Emptying the Notebook: A Birima Seck appreciation article - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: A Birima Seck appreciation article

UNM Lobo forward Birima Seck shoots over Western New Mexico’s Isaiah White during Tuesday’s game in the Pit . (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, videos, analysis, stats and whatever else I managed to empty out of the old notebook after Tuesday’s 102-63 Lobos win over Division II Western New Mexico University in the Pit:

Birima had a great season on Tuesday…

In a game like Tuesday night where the outcome was never in doubt, every available Lobo played and every Lobo who played scored (12 in all), there’s a lot to choose from in terms of rare player performances.

Basically, a lot of guys who don’t see the court a ton are often playing more minutes than they usually do and, as a result, often post career highs or near career highs as a result.

And while Lobo sophomore forward Birima Seck certainly falls into that category, he’s a player who could still see his role increase as the season goes on as the team is still just a couple weeks removed from forward Jay Allen-Tovar leaving the team after just three games.

The 6-foot-11 Seck getting big minutes Tuesday might have seemed like just a byproduct of the opponent, but the reality is the Lobos would really like to see him step into a larger role no matter the opponent.

So, how’d he do?

Seck scored a career-high 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 3-of-5 at the free throw line to go along with eight rebounds before fouling out in just 11:06 on the floor.

The fouling out part was really the one downside to his night because it did cut the minutes to just 11, but it was a productive 11 minutes to say the least.

How much so?

Consider his 11 points matched the total of 11 points he scored in the entire 2021-22 season. The difference is he did it in 11 minutes on Tuesday and it took him 167 minutes and 18 games to get those 11 points a season ago.

As for those eight rebounds, that doubles to 16 his total this season (2.0/game). In 18 games played last season, Seck had 47 total rebounds (2.6/game).

Here’s Seck grabbing one his three offensive boards on the night and putting it back in for 2 of UNM’s 18 second chance points.

As cool as it was to see Seck go off a little bit in Tuesday’s game, it was even better hearing his teammate and fellow sophomore big man, Sebastian Forsling, talk about Seck’s big game.

“Birima’s my guy. That’s my brother. We became over here (to UNM together),” said Forsling. “… It’s so fun because we kind of view the game the same way. It’s just fun to be out there with him. Because last year, I was playing a little bit more, and he deserves to be out there. He’s a great player, he works so hard. I’m just so happy to see him doing well, because that’s really my guy. That’s my brother.”

On the season,

The gamer…

Here is the game story I filed from the Pit on Tuesday night…

Still unbeaten…

And then there were 10.

With both Texas and Maryland losing on Tuesday night, the Lobos (and nine other teams) are among the final 10 (out of 363) Division I teams in the country without a loss.

The final 10 are:

• Houston (9-0)
• Connecticut (9-0)
• Purdue (8-0)
• Virgina (8-0)
• Auburn (8-0)
• Mississippi State (8-0)
• Utah State (7-0)
• Missouri (9-0)
• New Mexico (8-0)
• UNLV (8-0)

Nobody expected a Lobos loss to a Division II opponent on Tuesday. Now at 8-0, they are now among just 11 teams in the 119 season history of the program that have started a season at least 8-0:

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

*Undefeated start is still going.

Crying foul…

Tuesday’s game featured 50 fouls called by the three-man officiating crew of Shawn Lehigh, Kelly Pfeifer and Nate Harris. And they distributed them evenly with 25 called on each team.

It was the second time this season the Lobos have played in a 50-foul game and the 25 called on the Lobos is a season-high.

That’s fine if the players are fouling, but Tuesday saw 31 second-half fouls called in what at one point was a 45-point Lobos lead in the second half.

Why prolong that by calling every ticky-tack foul?

I tried luring Pitino into a trap of criticizing the officiating after the game. He didn’t bite.

“The refs were horrible. I’m sending all the film into the Mountain West,” he said, tongue in cheek. “No, I thought we were fouling and I thought they were fouling. I mean, Donovan (Dent) was complaining about the fouls. ‘You want me to complain to the refs in a 45 point game?’ I’m not gonna do that. We were fouling. It was a lot, both ways.”

Here’s the number of fouls called in each Lobos game this season:

• 50 – Tuesday (25 on UNM, 25 on WNMU)
• 50 – Nov. 7 (20 on UNM, 30 on Southern Utah)
• 41 – Nov. 26 (19 on UNM, 22 on North Dakota State)
• 38 – Nov. 15 (16 on UNM, 22 on SMU)
• 37 – Nov. 30 (17 on UNM, 20 on Saint Mary’s)
• 35 – Nov. 25 (13 on UNM, 22 on Jacksonville State)
• 35 – Nov. 27 (13 on UNM, 22 on Northern Colorado)
• 29 – Nov. 11 (9 on UNM, 20 on South Alabama)

The home/road splits on foul calls for Lobo games this season:

IN THE PIT (6 gms):
> 16.5: Avg. number of fouls called on the Lobos
> 23.5: Avg. number of fouls called on Lobo opponents

ON THE ROAD (2 gms):
> 16.5: Avg. number of fouls called on the Lobos
> 21.0: Avg. number of fouls called on Lobo opponents

Two more items of note from Tuesday’s foul-fest.

One was that the Mustangs didn’t exactly make UNM pay for fouling so often, going just 14-of-28 at the free throw line.

Second, the Lobos shot a solid 21-of-28 (75%) at the charity stripe with four coming on the “and-1” variety with a made basket and chance to make it a 3-point play after drawing the foul.

A number to know: 12

The Lobos had 12 players get into Tuesday’s game and 12 players scored.

Asked after the game about the accomplishment of having all 12 players who got in the game score, Richard Pitino first looked at the stat sheet to verify that was true.

“Well, I didn’t know that, but now I do know that,” Pitino said before seeing an opportunity for a recruiting pitch by suggesting it was all by design.

“We’re a players-first program. That’s what we do. … It was good to be able to play those guys. You know, these type of games, if you can build a lead, the opportunity to be able to play some of these guys who don’t play a lot is great.”

Mac’s the man…

Walk-on freshman Mac Manzanares, whose dad is UNM Senior Associate Athletic Director Ed Manzanares, grabbed his first board and made his first bucket as a Lobo late in Tuesday’s game.

And, as often is the case with walk-on’s doing their thing late in games, watching the Lobos bench erupt when Mac did those things was cool, too.

“That was so fun,” said Sebastian Forsling of watching the Lobo walk-ons score. “You can see the emotion on of all of our faces just seeing them scoring points.

“It’s just beautiful what this game can do to people.”

High 5 for Braden…

Lobo freshman guard Braden Appelhans had career highs in points (5) and rebounds (5) on Tuesday.

He also had a career high in minutes played at 20, something he was asked about after the game.

“It was great playing in front of the fans for a long period of time,” Appelhans said. “I’ll remember that forever. It was a great time.”

Attendance…

The announced attendance for Tuesday’s game between Division II Western New Mexico and the UNM Lobos: 8,329

Mid-range Mash strikes again…

Jamal Mashburn Jr. scored 17 points in 20 minutes on the court on Tuesday, extending his Mountain West Conference best streak of scoring in double figures at 29 consecutive games.

For those who have seen him play in person, you know Mashburn takes more midrange jumpers than pretty much any college player around. The midrange shot in modern basketball is, after all, pretty much a no-no. The analytics tell you the best shots value wise are at the rim and uncontested 3-pointers.

But really, the best shot is the one a player is best at. And with Mashburn, that’s the midrange game.

Tuesday, five of his made buckets were midrange jumpers with one layup and one 3-pointer mixed into the night (as were a pair of made free throws).

He was 5-of-9 on 2s outside of the paint, but inside the 3-point arc.

The rest of the Lobo roster hit four midrange shots on Tuesday

VIDEO: Pressers with Pitino

Here is the video I shot and posted to the Journal’s YouTube page of Lobo basketball coach Richard Pitino and Lobo players Sebastian Forsling and Braden Appelhans:

A number to know: 100

The Lobos broke the century mark on Tuesday. This is the seventh-consecutive season UNM has had at least on 100-point game.

The last season the Lobos didn’t have at least one 100-point game was 2015-16 under Craig Neal.

Caught in the NET…

Monday brought with it the first NCAA NET rankings of season. The NET is a key metric that combines a lot of other metrics and game results to formulate a ranking — 1 through 363 — of every Division I program with the intent of placing a value on games played.

The good news for the Mountain West is several teams have, at least initially, strong NET rankings. What that means is come league play, playing league opponents creates the chance for Quad 1 or Quad 2 wins, which are the ones needed for a strong case for an NCAA Tournament invitation.

First, the breakdown on what games qualify for each “quad” on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s team page reports:

• Quad 1 games:
> Home game vs. team ranked 1–30
> Neutral court game vs. team ranked 1-50
> Road game vs. team ranked 1–75

• Quad 2 games:
> Home game vs. team ranked 31–75
> Neutral court game vs. team ranked 51-100
> Road game vs. team ranked 76-135

• Quad 3 games:
> Home game vs. team ranked 76-160
> Neutral court game vs. team ranked 101-200
> Road game vs. team ranked 136-240

• Quad 4 games:
> Home game vs. team ranked 161–363
> Neutral court game vs. team ranked 201-363
> Road game vs. team ranked 241-363

Now, here are the Mountain West’s NET rankings as of Tuesday (they update daily, and UNM already moves up seven spots from Monday’s debut based on results of other opponents):

16 Utah State
20 New Mexico
41 Nevada
44 UNLV
47 San Diego State
57 Boise State
91 Colorado State
196 Fresno State
197 San Jose State
209 Air Force
274 Wyoming

Listen up…

In case you missed it first posted Saturday night, episode 55 of the Talking Grammer podcast was an in-depth conversation with Lobo basketball coach Richard Pitino. We talked about the unique first month of the season for his team, the undefeated start, cancelation of rivalry games and go player-by-player with comments about how each Lobo has performed so far.

You can listen at any of the following links or on the player here:

• SoundCloud (Ep. 55)
• iTunes (Ep. 55)
• Spotify (Ep. 55)

For the full 55-episode archive of the Talking Grammer podcast, CLICK HERE.

• SoundCloud
• iTunes
• Spotify

Plus/minus…

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

+26 Donovan Dent (24:33)
+25 Josiah Allick (23:49)
+23 Birima Seck (11:06)
+21 Braden Appelhans (20:22)
+20 Jaelen House (17:52)
+20 K.J. Jenkins (21:48)
+19 Morris Udeze (19:21)
+18 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (20:29)
+18 Sebastian Forsling (15:57)
+13 Javonte Johnson (19:11)
-4 Mac Manzanares (2:46)
-4 Safi Fino-A-Laself (2:46)

No E-Man, again…

Senior wing Emmanuel Kuac, still recovering from a broken leg suffered Jan. 8 of last season, did not suit up for Tuesday’s game because of a calf injury.

“We were hoping to get him some minutes, but he kind of re-aggravated it in practice yesterday,” said Lobos coach Richard Pitino. “Unfortunately, when you have that serious of an injury, I think you start favoring other things. So it can be a slow process.”

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had 16 unique lineup combinations in Tuesday’s game and played 12 players. Western New Mexico had 14 lineup combinations and also played 12 players.

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

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

STARTING LINEUP
• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +14 (27-13)
• Time on court: 11:05
• NOTE: The starters were, as they’ve been much of the season, great offensively. They scored 2.4 points per minute on the floor together, had 15 of the Lobos 52 rebounds in the game and seven of the team’s 23 assists.

BEST LINEUP
• Who: Donovan Dent/K.J. Jenkins/Braden Appelhans/Birima Seck/Sebastian Forsling
• Point differential: +11 (24-13)
• Time on court: 6:05
NOTE: OK, how’s this for the best lineup of the night? Not one starter in the bunch. This group, led by Dent and Jenkins, scored an insanely efficient 3.9 points per minute on the floor together and in much less time scored almost the same number of points as the starters.

WORST LINEUP
• Who: Safi Fino-A-Laself/K.J. Jenkins/Braden Appelhans/Javonte Johnson/Mac Manazares
• Point differential: -4 (7-11)
• Time on court: 2:46
NOTE: The stretch where two walk-ons were playing proved to be the worst lineup of the night for the Lobos. Not entirely surprising, of course.

Meanwhile, in San Jose…

OK, so maybe you haven’t noticed, but the entire Mountain West is having a pretty solid nonconference showing overall. And that includes teams like San Jose State under second-year coach Tim Miles.

The Spartans beat Cal. State Bakersfield 58-48 at home on Tuesday and improved to 7-3 on the season and have moved up to 205 in the KenPom rankings.

The last time San Jose State was at 7-3 through 10 games was in the the 2010-11 season under head coach George Nessman when the Spartans were still playing in the WAC.

Around the Mountain…

There were six games around the Mountain (West) on Tuesday with two more coming Wednesday and one rivalry game on Thursday:

TUESDAY
• Air Force 79, South Dakota 58
• Wyoming 91, Texas A&M-Commerce 76
• Boise State 90, (NAIA) Eastern Oregon 54
• San Jose State 58, Cal State Bakersfield 48
• Nevada 85, Pepperdine 77
• New Mexico 102, (D-II) Western New Mexico 63

WEDNESDAY
• Cal State Northridge at Fresno State, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT
• Hawaii at UNLV, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT

THURSDAY
• Colorado State at Colorado, 7 p.m.

Way too early, but…

Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s resident bracketologist, had the UNM Lobos among his “First Four Out” in Tuesday’s updated Bracketology, which is a regularly-updated prediction of the NCAA Tournament field.

Here’s the link.

Joe’s predictions on Tuesday included two Mountain West teams in the Tournament field of 68 teams — San Diego State and Utah State — and two in the “First Four Out” section — UNLV and UNM.

SDSU was picked to win the league. Them being predicted now to be comfortably in the tournament is no surprise. But Utah State, UNLV and UNM were the preseason media poll picks 8, 6 and 5, respectively, which is quite the welcome surprise for a league that has seen injuries so far to preseason All-League players Graham Ike and Hunter Maldonado of Wyoming, the preseason No. 2 team, and to Isaiah Stevens of Colorado State, the preseason No. 4 team.

Poll position…

The UNM Lobos received 3 points in the “others receiving votes” of new Associated Press Top 25 poll released on Monday — 13 spots and 78 points below being ranked.

San Diego State remains the lone Mountain West team ranked (No. 22). UNLV (14 points, 8 spots from being ranked) also received votes.

Conference awards…

Boise State’s Max Rice was named the Mountain West Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over CSU Northridge and TexasA&M.

UNM’s Donovan Dent was named the Freshman of the Week for his 13-point, six-rebound, two assists game in the big win over Saint Mary’s last week, snapping the Gaels 23-game home win streak. Eleven of Dent’s 13 points were scored in the second half.

Here’s a look at the Mountain West award winners so far this season:

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
• Nov. 14: Darrion Trammell, San Diego State
• Nov. 21: EJ Harkless, UNVL
• Nov. 28: Morris Udeze, New Mexico
• Dec. 5: Darrion Trammell, San Diego State

FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
• Nov. 14: Darrion Williams, Nevada
• Nov. 21: Darrion Williams, Nevada
• Nov. 28: Corbin Green, Air Force
• Dec. 5: Donovan Dent, New Mexico

Stats and stats…

Here is the postgame stat sheet from Tuesday: New Mexico 102, Western New Mexico 63

And if you’d just like the digital version of the stats, here you go: New Mexico 102, Western New Mexico 63

Up next…

UNM hosts UT-San Antonio on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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