Emptying the Notebook: Exciting Lobo finish at Saint Mary's almost never happened - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Exciting Lobo finish at Saint Mary’s almost never happened

University Credit Union Pavilion (formerly McKeon Pavilion) on the campus of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., on Nov. 30, 2022. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)
Here are some more notes, quotes, stats, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Wednesday’s 69-65 Lobos road win at Saint Mary’s College:

Jaelen and Josiah need some love…

Look, there is lots of praise to go around after a huge road win like the Lobos got on Wednesday night at Saint Mary’s, a team that was favored by as many as 10.5 points, depending on where you saw the betting line.

My game story focused on true freshman Donovan Dent’s big finish, and certainly notes that senior forward Morris Udeze scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. A postgame tweet about the win by UNM’s basketball Twitter account read “Balanced scoring lifts Lobos to big road win at Saint Mary’s, 69-65.”

All true. And closing time is winning time, they say.

But just because their heavy lifting came in the first half — a half that started about as ugly as you can possibly imagine for the Lobos, shouldn’t mean senior guard Jaelen House and senior forward Josiah Allick shouldn’t get a ton of credit for being the reason the Lobos weren’t just run out of the gym altogether on Wednesday when almost nothing was working for UNM otherwise.

After the Lobos trailed 13-2 in the opening 7 minutes and with Morris Udeze already on the bench with two fouls, it was Allick and House who were the Lobos able to overcome SMC’s stifling defense and not only keep the Lobos in the game by halftime, but give them an improbable 27-23 lead.

It was plays like this that did it…

Five Lobos scored in double figures on Wednesday: Jaelen House (17), Donovan Dent (13), Morris Udeze (13), Jamal Mashburn Jr. (12) and Josiah Allick (10).

Here is what the scoring totals were for those five in the first half, when SMC tried to deliver the early knockout blow:

House: 10 points, 3 steals
Allick: 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists

Mashburn: 3 points
Udeze: 2 points, 2 fouls
Dent: 2 points, 3 turnovers

“JoJo did a great job at the ‘5’ man,” Udeze told me after the game. “I’m so proud of JoJo. I’m just so proud of my teammates right now, man. When I was out (of the game), they just took care of business, rebounded the ball well, played for each other. In the beginning, you know, we weren’t playing for each other. We just kind of went one one-on-one. With a team like this, you can’t do that.”

Added head coach Richard Pitino on Allick: “I thought Josiah, when Morris was (on the bench with foul trouble), was terrific. He really saved us.”

The gamer…

Here is the gamer I filed for online and for Thursday’s Journal print edition from the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California, after Wednesday’s game…

A number to know: 12

The Lobos had lost their last 12 games in California before Wednesday night.

Another number to know: 23

Saint Mary’s had won 23-consecutive home games before Wednesday night.

And yet another number to know: $75,000

Saint Mary’s paid UNM $75,000 to come play them in their home gym, which means the Lobos flew home late Wednesday with a huge program victory and a big check.

Still unbeaten…

Despite being 10.5-point underdogs, and falling behind by 11 early on, the Lobos won and remain undefeated this season at 7-0.

It’s the first 7-0 start since the 2012-13 Lobos started 12-0. And 7-0 also means this year’s Lobo team is now one of just 14 to ever start a season 7-0 in 119 seasons of Lobo basketball:

• 2022-23: 7-0*
• 2012-13: 12-0
• 2009-10: 12-0
• 2007-08: 7-0
• 1998-99: 8-0
• 1995-96: 10-0
• 1973-74: 12-0
• 1972-73: 9-0
• 1970-71: 7-0
• 1967-68: 17-0
• 1963-64: 7-0
• 1932-33: 9-0
• 1924-45: 10-0
• 1915-16: 8-0

*Undefeated start is still going.

Above .500 again …

Wednesday’s win puts Richard Pitino at 20-19 as Lobo coach:

• 7-0 this season
• 13-19 last season
• 20-19 overall

It’s the first time since a Dec. 21, 2021, win over Norfolk State when the Lobos were 7-6 that Pitino’s UNM record has been above .500.

So, this counts as a Sweet 16, right?

Our good friend has us covered on how many undefeated teams there are out of 363 at the Division I level, and for the Lobos to still be among the final 16 is impressive.

Some might even call it Sweet.

Speaking of KenPom…

Speaking of our good friend Ken Pomeroy and his magic computer program that ranks all 363 Division I teams, here is the latest for the Lobos:

After Wednesday’s win, UNM is rated 81.

Since the end of the 2020-21 season, the one in which UNM made the coaching change from Paul Weir to Richard Pitino, the Lobos have now climbed 213 spots, the second most in the country in that time.

The top four largest KenPom gains since end of 2020-21 season (using KenPom ratings through Wednesday’s games):

• +214 – Portland (321 to 107)
• +213 – New Mexico (294 to 81)
• +198 – Towson (298 to 100)
• +187 – Middle Tennessee (306 to 119)

One Gael down, one to go…

The Lobos have a pair of Gael opponents this season.

• WIN – at Saint Mary Gaels (Wednesday)
• TBT – vs. Iona Gaels (Dec. 18 in the Pit)

There’s that flag…

Of the announced 3,088 fans in attendance for Wednesday’s game, at least a few dozen were UNM Lobo fans.

And if you know New Mexicans, you know know that when they go to sports events away from the Land of Enchantment, there’s always one or two who have to show their colors and bring the New Mexico flag…

As I was saying…

In Wednesday’s Journal, I wrote about one stat more than any other the Saint Mary’s Gaels have owned in recent years: Assists/Field Goals Made.

It’s a stat that essentially means they make ball movement very difficult and force teams into bad shots or resorting to one-on-one offense.

Entering Wednesday’s game, SMC ranked seventh in the country in limiting opponents’ A/FGM to 35.7% while the national average is 51.7%. In the previous six seasons, SMC led the nation in that statistic twice, was second once and fourth another time.

So, how did Wednesday’s game go?

Pretty much exactly as I previewed. (hey, I get ’em right sometimes)

UNM had season low in assists with 7 (half their previous low of 14 in a game). And off 25 made FGs, that’s an A/FGM of 28%. The national average is 51.3%

“They’re going to make you play that type of game,” Lobos coach Richard Pitino said. “It’s going to be a grind it out, trip to the dentist type of game. And you’ve just got to find a way to make one more big play.”

Video: Pressers with Pitino…

Here is the postgame video I shot of my interviews with UNM coach Richard Pitino and Lobo players Donovan Dent and Morris Udeze, as posted to the Journal’s YouTube page…

Turnovers…

We knew there’d be some turnovers against a defense as good as Saint Mary’s, but the Lobos still probably had more than they can be pleased with.

UNM had a season-worst 17 turnovers. At least like a good team should, they spread them out amongst everyone. Eight of the nine Lobos who played had a turnover — between 1 and 3, to be more specific.

UNM’s turnover rate of 24.6% was the worst this season and third worst in 40 games under Pitino:

Worst TO% under Pitino:

• 27.1% – Jan. 31 at San Diego State
• 26.6% – Nov. 25, 2021 vs. UAB (in Las Vegas)
• 24.7% – Wednesday at Saint Mary’s
• 23.8% – Feb. 15 vs. Wyoming*
• 22.5% – Jan. 1 at Nevada

*Only one in top 5 that was a Lobos win.

Four quarters…

Over the first six games of the season, the Lobos had been beating teams by an average of 7.2 points in the opening 10 minutes of the game, or the “first quarter.”

Wednesday, not so much.

It was an awful opening 10 minutes for the Lobos, who were outscored by 11 in the opening 10 minutes.

Here are Wednesday’s score by “quarter”:

• 1st quarter (20:00-10:00 1H): 4 – 15 (-11)
• 2nd quarter (10:00-0:00 1H): 23 – 8 (+15)
• 3rd quarter (20:00-10:00 2H): 23 – 20 (+3)
• 4th quarter (10:00-0:00 2H): 19 – 22 (-3)

Here is what the Lobos score by quarter averages were over the first 6 games:

• 1st quarter: +7.2
• 2nd quarter: +2.2
• 3rd quarter: +1.3
• 4th quarter: +5.2

Beauty and the Beast (but in reverse)…

What started off as one of the ugliest games I’ve seen the Lobos play over the opening 10 minutes turned into a great, fun game of shot making in the second half.

As noted, UNM started the game down 13-2 at one point (and 15-4 at the 10 minute mark) and here is what a shot log looks like for a stretch like that (I tweeted this at the 11:44 mark of the first half) …

That’s a lot of Xs denoting missed shots.

But the back and forth shot making in the final 10 minutes of the game was something special.

Said Pitino: “I thought that stretch there was fun basketball. It wasn’t fun for me all the time, but it was fun to watch. They were making plays, we were making plays. We made a couple of huge plays down the stretch. … It was a fun game.”

Here’s one screen shot I took of both team’s shot log over that second half stretch where neither team was missing much (you may have to click on the image to expand it to see all the Lobo’s shot results at the far left)…

Up next (maybe)…

For now, since the NMSU/UNM rivalry series this season has been canceled, the Lobos’ next game is Tuesday, Dec. 6, against (Division II) Western New Mexico University at 7 p.m. in the Pit.

The Lobos are actively searching for another game (or two) to add to their nonconference schedule to replace the NMSU games, but only if they actually benefit the computer rankings.

UNM’s 13-game nonconference schedule had five games that were expected to drive the bus on some quality win potential. They’ve lost two of those and one team (SMU) isn’t right now exactly the same team in the rankings as they were when they were ranked in the top 50-60 in the country last offseason when the Lobos signed a home-and-home contract with them.

So, if the Lobos only had five games with potential for big splashes in the nonconference and three are gone, they want to add a team if it helps the computer ratings and a potential invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The problem is, pretty much every team already has their schedule full.

Look for finals week (Dec. 12-16) as a possible opportunity.

Stay tuned…

Plus/minus…

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

+12 Donovan Dent (24:44)
+8 K.J. Jenkins (14:37)
+6 Josiah Allick (37:12)
+6 Birima Seck (2:23)
+1 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (36:47)
+1 Jaelen House (33:07)
-2 Javonte Johnson (20:11)
-6 Morris Udeze (22:53)
-6 Sebastian Forsling (8:06)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had 17 unique lineup combinations in Wednesday’s game and played 9 players. Saint Mary’s had 14 lineup combinations and also played 9 players.

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

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

STARTING LINEUP and WORST LINEUP
• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: -8 (11-19)
• Time on court: 10:23
• NOTE: I usually go with three sections here: Starters, best and worst lineup. But there is no reason to try and force another lineup into the “worst” category. The starters, especially at the start of the game, were awful. This could have looked even worse if not for those five actually getting some buckets in the second half while on the court together. Wednesday was easily the worst start to a game the Lobos have had this season.

BEST LINEUP
• Who: Jaelen House/Donovan Dent/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick
• Point differential: +9 (14-5)
• Time on court: 4:24
NOTE: After that horrid start, this is the unit that closed the first half on the floor together. In the final 4:24 of the first half, UNM outscored SMC 14-5 while scoring 1.9 points per possession.

Remember this guy?

Jay Allen-Tovar, the Lobo player who transferred out of the program a couple weeks ago, posted on Instagram on Wednesday a list of five schools he is deciding between to transfer to.

Among them: New Mexico State.

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins…

Welcome back Isaiah Stevens.

The Colorado State point guard and preseason All-Mountain West selection who broke his foot in October and was expected out until the end of December made a surprise return to his team on Wednesday.

Head coach Niko Medved said the progress was better than anticipated and Stevens will be on a minutes restriction for now.

As for what it meant on Wednesday night hosting Loyola Marymount, the Rams beat LMU 87-71 and Stevens started the game, ending with 13 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and no turnovers in 19 minutes played.

Around the Mountain…

There were four games around the Mountain West on Tuesday and just a couple more before a full slate of games on Saturday:

WEDNESDAY
• Santa Clara 89, Wyoming 85 (OT)
• New Mexico 69, Saint Mary’s 65
• Air Force 81, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 53
• Colorado State 87, Loyola Marymount 71

THURSDAY
• Utah Tech at Utah State, 7 p.m. MT

FRIDAY
• (D-III) Occidental College at No. 24 San Diego State, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT

SATURDAY
• Air Force at Portland State, 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT
• Grand Canyon at Wyoming, 2 p.m MT
• Northern Colorado at Colorado State, 2:30 p.m. MT
• San Jose State at No. 11 Arkansas, 2 p.m. MT/3 p.m. CT
• Fresno State at UC Irvine, 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT
• Boise State at Texas A&M, 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT
• UNLV at San Diego, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT
• Nevada at Loyola Marymount, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT
• New Mexico at New Mexico State, canceled

SUNDAY
• Utah State at San Francisco, 5:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. MT

Meanwhile, down the road in Las Cruces…

The Aggies, who were supposed to be UNM’s next opponent on Saturday in Las Cruces, had themselves one heckuva night in the Pan American Center, roughing up the UTEP Miners, 95-70.

Stats and stats…

Here is the postgame stat sheet from Wednesday’s game: New Mexico 69, Saint Mary’s 65

And if you prefer the digital stats, here you go: New Mexico 69, Saint Mary’s 65

Until next time…

Until next time, University Credit Union Pavilion (formerly McKeon Pavilion) on the campus of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., …

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Exciting Lobo finish at Saint Mary’s almost never happened

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