Saint Mary's to challenge unbeaten Lobos in a way few teams can - Albuquerque Journal

Saint Mary’s to challenge unbeaten Lobos in a way few teams can

Lobo Jamal Washburn Jr. splits Jacksonville State’s defenders Demaree King, left,, and Juwan Perdue on the way to the bucket in the first half. UNM defeated Jacksonville State 79-61 Friday at the Pit in the Lobo Classic basketball event. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

And now for a real test.

The University of New Mexico Lobos, sitting at 6-0 on the season and among the final 18 (of 363) Division I teams in the country without a loss this season, head West on Wednesday to face what should be one of the two best defensive teams they play all season.

The blueprint for coach Randy Bennett’s Saint Mary’s Gaels (5-1 record and 10½ point favorites for Wednesday’s 8 p.m. MT tipoff in Moraga, California) is one that seems to present some intriguing challenges based on what’s been working so well this season for the Lobos.


“We’ve certainly put an emphasis on getting to the rim and playing in the post,” UNM coach Richard Pitino said after a game this past weekend in which his squad attempted a mere nine 3-pointers in a 76-55 win over North Dakota State.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team in my tenure as a head coach and we shot nine 3s. So we’ve got to find a rhythm of not holding back if we’re open from 3. But we’re doing a really good job of attacking the basket. We’re doing a really good job of playing inside out.”

UNM has, in fact, hit just 5.2 3-pointers per game this season, which ranks 325th in the country.

But why would that be a problem for a Lobos team with two guards scoring plenty inside the arc and two new big men – one of whom leads the Mountain West in scoring in Morris Udeze at 19.5 points per game, and his league-best 61.6% shooting clip has pretty much entirely come within five feet of the basket?

The issue is the Gaels own one statistical edge more than almost any team in the nation the last few years that cuts into what’s been working so well for UNM. Simply put, teams don’t get assists against the Gaels.

As of Tuesday, SMC ranked seventh in the nation in A/FGM (assists per field goals made). While the national average for the number of made baskets that come off an assist is 51.7%, SMC’s opposition assists on just 35.7% of their made baskets.

In the previous six seasons, SMC led the nation in that statistic twice, was second once and fourth another time.

Essentially, they force teams to beat them one-on-one. And the ball movement and flow the Lobos’ offense has had the past few weeks, including getting the ball to Udeze in spots where he can easily do damage, is going to be hard to come by on Wednesday.

While House and Mashburn have proven in the past to be more than capable one-on-one scorers, this season the focus has been on ball movement and getting everyone involved, which will be put to the test in California.

Saint Mary’s guard Logan Johnson (0) is shown in action from earlier this season vs. North Texas. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

“(Pitino’s) constantly just talking to us about moving the ball,” said forward Josiah Allick. “Just get it swinging. Because the worst thing you can do when you’re struggling offensively is just trying to turn it into – you don’t want anyone to try to be the superhero. You just need everybody just keep playing a role and just let it work out. It’s only when like one person tries to kind of save the day that things really start crashing.”

Opportunity knocks

Pitino knows Wednesday’s game, especially in a season in which two of its potential best nonconference games against New Mexico State have been canceled, is one of the few his team has left to gain some national attention and make a splash before Mountain West play begins.

“Saint Mary’s, that’s a potential Quad 1 win opportunity on the road,” Pitino said. “They’re a terrific team. They’ve had unbelievable sustained success. I know it’s going to be a huge challenge. …

“But we got one true road win with SMU (84-63 on Nov. 15). I thought we handled it great. And it’s another opportunity right here and as we figure out the schedule, because with New Mexico State being off, this is a really good opportunity. Hopefully we can find another good one or maybe two (games), but this is a great one.”

Home » Sports » Saint Mary’s to challenge unbeaten Lobos in a way few teams can

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Grammer: When it comes to fans, the obnoxious few ...
ABQnews Seeker
Utah State guard Max Shulga showed ... Utah State guard Max Shulga showed class in his response to unacceptable taunts from a few Colorado State students.
Man critically injured in Santa Fe shooting
ABQnews Seeker
A man was critically injured after ... A man was critically injured after being shot in a Santa Fe apartment complex on Saturday night.
Three teenagers found dead in garage in Edgewood
ABQnews Seeker
Police said in a news release ... Police said in a news release there is no indication of foul play and it appears to have been carbon monoxide poisoning.
Man, woman killed in Hobbs hit-and-run crash
ABQnews Seeker
A man and a woman were ... A man and a woman were killed in Hobbs on Friday night after being struck by a vehicle while walking their dog, according to ...
Child, 10, allegedly sexually assaulted by foster teen at ...
ABQnews Seeker
The offices of the state child ... The offices of the state child welfare agency are used to house foster children despite New Mexico’s promise to provide them with appropriate homes.
Civilians fill in for sworn officers at Albuquerque Police ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said ... Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said he sees hiring civilians as "the forefront of the wave of the future." He added: "The civilians are ...
How close did Albuquerque come to a record-high temperature?
ABQnews Seeker
Temperatures in the Duke City reached ... Temperatures in the Duke City reached 63 degrees, said Jennifer Shoemake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. That was the warmest ...
Study says New Mexico turning blind eye to several ...
ABQnews Seeker
A UNM study argues that the ... A UNM study argues that the state government, in its efforts to meet climate goals, stops short of requiring cuts to greenhouse gas emissions ...
5 things going on in Albuquerque this week
ABQnews Seeker
From hoops to a mid-week show, ... From hoops to a mid-week show, here’s what’s happening in the Albuquerque next week.