Emptying the Notebook: Where'd the Lobos' fight go? - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Where’d the Lobos’ fight go?

Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah, on Feb. 22, 2022. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

LOGAN, Utah — Here are a few extra notes, quotes, videos, stats, tid bits, or whatever else I managed to empty out of the old notebook after the Lobos’ 81-56 loss at Utah State on Tuesday night:

Where’s the fight?

This Lobos team fights. They play hard. They compete.

Well, at least they used to.

Before this two-game road trip for the Lobos, effort wasn’t the big concern. Now, it’s hard to know if these Lobos want to play out these last couple weeks of the season with the same fight they showed much of the season as an undermanned, undersized team that still was in most games, or if they simply just want the season to end.

Sure, they were losing a lot of games this season, but they were playing hard. They were competing. And no matter how much some fans don’t want to hear it, they were doing all that while being down three centers who they started the fall semester thinking they’d have playing right now.

Sure, there had been a couple of duds. In Mountain West play specifically, there was the 29-point loss at UNLV on Jan. 11 and the 25-point loss at San Diego State.

But they were also in a lot of games they had no business being in but were because of effort (and some hot-shooting guards never hurt).

Then came Sunday’s loss to San Jose State — the first conference win of the year for a Spartans team that was 0-14 previously.

After his Lobos gave up 74.1% shooting in the second half, I asked Richard Pitino the dreaded “have they quit” question?

“I’ll never say they quit. I think we were frustrated. I think we weren’t good across the board. We just weren’t,” Pitino told me. “… You’ve asked me that before. I’ll never say they quit. We just have to have a maturity to us to where we can fight through and win games in a variety of ways.”

Then came Tuesday.

The Lobos watched the Aggies start 8-for-8 from the field and 10-of-13 to start the second half.

Effort, again, wasn’t exactly evident. Not on defense anyway. And focus seems to be MIA in executing scouting reports, or maybe in even earning them in the days before games.

“For the majority of the season, we’ve been competing. We have totally lost that,” Pitino said in a courtside interview with the Journal after Tuesday’s game. “Even Colorado State (last Thursday’s 83-68 loss in the Pit), I think we competed. We just ran out of gas.

“San Jose State and this game, we did not compete at the level to even give ourselves a chance. … I thought that we had established enough of our culture that when you play for New Mexico — we may not be the biggest, we may not have the most depth, but we’re going to compete. We have lost that the last two games, and it’s very, very disappointing.”

Junior guard K.J. Jenkins, as he has done after all the team’s worse losses (UNLV, San Diego State, Utah State to name three) took the postgame heat by handling some media duties and talked to me courtside after the game about what’s going on with his team.

“I think it’s just — it’s a lot of the things,” said Jenkins. “But at the end of the day, we just have to look at each other, understand we’re a family. We’ve got to have each other’s back.”

It’s worth noting on Jenkins that he seems to be at his best in games where his teammates are folding around him.

In UNM’s 29-point loss at UNLV, he came off the bench and scored a career-high 26 points. After the game he told me there weren’t enough guys on the team who hated losing as much as they should.

In UNM’s 25-point loss at San Diego State, he came off the bench to score a team-best 16 points and grab 9 rebounds. After the game, he said the Lobos got a crash course on what a championship-level team looks like.

In Tuesday’s 25-point loss at Utah State, it was just 12 points in 24 minutes off the bench, but that was just one-point off the team lead.

After Tuesday’s game, among other things, I asked him if whatever is happening to the Lobos is fixable with just thee games and a week and a half remaining in the regular season before the Mountain West Tournament.

“Everything’s fixable,” he said. “Everything. You breathe oxygen. You lace ’em up the same way. It’s fair game, you know what I mean? (We) just got to get back home, look at the film, continue to work, show up. We can still make a run at this.”

By the way, you should really watch his portion of the video I posted below from the postgame interviews.

The gamer…

Here is the gamer I filed courtside from the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah, late Tuesday night…

A number to know: 30

The Lobos shot 30.0% from the free throw line on Tuesday night (3-of-10), the second lowest of the KenPom era for UNM (KenPom.com started tracking such things in the 2001-02 season).

And the percentage isn’t the only troubling part of it. What’s more troubling for the Lobos was they only took 10 free throws and only scored 3 points (5.4%) of their points at the line.

UNM averages 19.0% of its scoring from the free throw line (the national average is 17.8%).

As for where that 3-of-10 (30%) night at the free throw line ranks in the past 20 years of Lobo basketball…

10 worst FT% games since 2001-02
• 0.0% (0-5) at Texas Tech (Jan. 1, 2007)
• 30.0% (3-10) at Utah State (Tuesday)
• 33.3% (5-15) vs. Stanford (Nov. 17, 2001)
• 33.3% (3-9) at Air Force (Jan. 9, 2007)
• 35.7% (5-14) vs. Boise State (Jan. 15, 2022)
• 37.5% (6-16) at Colorado (Dec. 6, 2017)
• 40.0% (6-15) vs. Wyoming (Feb. 15, 2006)
• 40.0% (4-10) vs. Pepperdine (Dec. 29, 2002)
• 41.2% (7-17) vs. Washington (March20, 2010)
• 41.2% (7-17) at Utah (Feb. 23, 2004)
NOTE: Credit KenPom.com for compiling the list above.

What’s sort of crazy to me is that two of the worst 10 FT% games in two decades have happened in the past month, and this is actually a solid free throw shooting team overall at 73.8% (the national average for Division I is 71.6%).

Where’d the points go?

The Lobos scored 87 in Game 1 against Utah State on Jan. 8. That was an overtime game, but in regulation, they still had 76 points. So there was a drop off of 20 points from game 1 to game 2.

Where’d the points go?

JAMAL MASHBURN JR.
• Game 1: 29 points (8-17 FG; 9-12 FT)
• Game 2: 13 points (5-15 FG; 2-4 FT)
• Net pts lost: minus-16
• NOTE: Hard to blame Mashburn much here. Career-high in one game, team-high in the next when nobody else was playing well. But it was a drop off.

Said Utah State coach Ryan Odom: “I thought our guys were very attentive to Mashburn. He’s a really tough player; he’s a great pull-up player”

JAVONTE JOHNSON
• Game 1: 23 points (8-12 FG; 7-9 3FG)
• Game 2: 3 points (1-3 FG; 1-1 3FG)
• Net pts lost: minus-20
• NOTE: It’s been written a lot at this point. Some games Johnson scores a lot. Some he doesn’t. His point totals in the last six Mountain West games: 3, 6, 0, 7, 0, 3.

FREE THROWS
• Game 1: 12 points off FTs (12-17)
• Game 2: 3 points off FTs (3-10)
• Net pts lost: minus-9
• NOTE: This was broken down higher in the article.

On the flip side, Jay Allen-Tovar extended his streak of scoring in double figures to seven with 11 points on Tuesday after scoring just 2 in the Jan. 8 overtime game. That’s a plus-9 for the Lobos from Game 1 to Game 2.

Rematch blues…

UNM has now had five rematches this season, four in Mountain West play.

Here’s how they did in each:

NEW MEXICO STATE
• Game 1: W, 101-94 in Las Cruces (Nov. 30)
• Game 2: L, 78-76 (OT) in Abq. (Dec. 6)
Nonconference, and an unusual turnaround from Game 1 to Game 2 of less than a week

WYOMING
• Game 1: L, 93-91 in Laramie (Jan. 22)
• Game 2: W, 75-66 in Abq. (Feb. 15)

COLORADO STATE
• Game 1: L, 80-74 in Fort Collins (Jan. 19)
• Game 2: L, 83-68 in Abq. (Feb. 17)

SAN JOSE STATE
• Game 1: W, 86-70 in Abq. (Jan. 28)
• Game 2: L, 71-55 in San Jose (Feb. 20)

UTAH STATE
• Game 1: L, 90-87 (OT) in Abq. (Jan. 8)
• Game 2: L, 81-56 in Logan (Feb. 22)

Maybe they need more turnovers?

The Lobos turned the ball over just eight times in Tuesday’s 25-point loss.

Sunday at San Jose State, it was nine turnovers in a 16-point loss.

In last week’s win over a ranked Wyoming team, they had 16 turnovers and won by 9.

So, it’s clear. They need to turn it over more.

You’re welcome, Lobo Nation.

Well, shoot…

When it comes to shooting, Utah State was good at it on Tuesday. The Lobos were not. And that makes two games in a row that’s been the case.

Here’s a look at the stat system’s shot log about 5 minutes into the game when it was already 20-7, Aggies up.

Some highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) of the shooting for both teams from Tuesday’s game:

UNM
• Overall: 24-66 (36.4%)
• 2FG: 19-49 (38.8%)
• 3FG: 5-17 (29.4%)
• FTs: 3-10 (30.0%)
• Hot streak: 6-of-8 early in 2nd half
• Cold streak: In both halves, the Lobos had a stretch of missing five consecutive shots.

UTAH STATE
• Overall: 32-61 (52.5%)
• 2FG: 24-39 (61.5%)
• 3FG: 8-22 (36.4%)
• FTs: 9-10 (90.0%)
• Hot streak: Pick anyone you want. USU opened the game hitting its first 8 shots, had a stretch later of 6 in a row that was part of the Aggies opening the second half hitting 10 of the first 13 shots.
• Cold streak: With the deep bench in the game, the Aggies did, at one point, miss six consecutive shots from the 3:26 mark down the the 1:35 mark.

Half the story…

The 21 points the Lobos scored in the first half on Tuesday was the lowest scoring half of the season for the team.

The Lobos have played 28 games and 56 halves this season. They’ve been held under 30 points 10 times.

Three of them have been in the past five halves they’ve played.

Here are the 10 halves the Lobos have been held under 30 points this season, listed from lowest to highest:

• 21 — 1st half at Utah State (Tuesday)
• 22 — 1st half at San Diego State (Jan. 31)
• 22 — 1st half vs. Boise State (Jan. 15)
• 25 — 1st half at San Jose State (Sunday)
• 25 — 2nd half at San Diego State (Jan. 31)
• 26 — 2nd half vs. Colorado State (Thursday)
• 26 — 1st half vs. Fresno State (Jan. 25)
• 26 — 2nd half at UNLV (Jan. 11)
• 29 — 1st half vs. Towson (Nov. 26)
• 29 — 2nd half vs. Towson (Nov. 26)

Attendance…

The announced attendance at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah, on Tuesday night: 7,102

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

• 10,951 at SDSU (Jan. 31)
• 7,224 at Nevada (Jan. 1)
• 7,115 at Colorado (Nov. 13)
• 7,102 at Utah State (Feb. 22)
• 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 (Feb. 5)
• 1,682 at San Jose State (Feb. 20)

Welcome back, Mr. Clean…

For the second time in three days, a Lobo opponent made his return to the court after having missed more than half the season and had a big impact — one more on the stat sheet, the other in terms of leadership.

Sunday, it was San Jose State 7-footer Ibrahima Diallo who returned — surprisingly so, by the way — from an 18-game absence and scored 14 points for the Spartans on 7-of-11 shooting and really changed how the game was played on offense and defense.

Tuesday, it was veteran guard Brock Miller, who returned after a 14-game absence due to a back injury that has plagued him for some time now.

His impact was more about just being out there at all for the fifth-year Aggies guard.

“Having Brock back was huge,” said Utah State coach Ryan Odom. “Just him being out there, warming up … He just provides an intensity. A leadership that is so important for any team. He means a ton to us.”

Brock hit just one shot — a 3-pointer of course (he’s made 223 of them in his college career) — and the Utah State student section went crazy and started chanting “Mr. Clean! Mr. Clean!” for their bald-headed hero.

VIDEO: Pitino and Jenkins…

Here’s the video I posted of the interviews I had courtside with Richard Pitino and K.J. Jenkins after Tuesday’s game…

Plus/minus…

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

UNM
-2 Jeremiah Francis (7:12)
-3 Birima Seck (13:52)
-7 Taryn Todd (20:27)
-8 Sebastian Forsling (15:37)
-8 K.J. Jenkins (24:06)
-15 Javonte Johnson (20:12)
-16 Saquan Singleton (19:04)
-17 Jay Allen-Tovar (25:26)
-24 Jaelen House (25:47)
-25 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (28:17)

UTAH STATE
+26 Steven Ashworth (27:53)
+25 Justin Bean (31:37)
+25 RJ Eytle-Rock (20:23)
+23 Brandon Horvath (24:20)
+21 Sean Bairstow (23:45)
+4 Brock Miller (12:16)
+3 Zee Hamoda (10:37)
+2 Rylan Jones (16:20)
+2 Trevin Dorius (5:08)
0 Connor Odom (2:06)
-1 Max Shulga (10:48)
-1 Travis Wagstaff (2:18)
-1 Norbert Thelissen (2:18)
-3 Szymon Zapala (10:11)

Line ’em up…

The UNM Lobos used 15 unique lineup combinations in Tuesday’s loss. The Utah State Aggies used 17. Both teams went deep into their bench, so a lot of the minutes down the stretch were with seldom seen lineup combinations.

Here’s a look at how some of the Lobos’ lineup combinations worked, starting with the starters…

STARTING LINEUP AND WORST LINEUP
• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: -10 (3-13)
• Time on court: 5:35
• NOTE: My usual comment coming… When your starting lineup is your worst lineup, you’re usually in trouble.

After a 2-0 lead a minute into the game, the Lobos pretty much sat back and watched Utah State hit its first eight shots and jump out to a 12-2 lead.

Not all that was against the starters, but most was. It was ugly.

And the offense wasn’t much better than the defense.

BEST LINEUP
• Who: House/Jenkins/Todd/Seck/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +2 (6-4)
• Time on court: 2:25
• NOTE: Not much to go on here for any strong lineup combinations, but a couple at least had positive, albeit only slightly, point differentials in just a couple minutes on the floor together.

And how about this one getting it done with a few seldom used players coming through with a solid 1.2 points per possession?

‘We want Bama!’ …

Blake Anderson is obviously best known for being an Eastern New Mexico University graduate and a former assistant coach at both ENMU and with the UNM Lobos.

But what people might not know is that Blake also happens to be the head coach of the Mountain West champion Utah State Aggies.

The UtAgs were honored at halftime on Tuesday with Blake Anderson introducing them and the players getting a nice ovation while showing off the Mountain West Conference championship trophy and one player had the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl championship belt draped over his shoulder.

As the team walked off the court to cheers, the Hurd, the Utah State University student section started chanting, “We want Ba-ma! We want Ba-ma!”

USU’s full schedule was released this week with a Week 2 showdown in Tuscaloosa with the Alabama Crimson Tide. That’ll be a coaching matchup of the Eastern New Mexico University graduate vs. some guy named Saban.

Meanwhile, in Boise…

In the latest game of the year in the Mountain West (Wednesday night has another one coming in Fort Collins), a wild final seven seconds at the free throw line decided the game.

San Diego State’s offensive star Matt Bradley, with his team up 1 with 7 seconds left, missed two free throws (he was shooting over 80% at the line this season). Then Boise State’s Abu Kigab, with 1 second left, gets fouled and his two — one to tie the game, and one to win it, keeping the Broncos in first place in the league standings.

Around the Mountain …

There were four games around the Mountain (West) on Tuesday and another huge on coming on Wednesday.

TUESDAY
• Fresno State 65, Air Force 40
• Boise State 58, San Diego State 57
• Utah State 81, New Mexico 56
• UNLV 62, at Nevada 54

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

Mountain West standings…

Here are the league standings through Tuesday’s games:

13-2 Boise State
11-2 Wyoming
11-4 Colorado State
9-4 San Diego State
9-6 UNLV
7-7 Fresno State
7-9 Utah State
6-9 Nevada
3-11 New Mexico
3-12 Air Force
1-14 San Jose State

Stats and stats…

Here is a link to the postgame stat sheet: Utah State 81, New Mexico 56

And here is a link to the digital version of stats for the game: Utah State 81, New Mexico 56

Grammer’s Guesses…

The Guesses went 2-2 on Tuesday (with the date being 2.22.22). I’m now 34-44-2 on the season.

My daughter’s coin flip picks go 1-3 and she’s also at 34-44-2 on the season.

We’re equally bad!

Until next time (Part 1)…

OK. I get it. I stay a long time after games doing my work.

Tuesday, the good folks at Utah State wanted to get home and warm up (it was 16 degrees in Logan when I left the arena). So when they were done, they turned off the lights and went home. Nevermind the fact I was still sitting courtside working.

Until next time…

Until next time, Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on the campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah …

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