate of Lobo Emmanuel Kuac (see tweet below) and a junior college teammate of Saquan Singleton in Kansas.

A bad trend…

Sunday’s Lobo loss marked the fourth consecutive season the Spartans picked up their first Mountain West win of the season by beating UNM, and it was also the third time in a row they’ve beat the Lobos in their home gym. It was also the second time they were 0-14 when they finally got their first league win thanks to the Lobos.

A look at four years of getting win No. 1 against the Lobos:

2021-22 season
• SJSU league record before 1st win: 0-14
• Beat UNM for first win: 71-55 on Sunday (San Jose)
• How the Spartans finished: TBD

2020-21 season
• SJSU league record before 1st win: 0-9
• Beat UNM for first win: 83-71 on Jan. 23, 2021 (St. George, Utah)
• How the Spartans finished: 3-13

2019-20 season
• SJSU league record before 1st win: 0-2
• Beat UNM for first win: 88-85 on Jan. 1, 2020 (San Jose)
• How the Spartans finished: 3-15

2018-19 season
• SJSU league record before 1st win: 0-14
• Beat UNM for first win: 89-82 on Feb. 26, 2019 (San Jose)
• How the Spartans finished: 1-17

Second time through…

The Lobos have now played three Mountain West teams a second time this season:

• Wyoming game 1: Lost 93-91 in Laramie (-2)
• Wyoming game 2: Won 75-66 in the Pit (+9)

• Colorado State game 1: Lost 80-74 in Fort Collins (-6)
• Colorado State game 2: Lost 83-68 in the Pit (-15)

• San Jose State game 1: Won 86-70 in the Pit (+16)
• San Jose State game 2: Lost 71-55 in San Jose (-16)

Plus/minus…

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

UNM

-1 Taryn Todd (4:55)
-2 Birima Seck (1:14)
-3 Sebastian Forsling (15:08)
-5 Saquan Singleton (28:11)
-10 Jaelen House (35:13)
-12 Javonte Johnson (26:01)
-12 Jay Allen-Tovar (27:52)
-16 K.J. Jenkins (25:47)
-19 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (35:39)

SJSU

+27 Shon Robinson (18:42)
+19 Trey Anderson (29:24)
+16 Tibet Gorener (40:00)
+13 Omari Moore (36:13)
+13 Alvaro Cardenas (30:45)
+1 Josh O’Garro (1:51)
-1 Makoj Kuath (18:06)
-3 Ibrahima Diallo (17:50)
-5 Caleb Simmons (7:09)

Line ’em up…

San Jose State used 17 unique lineup combinations on Sunday and the Lobos used 13.

Here’s a look at how some of the lineup combinations performed, starting with the starters:

STARTING LINEUP / WORST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Jenkins/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: -9 (7-16)
• Time on court: 7:52
• NOTE: As I’ve written in this spot in other games, when your starting lineup is also your worst statistical lineup, you’re in trouble.

Sunday, the Lobo starters scored just 0.89 points per minute on the floor together. What’s troubling about that was Richard Pitino started this group of five that included guard K.J. Jenkins instead of 7-footer Sebastian Forsling in part because it was supposed to put up points. That’s an offense-minded group, not one put on the floor for its defense with Jay Allen-Tovar playing the ‘5’ and with three 6-2 or shorter guards each defending taller players.

This unit played the first 4:22 of the game together and was outscored 7-2. To open the second half, the starters were on the floor for 3:30 and were outscored 9-5.

The starters had only one assist in nearly eight minutes on the court together — a Jaelen House assist finding K.J. Jenkins for a 3-pointer to open the second half scoring and give UNM a 28-25 lead.

BEST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +1 (12-11)
• Time on court: 8:58
• NOTE: Swapping the 6-foot-6 Saquan Singleton for the 6-2 K.J. Jenkins brought more steady play for the Lobos, and that’s not a knock on Jenkins as much as it is a reality that a team as long as San Jose State (ranked 51st out of 358 Division I teams in average roster height) simply gives the Lobos trouble when they try to play the three guards together (House/Mashburn/Jenkins).

Singleton is versatile and while he still is going through some very clear shooting struggles, he defends well and can post up and get to the rim.

WORST LINEUP
• Covered above in the starting lineup section

The scoring runs…

There were really just three significant scoring runs in Sunday’s game — one for the Lobos early that appeared to indicate they had shook off a bad start, then one early in the second half for San Jose State.

But the back breaker for the Lobos was the one over the final 8:57 of the game.

Here’s a look at the three significant scoring runs from the game:

• UNM 10-0 (11:33 1H – 7:45 1H): The Lobos went from trailing 11-7 to leading 17-1
• SJSU 11-2 (19:12 2H – 16:09 2H): The Spartans went from trailing 28-25 to leading 36-30
• SJSU 18-6 (8:57 2H – end of game): The Spartans closed the door on the Lobos with the final stretch that saw them extend a four-point lead at 53-49 to the final margin of 71-55.

Around the Mountain…

There were five games this weekend around the Mountain (West) with a lot of interesting jockeying for conference tournament seeding position going on. Here’s a look at the weekend’s results and some of the games ahead this week:

SATURDAY
• Wyoming 75, Air Force 67
• Boise State 68, Utah State 57
• UNLV 72, Colorado State 51
• San Diego State 61, Fresno State 44

SUNDAY
• San Jose State 71, New Mexico 55

TUESDAY
• Fresno State at Air Force, 7 p.m. MT (TheMW)
• San Diego State at Boise State, 7 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)
• New Mexico at Utah State, 8 p.m. MT (FS1)
• UNV at Nevada, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

WEDNESDAY
• Wyoming at Colorado State, 7 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

Mountain West standings…

Through Sunday’s games, here’s how the Mountain West standings are shaping up:

12-2 Boise State
11-2 Wyoming
9-3 San Diego State
11-4 Colorado State
8-6 UNLV
6-7 Fresno State
6-8 Nevada
6-9 Utah State
3-10 New Mexico
3-11 Air Force
1-14 San Jose State

Planting a seed…

If the Mountain West Tournament started today, well that’d be weird. But with just two weeks of the regular season remaining before this year’s tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., let’s take a look at what the tournament bracket would look like if it were starting today with the current standings listed above.

Remember, not all teams will be playing their full 18 game schedules this year, so win percentage is what’s to look at for seeding.

DAY 1 (Wednesday, March 9)
• No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 New Mexico
• No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 10 Air Force
• No. 6 Fresno State vs. No. 11 San Jose State

QUARTERFINALS (Thursday, March 10)
• No. 1 Boise State vs. winner 8 USU/9 UNM
• No. 3 San Diego State vs. winner 6 FS/11 SJSU

No. 2 Wyoming vs. winner 7 Nev/10 AFA
No. 4 Colorado State vs. No. 5 UNLV

NOTE: What’s fascinating to me about this set up is that CSU, a team I think overall is still the best in the conference, and looked that part in the second half in the Pit on Thursday, was destroyed by UNLV on Saturday and fell to 11-4 in league play. That dropped the Rams behind now-third place San Diego State due to win percentage.

If the current projection holds true, CSU would have to play UNLV — a team that swept the Rams in convincing fashion this season — and would be doing so in UNLV’s home arena.

There is still a lot of shuffling to happen between today and the tournament, but how crazy would that matchup be?

Stats and stats…

Here is the final stat sheet I tweeted out after Sunday’s game: San Jose State 71, New Mexico 55

And for the digital version of the stats, here you go: San Jose State 71, New Mexico 55

Grammer’s Guesses…

Welp, count me among those who thought the Lobos had a shot to go on a little bit of a run and didn’t see Sunday’s result coming at all.

The Guesses dropped on on Sunday and my daughter’s coin flip picks have passed me in the standings for the first time in quite awhile.

I’m at 32-42-2 and she’s at 33-41-2.

Can these stupid picks end already?!

Up next…

No rest for the weary. The Lobos hit another flight on Monday to Utah where they play the Utah State Aggies on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in a game that will be televised on FS1.

The Lobos lost to Utah State in overtime in the Pit on Jan. 8 in a game they held a 17-point lead at one point on the Aggies in the first of two games Pitino missed due to testing positive for COVID-19.

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