Emptying the Notebook: For starters, the Lobos have found their five - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: For starters, the Lobos have found their five

UNM Lobo players lined up on court before game
The Lobo men’s basketball team lines up during the pregame National Anthem on Saturday in the Pit for their exhibition against CSU-Pueblo. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Saturday’s 85-53 UNM Lobos exhibition win over Division II CSU-Pueblo in the Pit:

For starters…

The Lobos played 14 players and used 20 lineup combinations on Saturday.

The statistics pretty much showed that one lineup — the starting five — was head and shoulders better than the other 19 combinations.

First off, for those who are new to my “Emptying the Notebook” column, I break the best and worst five-man lineup combinations every game in the “Line ’em up” section toward the bottom of this article. So some of this will be repeated there.

For today, though, and since the Lobos have a couple newcomers and maybe some fans still have questions about who is going to start (there has been very little question about the likely starting five pretty much all offseason), I wanted to highlight exactly why there isn’t really a question about the first unit the Lobos will roll out there most nights.

The Lobos starters on Saturday, and likely all season, look like this:

• PG/1: Jaelen House (6-0)
• SG/2: Jamal Mashburn Jr. (6-2)
• SF/3: Javonte Johnson (6-6)
• PF/4: Josiah Allick (6-8)
• C/5: Morris Udeze (6-8)

All that unit did on Saturday was, in 12 minutes, 8 seconds playing together, outscored CSU-Pueblo by 22 (41-19) — a number that would over the course of a full 40 minute game would be like beating a team by about 72 points.

The starters scored 1.98 points per possession, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out nine assists, meaning the Lobos other 28 minutes with combinations that weren’t all five starters had just five assists.

Saturday, the starters got an early lead, then things got sluggish. They came back in and pulled away. Things again got sloppy when other combinations were on the floor and then to start the second half, they extended the lead even more, before a bunch of reserve players closed out the game — still defending well, but clearly not quite as effective offensively or cohesive as a unit like the starters.

“I thought that first half will be a really good picture for our guys to see and learn from,” Lobos coach Richard Pitino said of his team, which led 49-25 at the break. “We (with the starters) built a lead, then subbed, and then they came back in and built another lead.”

Obviously injuries, foul trouble, a hot hand from a bench guy, etc., can all happen and change on any given night the expectation that this starting five is, indeed, the best. But on most nights, this is the teams best five — individually (yes, talented freshman Donovan Dent may get there in a hurry, but he’s not there right now) and, more importantly, as a unit working together.

The gamer…

Here’s the story I filed from the Pit media room for the Journal on Saturday night:

A number to know: 33.3

CSU-Pueblo, a Division II team, shot 33.3% from the field on Saturday, hitting 18-of-54 shots.

Last season, the Lobos finished ranked 243rd out of 358 Division I teams (there are now 363 DI teams this season) in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com and allowed teams to connect on 45.6% of their shots. In fact, only twice last year did a team shoot worse than CSU-Pueblo against the Lobos defense:

• Dec. 21, 2021: Norfolk State 31.7% (UNM won, 68-54)
• Feb. 11, 2022: (NAIA) Northern New Mexico 32.2% (UNM won, 78-46)

For a more apples to apples comparison, in the Lobos’ exhibition win last year over another of the state’s D-II programs, New Mexico Highlands hit 38.6% of its shots (28-73) in a 101-72 UNM victory.

‘We can’t play everybody’

While the starting five was a good unit on the floor Saturday, not every combination used worked out for the Lobos.

And that wasn’t unexpected. In fact, getting that on film is a plus at this point of the season for the Lobos (or any team for that matter).

“Sometimes it’s nice to show them — this is why we’re not doing this,” Pitino said when asked about using so many combinations.

“We can’t play everybody. It’s too hard. … I think we’ve really improved our roster, I think not only talent wise, but I think there’s great substance in that locker room. But you can’t play everybody.”

Love from the bench…

Freshman guard Braden Appelhans played 20 minutes in his first Lobo game, scoring four points, grabbing three boards. He shot 2-for-3 from the field, including a nice looking floater and then a dunk on a fast break late in the game that had his teammates on the bench going crazy, as Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales captured in this photo:

After posting that photo on Twitter, Braden shared his appreciation of his upperclassmen teammates, writing “my guys ❤️”

Doubleheader action…

Saturday wasn’t just about Richard Pitino’s squad, but also Mike Bradbury’s UNM women’s team.

The Lobos (women’s team) took on a traditional Division II power in West Texas A&M and got all they could have wanted from the visitors in a hard-fought 84-75 win in which the Lobos trailed by a point at halftime.

Here is colleague Ken Sickenger’s recap of the game:

And after the game, the visitors paid their respects to the gracious hosts the Lobos were:

On the injury front…

Sebastian Forsling was not suited up Saturday due to an ankle sprain suffered early last week. The good news was two-fold. First, he wasn’t wearing the protective boot he had for a few days after the injury. Second, he looked to be in midseason cheering form on the Lobo bench, leading the charge to get the fans going.

“I’ve told him I’m gonna give him some pom poms because he does a great job there,” joked coach Richard Pitino when asked about Forsling’s huge support of teammates from the bench.

As for the injury, as stated last week closer to when it happened, it isn’t expected to be a long-lasting one and Pitino said he would hope for Forsling to be available for the Nov. 7 opener vs. Southern Utah.

Forsling, Pitino reminded, is a piece of this season’s puzzle the staff thinks will be more valuable than maybe what most onlookers are talking about.

“I think Sebastian — he’s an underrated X factor for us. He’s big, he plays hard, he can guard the post really, really well,” Pitino said. “So let’s get him back. Get him healthy.”

Welcome back Eman…

It had been 294 days since Emmanuel Kuac broke his leg on the Pit floor in a Jan. 8 game against Utah State.

His rehab has been long and isn’t yet complete, but he has been cleared to play in short spurts. And for the Lobo who has been at UNM the longest — longer than any teammate and longer than anyone on the Lobos coaching staff — it was good to see him get some run on Saturday.

Kuac played 5 minutes, 58 seconds, hit his only shot (the 3-pointer in the video above), grabbed a couple rebounds and had a pair of turnovers, sort of showing there remains some rust to shake off.

“We were trying to limit them to about 5 to 10 minutes,” Pitino said. “I told him, ‘Nice 3. Don’t need you bringing the ball up court now. Let’s not get carried away.’

“But it was good to see. When he’s healthy, and he’s not 100% by any means, but when he’s healthy, he plays with a high, high motor and he could do some good things.”

Welcome to the Pit…

Six players played their first Lobo game on Saturday. Sort of.

One, walk-on Mac Manzanares had played there in high school and all the players have already played in both a closed door scrimmage and last week’s Cherry/Silver game. Still, Saturday was, even in exhibition form, the first actual “game” they played in the Pit as Lobos.

So, who were the new guys? There were two transfer forwards and four freshmen:

• Morris Udeze (transfer, starter)
• Josiah Allick (transfer, starter)

• Braden Appelhans (freshman)
• Donovan Dent (freshman)
• Quinton Webb (freshman)
• Mac Manzanares (freshman, walk-on)

Up next…

The Lobos next game is Nov. 7 (a Monday) at 7 p.m. in the Pit against Southern Utah, a team coached by former UNLV interim coach Todd Simon.

The A-team in stripes…

This made fans happy to see.

Three of the best referees (yes, I said BEST), and certainly three of the most popular among fan bases all over the league, were on hand for Saturday’s exhibition game in the Pit:

• Randy McCall
• Verne Harris
• David Hall

Well, shoot…

Or shoot well.

The Lobos shot 50.8% from the field on Saturday (32-of-63). During one stretch from the 6:39 mark of the first half and the 16:47 mark of the second half, the team hit 14-of-17 shots (82.4%).

That’s not to say everyone shot well. Starter Javonte Johnson was 0-for-2 and backup forward Jay Allen-Tovar was 0-for-6.

And at the free throw line? Well, let’s just if the Lobos shoot ’em like that in the regular season, the free throws will be costly.

UNM was 12-of-22 (54.5%) at the free throw line on Saturday. The team last season shot 75.0%.

From the pitch to the Pit…

The UNM Lobo women’s soccer team, the 3-time defending Mountain West champions (they did have to share this year’s title as co-champion with Wyoming) was honored on the court during a first half media timeout on Saturday.

The Lobos are the No. 2 seed in this week’s six-team MWC Tournament here in Albuquerque at the UNM Soccer Complex. The tournament bracket looks like this:

Block party…

The Lobos blocked nine shots on Saturday with sophomore Birima Seck turning back five, which would have been his career high if it wasn’t an exhibition game.

UNM only blocked more than nine shots once last season when the team had 10 blocks in a Nov. 15 win over Grambling.

Postgame with Pitino…

Here is the postgame video of Richard Pitino, Jamal Mashburn Jr., and Birima Seck talking with media afterSaturday’s over CSU-Puelo (as posted to the Journal’s YouTube page):

Pretty pics in the Pit…

Here are some of the great pictures the Journal’s Roberto E. Rosales captured on Saturday night…


The announced attendance for Saturday’s men’s game vs. CSU-Pueblo was 7,929.

Season ticket update…

For those who read my preview article in Saturday’s Journal (or the online version HERE), you already know this. For those who missed it, here is a copy & paste from that article updating you on the season ticket sales for the men’s and women’s basketball teams…

The Lobo men’s basketball team as of Friday afternoon had sold 6,800 season tickets – a little more than 94% renewal rate from last year’s final total of 7,198. Season tickets will be sold a couple weeks into the regular season, which starts Nov. 7.

The women’s team has sold 3,333, already a slight increase over last season’s 3,290.

Single game tickets are also on sale and Deputy Athletic Director David Williams said the New Mexico State game (Nov. 19) and the Iona game (Dec. 18) are significantly outpacing sales for all others.

Fans were not allowed in the Pit for any basketball in the 2020-21 season, and last season included both mask and vaccination requirements to attend games in the Pit. No such restrictions apply this season.

According to UNM budget numbers, men’s basketball brought in $2.96 million in ticket sales last season. Women’s basketball brought in $363,000. Those do not include revenue from the 24 suites that were rented out last season as that revenue goes toward debt service on the 2009-10 season Pit renovation. UNM has already sold 29 (of 40) suites this season, not counting single-game rentals.


Here’s the plus/minus numbers for the Lobos from Saturday’s exhibition game, with minutes played in parenthesis:

NOTE: For those unfamiliar the the +/- stats I post after every game, the number reflects how the team’s score changed for the time each player was on the court.

+26 Josiah Allick (19:22)
+25 Jaelen House (15:53)
+21 Javonte Johnson (15:21)
+18 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (18:57)
+16 Birima Seck (16:58)
+15 Morris Udeze (16:06)
+13 Braden Appelhans (19:55)
+7 Quinton Webb (9:57)
+5 K.J. Jenkins (15:50)
+5 Donovan Dent (22:44)
+5 Jay Allen-Tovar (20:40)
+2 Safi Fino-A-Laself (1:23)
+2 Mac Manzanares (00:56)
0 Emmanuel Kuac (5:58)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos used 20 unique lineup combinations in Saturday’s exhibition game.

Here’s a look at a few notable combinations from the UNM Lobos, starting with the starters, which was the unit head and shoulders above any other lineup combination on Saturday…

• Who: House/Mashburn/Johnson/Allick/Udeze
• Point differential: +22 (41-19)
• Time on court: 12:08
• Note: As noted up higher in this column, the starters posted a crazy 1.98 points per possession, had 12 rebounds in their 12:08 together on the floor and dished out nine of UNM’s 14 assists, meaning the other 28 minutes of the game, UNM had just five assists.

BEST LINEUP (OK, 2nd best)
• Who: Dent/Appelhans/Webb/Allen-Tovar/Seck
• Point differential: +7 (11-4)
• Time on court: 3:50
• Note: The best lineup on Saturday was the starting five, but for the sake of getting some more info out there and context on who was working well with one another, I put this lineup under the “best” category for this game.

• Who: Dent/Jenkins/Appelhans/Kuac/Allen-Tovar
• Point differential: -1 (7-8)
• Time on court: 4:33
• Note: Not many lineups were bad for the Lobos on Saturday, and this may be splitting hairs as it wasn’t the worst in terms of being outscored. One lineup that played just 23 seconds gave up a 3 and that was it, resulting in a -3 point differential, but they played so little together I didn’t consider that lineup. But this lineup played more than four minutes together and still lost its time on the court to CSU-Pueblo.

Stats and stats…

Here’s a look at the postgame stat sheet from Saturday’s game, as tweeted by me: UNM 85, CSU-Pueblo 53

And for those who want the digital version, here you go: UNM 85, CSU-Pueblo 53

Until next time…

That’ll do it for this exhibition edition of ETN. I’ll keep ’em coming this season as long as you all are still reading them. I’m grateful for the numbers for this column. It’s often the most read sports story of the day when it posts, read even more than the game stories.

The regular season, and regular season ETN’s, are just over a week away. I know I’m excited.

So, until next time… thanks for reading.

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: For starters, the Lobos have found their five

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