Emptying the Notebook: Can somebody tell Donovan Dent he's just a freshman? - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Can somebody tell Donovan Dent he’s just a freshman?

Lobo point guard Donovan Dent, center, gets fouled by Jacksonville State’s Peyton Daniels, right, while also being defended by Marcellus Brigham Jr., left, in the second half Friday at the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, tweets and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Friday’s 79-61 Lobos win over Jacksonville State in the Pit:

NOTE: Remember, the Lobos play three games in three days this weekend in the Lobo Classic — Friday’s game, Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

A double-dose of Dent…

For the second-consecutive Emptying the Notebook postgame column, I’m hitting you with a leadoff blast of Donovan Dent content.

And why not? It’s the second-consecutive game, the talented freshman point guard from California not only produced big numbers (9 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover), but for the second-consecutive game he showed why the Lobos are immensely better this season because they have somebody to run the offense efficiently if/when starting point guard Jaelen House can’t do it.

House, still the head of the UNM snake in my opinion, had some foul trouble last week at SMU and Dent filled in for a long stretch in the second half and actually extended the Lobos’ big lead on the road. Friday, House had his first sub-par game of the season with just 4 points on 2-of-9 shooting in 16 minutes on the court due in large part to a minor leg injury.

And with three games in three days for the Lobos, resting House on a night he wasn’t A-game House was a nice luxury to have for coach Richard Pitino.

But it wasn’t just that Dent spelled House adequately in the second half. He showed, again, why last season’s “Mr. California” (the best high school player in the state of California) has been called the “point guard of the future” by his coach since the day he committed to UNM.

He is an elite passer and sees things that even the All-Conference, upperclassmen guards House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. don’t see on the floor.

Such was the case Friday when he found on a couple of occasions a big man crashing to the hoop of a screen in a way that set up that big man perfectly for an easy bucket.

So, that must have been something the Lobos saw in game film prepping for the game, right? No.

His coaches must have then told him about it during the game then, right? No.

Just listen to Dent explaining what he saw in the second half adjustment Jacksonville State, and its legendary head coach Ray Harper, who has 552 career coaching victories, tried throwing at the Lobos.

The full postgame media session video I shot with Pitino, Morris Udeze and Dent is linked below in this column.

That’s right. A true freshman, in his fourth college basketball game, spotted a way to handle a defensive adjustment JSU had made that the team hadn’t seen on game film. Dent told his head coach about it, then when he got on the court, exploited it a couple times himself before JSU had to back off.

Not many freshman can first recognize a defensive adjustment like that, but then have the confidence to go tell their coach about during a game and then also the ability to go do something about it once they’re on the court. Dent is showing he has all that, and an elite passing ability, in just his fourth college game.

Pitino says that while Mashburn and House are still the clear leaders of the Lobos pack, Dent adds a dimension that even his star starters can learn from, just as his freshman has a lot to still learn from them.

“I think that Donovan can learn a lot from Mash and House as it pertains to just playing so hard all the time,” Pitino said. “All freshmen they don’t know how to play hard. They just don’t. And it just takes time. Mash has played college basketball for two years. And House played for three years.

“But Mash and House can learn from Donovan on how to read ball screens and get guys shots. Mash and House tend to try to score off the ball screens. Donovan is trying to get two (defenders) on the ball and find others. So, there’s a balance there. We need Mash and House to be aggressive. But it’s just amazing when you put Donovan in a high ball screen and all sudden now he’s finding other guys. I think all three of them can learn from each other, for sure.”

As for stats, how’s this for crazy good? Through four games, Dent has 18 assists and just two turnovers, for an insanely good assist-to-turnover ratio of 9.0.

MOUNTAIN WEST ASSIST-TO-TURNOVERS
1. Donovan Dent, UNM — 9.0 (18 assists-2 turnovers)
2. Alvaro Cardenas, SJSU — 4.4 (22 assists-5 turnovers)
3. Rylan Jones, Utah St. — 3.9 (27 assists-7 turnovers)
4. Steven Ashworth, Utah St. — 3.5 (28 assists-8 turnovers)
5. Jaelen House, UNM — 2.8 (22 assists-8 turnovers)

So impressed I’ve been with his passing, I was surprised to learn that this video at the 11:07 mark of the second half was when Dent scored his first — YES, FIRST! — basket of his college basketball career (had scored on free throws before Friday’s game).

The gamer…

Here is the gamer I filed from the Pit on Friday night for online and for the Saturday print edition…

A number to know: 26

Through Friday’s games, the UNM Lobos (4-0) were among the final 26 teams in Division I basketball without a loss.

Our buddy Ken Pomeroy keeps tabs on such things for us, posting every time another of the unbeaten fall…

He said it…

Remember back over the summer when Richard Pitino, when talking about the two new big men coming to the team this season in Morris Udeze and Josiah Allick, said this season wasn’t going to be just the Mash and House show anymore?

Well…

Morris Udeze on Friday scored a career-high 22 points. That means he’s averaging 18.0 points per game, tops on the team.

UNM LEADING SCORERS
18.0 – Morris Udeze
17.0 – Jamal Mashburn Jr.
16.5 – Jaelen House

This marks the first time in the Pitino era that someone not named House or Mashburn was the team’s leading scorer for the season.

First off, hat tip to UNM hoops SID Steve Kirkland for the heads up on that note — one I am openly poaching and using here before he can put it in his game notes ahead of Saturday’s game against North Dakota State.

Second, don’t get used to it. While Udeze will be a big factor in the post all season, House and Mashburn are still going to end up as the Lobos’ top scorers — 1a and 1b — this season with Udeze settling in as the third, in my opinion.

But what a promising scoring start to the season for the “Mo” part of the Lobos new “MoJo” frontcourt.

The downside of that great start…

The Lobos hadn’t played in 10 days, and it was 14 days since last playing in the Pit. That’s not the longest drought, but a weird one for this early in the season and it also had the uniquely challenging scenario of getting prepared for what may have been a sold-out rivalry game against the in-state rival NMSU Aggies only to have that game cancelled the day it was supposed to be played (for well-documented reasons).

Because of all that, who really knew how the Lobos would respond in Friday’s game?

It didn’t take long to find out.

The Lobos jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the visiting Gamecocks with JSU missing its first 8 shots.

On the other hand, at a place like UNM with a tradition of fans standing until both teams score, that can be a real problem, especially after a holiday with so much time spent in the kitchen.

Speaking of great starts…

UNM outscored JSU by 11 (18-7) in the first 10 minutes of the game, or the first quarter if men’s college basketball was like all other basketball — men’s or women’s — at every level around the world that actually used a four-quarters system instead of two 20 minute halves.

The “first quarter” has been, by far, the best this season through four games for the Lobos with things really tightening up in the second halves of games.

Here is the UNM’s score differential by “quarter” this season:

1st quarter (first 10 minutes): +31
2nd quarter (second 10 minutes): +10
3rd quarter (third 10 minutes): +4
4th quarter (fourth 10 minutes): +8

Remember the 80s?

The Lobos could have played faster in the closing minutes, or just hit one more of their 28 free throw attempts (UNM was 20-of-28 for 71.4% at the line). Had the scored just one more point, they could have extended their streak of breaking 80 points to four consecutive games to start the season.

Instead, they settled for 79.

Lobo’s point totals this season:

89 (vs. Southern Utah)
80 (vs. South Alabama)
84 (at SMU)
79 (vs. Jacksonville State)

The Lobos last streak of 80 or more points in four or more games was a streak of four-consecutive 90 point games to start the 2019-20 season.

VIDEO: Presser with Pitino…

Here is the postgame presser I shot of Richard Pitino, Morris Udeze and Donovan Dent after Friday’s game in the Pit:

JJ’s ‘double nueve’ …

Hat tip on this next stat to pinch-hitting Lobo radio broadcaster Jeff Siembieda, who called Friday’s game while regular play-by-play voice Robert Portnoy was up north calling the UNM football game at Colorado State.

Lobo junior wing Javonte Johnson missed out on a double-double on Friday but did have 9 points and 9 rebounds, to which Siembieda dubbed a “double nueve.”

That’s a very New Mexico stat.

It should also be noted that Johnson, in 26 minutes on the court, had the best plus/minus in the game at +22 (the Lobos outscored JSU by 22 points in the time Johnson was on the court).

Attendance…

The announced crowd for Friday’s Lobo Classic opener between Jacksonville State and UNM in the Pit: 9,033

Plus/minus…

Here are the Lobos’ plus/minus numbers from Friday’s win with minutes played in parenthesis:

+22 Javonte Johnson (25:59)
+19 Josiah Allick (28:25)
+18 Morris Udeze (28:44)
+12 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (29:17)
+11 Jaelen House (16:16)
+7 K.J. Jenkins (20:58)
+7 Donovan Dent (23:44)
+2 Sebastian Forsling (7:18)
-1 Birima Seck (11:35)
-7 Braden Appelhans (7:44)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had 14 unique lineup combinations in Friday’s game and played 10 players. Jacksonville State had 26 lineup combinations and played 10 players.

The Lobos have used the same starting lineup in all four games they have played this season.

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

STARTING LINEUP
• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +10 (23-13)
• Time on court: 13:39
• NOTE: Once again, when your starting lineup is your best statistical lineup, that’s a really good sign for success. The Lobos jumped on JSU early and even with House and Mashburn shooting a combined 6-for-20, it simply wasn’t close when these five were on the floor.

BEST LINEUP
(OK, the second best after that starting 5)
• Who: Donovan Dent/K.J. Jenkins/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +5 (9-4)
• Time on court: 3:25
NOTE: The starters were the best, but this was notable in that Dent and Jenkins could be seeing some run on the floor together at times moving forward. So far when they have, so good. This unit had the best offensive efficiency for UNM in the game at 2.32 points per possession.

WORST LINEUP
• Who: Donovan Dent/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Braden Appelhans/Birima Seck/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: -3 (2-5)
• Time on court: 2:19
• NOTE: It wasn’t an awful lineup, but in a wire-to-wire win, there isn’t much to choose from for the “bad” lineup. This unit scored just 0.4 points per possession and committed two turnovers in just a little more than two minutes on the floor.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas…

The New Mexico State Aggies, the in-state rival who the Lobos won’t be playing this year after last weekend’s tragic on-campus shooting that left one UNM student dead and NMSU basketball player Mike Peake hospitalized with a gun shot wound to the leg, also returned to action on Friday in the two-day Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Hotel & Casino.

The Aggies beat the University of San Diego, 90-77, to improve to 2-1 on the season and hand first-year head coach Greg Heiar his first win against a Division I opponent.

Around the Mountain…

There were just two games around the Mountain West on Friday with five more coming on Saturday and two more Sunday:

FRIDAY
• North Texas 69, San Jose State 54 (Nassau Championship event)
• New Mexico 79, Jacksonville State 61 (Lobo Classic)

SATURDAY
• San Jose State vs. Oakland, 12:30 p.m. MT (Nassau Championship event)
• Utah Valley at Boise State, 2 p.m. MT
• Mississippi Valley State at Colorado State, 2 p.m.
• North Dakota State at Ne Mexico, 5 p.m. (Lobo Classic)
• (NAIA) Life Pacific College at UNLV, 8:30 p.m.

SUNDAY
• Montana at Air Force, 1 p.m. MT
• Northern Colorado at UNM, 5:30 p.m. MT (Lobo Classic)

Meanwhile, in the late game…

The Lobo Classic is a three-day, FOUR-TEAM event. That means after Friday’s Lobo game was another game between the other two teams in the event (each team plays each other once over the three-day event).

In the nightcap, Northern Colorado improved to 2-4 on the season with an 80-70 win over the North Dakota State Bison.

Dalton Kountz (22) and Daylen Kountz (21) each broke 20 points for UNC in the victory with Dalton, the taller of the two, adding 12 rebounds.

UNC was 23-of-24 (95.8%) at the free throw line compared to 12-21 (57.1%) for NDSU.

As for the Bison, the Lobos’ Saturday opponent, they got a career-high 31 points on 22 shots by 6-foot-11 junior center Grant Nelson, who had broke 20 points vs. Division I opponents just twice before in his college career.

Stats and stats…

Here’s a pic of the postgame stats from Friday’s game: UNM 79, JSU 61

And for those who prefer the digital version of game stats: UNM 79, JSU 61

A parting shot…

OK, so this wasn’t from Friday, and it has nothing to do with Friday’s game. But it’s funny, so I’m sharing it.

Wednesday, when Richard Pitino was talking to media in advance of the three-day Lobo Classic, the conversation naturally moved toward the cliché sort of questions like what his favorite Thanksgiving food was.

That, for some reason, shifted toward some of the meals he’s had while recruiting players through the years as coaches often get a meal when doing in-home recruiting visits for players. Well, there’s the set up for this…

See you all tomorrow after another Lobo game.

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Can somebody tell Donovan Dent he’s just a freshman?

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