Emptying the Notebook: UNLV couldn't slow UNM's dynamic duo - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: UNLV couldn’t slow UNM’s dynamic duo

The Pit ramp after the Lobos regular season finale against UNLV on March 5, 2022. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, video and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Saturday night’s late 76-67 Lobos win in the Pit:

A number to know: 500 (x2)

Coaches across the Mountain West have been saying it all season.

The 1-2 punch of Lobo leading scorer Jamal Mashburn Jr. and second leading scorer Jaelen House is a headache.

They’re both fast, draw a lot of fouls, put pressure on defenses and the most obvious, they find ways to score. Like, a lot.

On the season, Mashburn has now scored 567 points and House has scored 506 points, marking the 10th time in UNM history that a pair of Lobos scored at least 500 points in the same season and first since Tim Williams and Elijah Brown did so in the 2015-16 season.

Saturday the duo combined for 48 points (they combined for just 19 in the loss at UNLV on Jan. 11).

It was Mashburn early, scoring UNM’s first 10 points and putting up 12 of his 21 total points in the first half. Then it was House late, scoring 18 of his team-high 27 in the second half.

Said UNLV coach Kevin Kruger of the duo, and House in particular for his second half heroics, they are always the focus of the defensive game plan, and still hard to stop because of their speed.

“Obviously they’re one and two on the scouting report, or 1 and 1-A, however you want to do it,” Kruger said.

“I thought, with a guy like Jaelen — I’ve been friends with his dad, Eddie, for a long time. They are cut from the same cloth. You don’t want to give them confidence, especially early. He’s the type of guy who’s going to go out and get confidence. He walks into the game confident. You have to show guys like that they’re going to have to earn every single bucket. … I thought tonight, we just gave them too many good looks, too may free throws, just too comfortable, too good of a rhythm.”

House drew nine fouls and while his 12-of-13 free throw night, and the one miss midway through the second half, did actually snap his consecutive free throws made streak at 42 in a row, he still just put together a remarkable free throw shooting display in conference play.

Mountain West FT% in league games:

1. Isaiah Stevens, CSU — 91.803%
• 56-61 (3.11-3.39/game)

2. Jaelen House, UNM — 91.667%
• 77-84 (4.53-4.94/game)

3. Grant Sherfield, Nevada — 87.324%
• 62-71 (4.13-4.73/game)

No other qualifying Mountain West players shot even 80%

House also had three steals in Saturday’s game, giving him 66 for the season and moving him into a tie for 7th place among UNM’s single-season steal leaders with Charles Smith.

UNM single season steal leaders:
1. 84 – Hunter Greene (1986-87)
2. 80 – Kelvin Scarborough (1984-85)
3. 78 – Kelvin Scarborough (1986-87)
4. 77 – Phil Smith (1983-84)
5. 70 – Hunter Greene (1987-88)
6. 69 – Gabe Nava (1973-74)
t7. 66 – Jaelen House (2021-22)
t7. 66 – Charles Smith (1995-96)

Here is the one play that best summed up House’s night for steals, points, free throws and just being a general pest to UNLV:

As for Mashburn, Saturday gave him three consecutive games scoring in the 20s:

• 21 points — Saturday vs. UNLV
• 27 points — Monday at Fresno State
• 24 points — Feb. 26 vs. Air Force

His season scoring average is now up to 18.3 points per game, good for 7th best in the Mountain West, and he also wraps up the regular season having scored in double figures in every league game.

How many Mountain West players scored in double figures in every league game?

• Mashburn
• Bryce Hamilton, UNLV (who scored 28 on Saturday and ranks 8th in the country in scoring)

Saturday’s Mashburn highlights, as was the case when he scored 27 on Monday night in Fresno, were all about why I like calling him Mid-range Mash.

Here are a couple of them from early in the game.

.. and …

The gamer…

Here’s the gamer I filed from court side in the Pit on Saturday night (one filed as the buzzer sounded and without the postgame press conferences completed thanks to the late start time of the game)…

A number to know: 7

UNLV had won seven games in a row over the Lobos and was going for a record 8th on Saturday night as a 3-point favorite.

Instead, the Lobo win ended the streak at 7 in a row for UNLV, which also had a seven-game win streak in the series from March 2, 2002, to March 11, 2004.

Another number to know: 9

Though Saturday’s game didn’t actually determine their seed, the regular season is now over so a reminder: The Lobos finished No. 9 in the league standings at 5-12 (they lost out on playing the full 18 games this season when the league decided not to make up a missed January game against San Diego State in the Pit).

So, as the No. 9 seed, the Lobos will play No. 8 Nevada (you know, the team coached Steve Alford, who coaches the Lobos for six years who also has as an assistant coach in Craig Neal, who coached the Lobos for four seasons).

Here’s a tweet with the MWC Tournament bracket, and it can be found again, along with a typed out version of the entire MWC Tournament schedule and times toward the bottom of this column in the “Mountain West Tournament seeds/schedule” section.

It ain’t how you start…

The schedule had something to do with it, of course, but it’s worth noting that the Lobos hardly gave up on the season, even if the local beat writer asked head coach Richard Pitino about it more than once after lackluster recent losses at San Jose State and Utah State.

In fact, the way the Lobos finished overall is pretty impressive considering the way the season played out.

UNM started Mountain West play 0-7.

Over the final 10 games of Mountain West play, the Lobos went 5-5.

Spectacular? Hardly. But after an 0-7 start in league, that’s an impressive upswing to close the regular season.

That’s nice and all, but…

Winning Saturday was a good thing for the Lobos. For sure.

Then again, the last two times the Lobos won the Mountain West Tournament (in 2013 and 2014), they lost their final regular season game and then won the tournament the following week.

Injury update/Next man up…

Just 4 minutes and 35 seconds into Saturday’s game, starting forward Jay Allen-Tovar came down awkwardly on a UNLV player’s foot and immediately hopped off the court, never to return to the game.

“Sprained ankle … I’m assuming,” said Pitino after the game. “He said he wanted to go back in, (but) he looked like he couldn’t move.”

Obviously that seemed like a pretty bad sign for a Lobos team already down its top three centers this season and now using Allen-Tovar in that spot.

But, while the Lobos absolutely need Allen-Tovar to have any shot at making a run in the MWC Tourney, Saturday they got by without him thanks to two players — freshman center Sebastian Forsling and walk-on senior Jordan Arroyo — stepping up with huge defensive efforts.

For Forsling, the stats weren’t spectacular (2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 16:44 played), but he again was a big reason why the Lobos were able to hold off the UNLV run late, especially moments like when he grabbed a huge offensive rebound with 46 seconds left that led to a held ball call and possession was in UNM’s favor.

UNM scored on the possession Forsling created with a House jumper, pushing what was a 68-65, one-possession lead to a more comfortable 70-65, two possession lead with under a minute to play.

“I thought the play the game in my opinion was Sebastian’s tie up and rebound was huge,” Richard Pitino said.

And then there was Jordan Arroyo.

Four years ago, in his final high school game, Arroyo got a win in the Pit helping lead Atrisco Heritage Academy to the 2018 Class 6A state championship. Saturday, on the Senior Night for the 6-7 Arroyo in his final home game as a Lobo, he had 3 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 18:25 on the court.

“Jordan was unbelievable,” Pitino said. “I mean, seven rebounds and two blocks? I know I put him on scholarship (a few weeks ago, along with fellow walk-on Clay Patterson), but to have a walk-on like that is a great luxury to have, especially when you’re down now four bigs.

“Jordan was terrific, got some traffic rebounds, made a big free throw, and a great kid.”

‘For the country’

Speaking of Forsling, the always-smiling Swede wore his nation’s flag to the postgame press conference. When I tweeted out a picture of it afterward, he responded: “For the country.”

Second time through…

UNM has now played eight teams twice this season with a 3-5 record in the second game.

Saturday, they were significantly better than in the first game with the Rebels.

A look at the eight home-and-home series UNM had this season:

• 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

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

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

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

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

• Game 1: W, 91-77 at U.S. Air Force Academy (Feb. 5)
• Game 2: W, 69-65 in Albuquerque (Saturday)

• Game 1: L, 65-50 in Albuquerque (Jan. 25)
• Game 2: L, 71-68 at Fresno State (Feb. 28)

• Game 1: L, 85-56 in Albuquerque (Jan. 1)
• Game 2: W, 76-67 at Fresno State (Saturday)

Way to rebound…

UNM was out-rebounded by 18 (48-30) in the first meeting with UNLV on Jan. 11 in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, UNM out-rebounded UNLV, without its starting center most of the game, by 7 (43-36).

The second chance points in the two games:

• Game 1: UNLV 12, UNM 2
• Game 2: UNLV 12, UNM 12


The announced attendance in the Pit on Saturday night for a 9:15 p.m. start time vs. UNLV: 9,404

A number to know: 138

UNM’s KenPom.com rating after Saturday’s game climbed to 149. That is a climb of 138 spots on the widely-used statistics web site since college basketball’s opening night on Nov. 9, 2021.

Out of 358 Division I teams, UNM has had the fifth best KenPom improvement/differential in opening night rating to current rating.

Two of the four teams that had a bigger jump were on the Lobos schedule this season and another, who the Lobos played twice, is also in the Top 10. That means four of UNM’s 31 games this season were against teams that made huge jumps this season compared to where they were expected to be. UNM was 2-2 in those games.

KenPom’s top 10 improvements (through Saturday’s games):

1. Middle Tennessee (+184 — 285/101)
2. Towson (+180 — 245/65)
3. Portland (+ 154 — 329/175)
4. Norfolk State (+139 — 305/166)
5. New Mexico (+138 — 287/149)
6. Long Beach State (+136 — 291/155)
7. South Alabama (+133 — 267/134)
8. Wyoming (+126 — 182/56)
9. Jacksonville (+121 — 282/161)
10. Utah Valley (+107 — 221/114)

Half the story…

The Lobos had been struggling (to say the least) to score in the first halves of games lately.

Saturday was just fine with 38 points.

In fact, UNM’s 16-point lead at 38-22 at the break was the program’s largest halftime lead in a Mountain West game since leading San Jose State by 16 at halftime of a MWC Tournament opening round game in 2020.

Oh, those seniors…

Saturday was senior night, and Saquan Singleton, Jordan Arroyo and Clay Patterson were each honored on the court before the game.

I wrote two stories about the three seniors in advance of the Senior Night game. Here they are in case you missed them:

• On Saquan Singleton’s improbable journey from the Bronx to the Pit:

• On walk-ons Clay Patterson and Jordan Arroyo:

He said it…

“We made winning plays at the end when we needed to.” — Lobo coach Richard Pitino

VIDEO: Pitino, Singleton, Forsling…

Here’s the video I put together of the postgame media sessions from after Saturday’s game in the Pit…


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

+16 Javonte Johnson (33:19)
+15 Jaelen House (36:21)
+10 Saquan Singleton (26:13)
+8 Sebastian Forsling (16:44)
+2 Jay Allen-Tovar (4:35)
0 K.J. Jenkins (28:55)
-1 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (33:00)
-2 Taryn Todd (2:29)
-3 Jordan Arroyo (18:25)

+3 Keshon Gilbert (4:43)
-1 Michael Nuga (6:14)
-2 David Muoka (12:41)
-3 Josh Baker (17:16)
-5 Bryce Hamilton (38:33)
-6 Jordan McCabe (33:01)
-7 Donovan Williams (12:48)
-7 Royce Hamm Jr. (27:19)
-8 Justin Webster (32:12)
-9 Victor Iwuakor (15:13)

Line ’em up…

The UNM Lobos used 16 unique lineup combinations on Saturday night and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels used 14.

Here’s a look at how a few of those combinations for the Lobos worked out, starting with the starters…

• Who: House/Mashburn/Singleton/Johnson/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: +2 (7-5)
• Time on court: 4:35
• NOTE: Hard to read too much into this starting lineups’ effectiveness because it was cut short by injury.

This group’s 4:35 matches the first 4:35 of the game when they all stayed on the court until the Allen-Tovar injury.

• Who: House/Jenkins/Singleton/Johnson/Arroyo
• Point differential: +10 (17-7)
• Time on court: 6:45
• NOTE: Now this is an interesting one to break down.

The best lineup on Saturday night for the Lobos included a group that outscored UNLV by 10 (17-7) with 2.5167 points per minute with a group that had the team’s leading scorer (Mashburn Jr.) on the bench and included a walk-on in forward Jordan Arroyo and a guard in Saquan Singleton whose shooting struggles from the outside and free throw line have sometimes this season led to UNM not being able to space out opposing defenses very well.

But on Saturday, it was the most offensively-effective lineup the Lobos trotted out on the court.

• Who: Mashburn/Jenkins/Singleton/Johnson/Arroyo
• Point differential: -7 (0-7)
• Time on court: 0:54
• NOTE: And with one little tweak — Jamal Mashburn in and Jaelen House out — the best lineup of the night turned to the worst, though let’s point out some disclaimers here.

While this group did get outscored by UNLV by 7 (0-7), it was in a very brief span of just 0:54 on the floor together and here’s how it happened:

•(-1, 0:00) UNLV scored one point was a free throw by UNLV that happened as Arroyo subbed in, putting this group down 0-1 without having actually played together yet.
• (-4, 0:21) A turnover leading to a Justin Webster 3-on the fast break put this lineup down 4 points in just 21 seconds on the floor together.
• (-7, 0:46) After two missed shots by the Lobos, Webster hit another 3 for UNLV at the other end, making it 0-7 for this lineup for UNM in just 46 seconds. Just eight seconds later, Pitino saw enough of that combination and made some substitutions.

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins…

There was only one seeding question left to be decided on Saturday: Who would end up as the No. 2 seed and who would end up as the No. 3 seed between the Colorado State Rams and San Diego State Aztecs.

Well, the Rams answered that by beating the league champion Boise State, 71-68, in a sold out Moby Arena, completing for CSU a season sweep of the Broncos and securing the No. 2 seed in the MWC Tournament.

Around the Mountain…

There were four Mountain West games on Saturday’s final day of regular season games:

• Wyoming 68, Fresno State 64 (OT)
• Colorado State 71, Boise State 68
• San Diego State 79, Nevada 78
• New Mexico 76, UNLV 67

FINAL Mountain West records/standings…

Through Saturday’s final day of regular season games, here are the Mountain West standings:

15-2 Boise State
14-4 Colorado State
13-4 San Diego State
13-5 Wyoming
10-8 UNLV
8-9 Fresno State
8-10 Utah State
6-12 Nevada
5-12 New Mexico
4-13 Air Force
1-17 San Jose State

MWC Tournament seeds/schedule…

Here are the final seedings for the Mountain West Tournament with the schedule for the tournament below in tweet/image form and typed out for you below that:

1. Boise State
2. Colorado State
3. San Diego State
4. Wyoming

Top five seeds get bye to quarterfinals

6. Fresno State
7. Utah State
8. Nevada
9. New Mexico
10. Air Force
11. San Jose State

• No. 8 Nevada vs. No. 9 New Mexico (11 a.m. PT/noon MT)
• No. 7 Utah State vs. No. 10 Air Force (1:30 p.m. PT/2:30 p.m. MT)
• No. 6 Fresno State vs. No. 11 San Jose State (4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. MT)

NOTE: The women’s championship game is at 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT

• No. 1 Boise State vs. 8/9 winner (noon PT/1 p.m. MT)
• No. 4 Wyoming vs. No. 5 UNLV (2:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. MT)
• No. 2 Colorado State vs. 7/10 winner (6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT)
• No. 3 San Diego State vs. 6/11 winner (8:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. MT)

• Semifinal 1 (6:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. MT)
• Semifinal 2 (9 p.m. PT/10 p.m. MT)

• Championship game (3 p.m. PT/4 p.m. MT)

Meanwhile, down in Las Cruces…

Down the road in Las Cruces, the NMSU Aggies will enter the upcoming WAC Tournament, also in Las Vegas, as the No. 1 seed after Saturday’s 62-46 win over Utah Valley.

Tiebreakers make the Aggies the No. 1 seed, but they share the league’s regular season title with Stephen F. Austin and Seattle.

And while NMSU earned one ring for a WAC co-championship, sixth-year Aggies forward Johnny McCants pulled out a ring of another kind during his Senior Night ceremony and proposed to his now fiancé…

Stats and stats…

Here is the postgame stat sheet: New Mexico 76, UNLV 67

And here is the digital version of the stats: New Mexico 76, UNLV 67

Grammer’s Guesses…

First the good news.


The Guesses went 1-3 on Saturday and my daughter’s coin flip picks were 2-2, clinching for the 12-year-old who didn’t watch a Mountain West basketball game all season the house championship.

Final standings:

1. My daughter (and her coin): 42-53-2
2. Grammer’s Guesses (pathetic old me): 39-56-2

One more update: My daughter is now grounded until next season and I took her coin.

Yes I do tournament picks, and have even been pretty good at those (I swear!), but the dad vs. daughter picks end with the regular season.

And it being over (finally!) is the best news I’ve received all season.

Until next time…

I usually do an empty arena pic after all road games, but with this being my last game in the Pit of the season, I thought I’d take one last look down the infamous Pit ramp, which is right outside the media room I spend so many hours in each season.

So, until next time University Arena, better known as the Pit …

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: UNLV couldn’t slow UNM’s dynamic duo

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