Emptying the Notebook: Lobos losing 3-point battle every night becoming a problem - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Lobos losing 3-point battle every night becoming a problem

UNM Lobo guard Jamal Mashburn, Jr., right, is defended by Nevada Wolf Pack forward Darrion Williams during Tuesday night’s game in the Pit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, tweets and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Tuesday’s late night 77-76 Lobos loss to Nevada in the Pit.

3 is more than 1…

Well, what do I know?

After last week’s Lobos loss at Utah State, I pointed out how vital one specific stat was to the Lobos’ success this season.

Outscoring opponents at the free throw line, more than just about any single stat, seemed to be more tied in with Lobos wins and losses than any other stat I could find. That’s likely because it it accomplishes the obvious — more points at the free throw line helps a team accomplish the ultimate goal of having more points at the end of the game.

It’s also a great stat to follow most nights to see if things like ball movement, attacking the rim and getting the ball to the big men near the basket in position to quickly score and draw foul are happening.

Entering Tuesday:

• 18-0 — UNM record when scoring more points at the free throw line than its opponent
• 1-4 — UNM record when scoring fewer points at the free throw line than its opponent

Then came whatever it was that happened to the Lobos on Tuesday night.

UNM hit 24-of-28 free throws compared to just 8-of-10 for Nevada for a difference of 16 points gained by UNM on free throws… AND LOST!

FT’s made differential in 5 Lobos losses:
• -3 — Fresno State 12, New Mexico 9 (Jan. 2)
• -4 — UNLV 18, New Mexico 14 (Jan. 7)
• -2 — Nevada, New Mexico (Jan. 23)
• -16 — Utah State 27, New Mexico 11 (Feb. 1)
• +16 — New Mexico 24, Nevada 8 (Tuesday)

One of those does not look like the others.

So how did outscoring Nevada by 16 at the free throw line not give UNM a big win? Or even a win at all?

Well, the Wolf Pack hit a season-high (vs. Division I teams) 11 3-pointers on 22 tries. UNM was only 4-of-16 from beyond the arc.

Jared Lucas alone hit six 3s en route to his matching his career-high with 28 points.

So, here’s what Tuesday night equated to when comparing the FT line disparity and the 3-point line disparity:

Point differential FTs
• Nevada 8 FTs
• New Mexico 24 FTs
• NET: plus-16, New Mexico

Point differential 3-pointers
• Nevada 33 3FG
• New Mexico 12 3FG
• NET: plus-21, Nevada

My math skills tell me that’s a plus-5 advantage for Nevada in a game it won by 1-point.

UNM has been outscored at the 3-point line 17 times in 24 games this season.

Even though UNM had been pretty good defending 3-point shots (it did have a seven-game streak of holding teams under their season 3-point shooting average end on Tuesday night), the reality it was only a matter of time before a team had a big night from beyond the arc against the shorter Lobo guards.

And if the the Lobos aren’t really even going to even try to score much from the 3-point line, they may find out pretty soon that trying to win high-scoring shootouts with 1s (FTs) and 2s simply won’t work if the other team is counting by 3s.

As of Wednesday morning, UNM’s current ranks (out of 363 Division I programs) in terms of point distribution:

• FTs (21.7% of UNM’s points) — 30th
• 2s (57.3% of UNM’s points) — 29th
• 3s (21.0% of UNM’s points) — 353rd

There are only 10 DI programs in the country getting less from the 3-point line than the Lobos. Four of those 10 have offenses ranked 317 or worse and three others rank 231st or lower.

UNM, somehow, is still ranked 30th nationally in offense despite not utilizing the 3-point shot.

Can that last?

Wednesday showed how vulnerable UNM can be trying to win playing small ball against a team that gets hot from 3.

But here’s the problem. UNM may not have the shooters to do anything about it.

The Lobos use a seven-man rotation and four of those players aren’t a threat from the 3-point line, not in the eyes of any opposing defensive scouting report.

And if four players in your seven man rotation have defenders who can collapse into the lane to help protect the rim or clog driving/passing lanes, then the Lobos offense likely has hit its ceiling.

Take a look at the season stats for the four Lobos in the top 7 rotation that defenses aren’t worried about at the 3-point line — either for a lack of volume or a lack of high percentage shooting:

• Morris Udeze — 0-0 3FG
• Josiah Allick — 4-27 3FG (14.8%)
• Javonte Johnson — 15-56 3FG (26.8%)
• Donovan Dent — 3-9 3FG (33.3%)

If those four don’t start proving they can knock down 3s more consistently (and in fairness, Javonte Johnson has been better the past couple weeks), the Lobos are probably stuck trying to beat teams with 1s and 2s — a style that doesn’t work for many programs in the modern era of basketball.

The gamer…

Here is the gamer I filed from media row in the Pit on Tuesday night (late start, slow game, no postgame presser for me because of our deadlines, so no quotes at all for the early edition, but I added a few overnight online):

The painful (for Lobo fans) ending…

In case you didn’t get enough of it on Tuesday night, here are three angles of the final game-winner by Kenan Blackshear…

… and …

… and …

Boos now, boos before…

Here is what the old iPhone captured on Tuesday night for the much-anticipated walk down the ramp for Steve Alford and Craig Neal as opposing coaches…

And here was what the old iPhone captured in February 2020 for the announcement of Steve Alford and Craig Neal as opposing coaches right after the player introductions were completed…

A number to know: 1.364

UNM’s defense is having a hard time right now putting together two halves of quality basketball. It has had at least one half that bad to awful half for four consecutive games:

Points per possession allowed:

• 1.584 PPP — scored by Nevada in 1H on Jan. 23
• 1.147 PPP — scored by Air Force in 2H on Jan. 27
• 1.533 PPP — scored by Utah State in 1H on Feb. 1
• 1.364 PPP — scored by Nevada in 1H on Tuesday

Trust me, those are bad PPP numbers.

It wasn’t as though the Lobos didn’t tighten things up some in the second half, though.

Nevada’s points per possession:
• 1st half – 1.364 (45 points)
• 2nd half – 0.941 (32 points)

New Mexico’s points per possession:
• 1st half – 1.323 (41 points)
• 2nd half – 1.094 (35 points)

Alford in the Pit…

Steve Alford on Tuesday night improved to 8-0 against the Lobos and 94-11 all-time coaching in the Pit (92-11 as UNM’s coach and 2-0 as Nevada’s coach):

• 2008 – 16-2
• 2009 – 16-2
• 2010 – 17-1
• 2011 – 14-3
• 2012 – 14-2
• 2013 – 15-1

• 2020 – 1-0
• 2023 – 1-0

CAREER: 94-11 (0.895)

Which means…

Nevada, and Alford, winning on Tuesday mean the list of Mountain West schools Richard Pitino has yet to beat remains a list of three:

• Nevada
• Fresno State
• Utah State

Mashburn getting to 20, again…

In the loss, Jamal Mashburn, Jr., scored 21 points, his 45th consecutive game scoring in double figures, which is the longest active streak in the Mountain West and second-longest streak in the country.

And his tough, go-ahead midrange jumper with 19 seconds left should not get forgotten in the craziness of Blackshear’s game-winner…

So, let’s update where Mashburn stands in some of the scoring lists/rankings we’ve regularly been updating in this ETN space:

Mountain West scoring (overall)
1. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., UNM — 19.5 points per game
2. Jarod Lucas, Nevada — 17.8 ppg
3. Elijah Harkless, UNLV — 17.4 ppg
4. Jaelen House, UNM — 17.3 ppg
5. Omari Moore, San Jose State — 16.7 ppg

Mountain West scoring (league games)
1. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., UNM — 22.0 points per game
2. Omari Moore, San Jose State — 19.9 ppg
3. Elijah Harkless, UNLV — 19.5 ppg
4. Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State — 19.1 ppg
5. Jarod Lucas, Nevada — 18.9 ppg

Career scoring
• Minnesota (29 games): 237 points
• UNM (56 games): 1,049
• Total: 1,286

UNM’s all-time scoring list
(points scored only as a Lobo)
30. Chad Toppert (2006-09): 1,067
31. Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (2021-present): 1,049
32. Ira Harge (1963-64): 1,016
33. Rob Loeffel (1986-89): 1,011
t34. Alex Kirk (2011-14): 1,010
t34. Ron Becker (1968-70): 1010
36. Hugh Greenwood (2012-15): 1,006


The announced attendance for Tuesday night’s game in the Pit: 15,004

Number of games with an announced home attendance of 15,000-plus in the Pit in the past seven seasons:

2022-23 season
1. 15,424 — UNLV (Jan. 7)
2. 15,215 — Colorado State (Dec. 28)
3. 15,143 — Air Force (Jan. 27)
4. 15,004 — Nevada (Tuesday night)

2021-22 season
• None

2020-21 season
• None

2019-20 season
• None

2018-19 season
• None

2017-18 season
• None

2016-17 season
• None

New Mexico True…

Has there ever been a more New Mexico Tweet than this?

• Lowriders
• Lobos
• Things shutting down for a few flakes of snow falling in the city

Of course, the responses to that tweet did not disappoint…

Road wins…

Here are the number of true road wins in Mountain West play:

4 – San Diego State
3 – Nevada
3 – Boise State
3 – Utah State
2 – New Mexico
2 – UNLV
2 – Colorado State
2 – Air Force
1 – Fresno State
1 – San Jose State
0 – Wyoming

Speaking of: Alford on winning on the road…

Nevada had lost three games in a row on the road by an average of 10 points — at SDSU, Boise State and UNLV.

In postgame remarks, Alford both acknowledged his team needed to prove itself on the road, then suggested talk around the league about how Nevada wasn’t winning on the road wasn’t warranted.

Either way, Tuesday should quiet talk — internally or externally — that Nevada needs to prove itself on road. Alford’s two quotes of note on that topic:

“There’s been a lot of talk that we haven’t won on the road in awhile. We didn’t just win on the road, we won in the Pit.”

… and …

“We needed to prove ourselves on the road. To get a win in the Pit — anytime you win in this building, you’ve proven yourself.”

Familiar faces…

And while some Lobo fans may not like to acknowledge it, a lot of former Lobos players, managers and staffers in the Albuquerque area still hold Alford and Craig Neal in high regard and visited them at Nevada’s shoot around in the Pit on Tuesday morning.

Look at some of these familiar faces…

Bad loss?

Losing at home won’t help the Lobos. And they’ve pretty much run out of hope for making a run at a league title.

But, in a vacuum, just looking at Tuesday night as what it actually was — just one game — then the reality is the Lobos loss wasn’t overly detrimental.

Here is a ranking update from KenPom.com update after Tuesday’s game:

• Nevada 42
• UNM 46

• Nevada 40
• New Mexico 46

So, another lost opportunity, and they’re running out of time, but the Lobos didn’t get hurt as bad from Tuesday as it may have felt like for Lobo fans after watching that game-winner go down.

Meanwhile, at halftime…

Yes, there was a mariachi band playing at halftime. And no reports of altercations in the hallways up the Pit ramp.

VIDEO: Richard Pitino, Steve Alford …

Here is the UNM Athletics video of the postgame media availability with Lobos coach Richard Pitino:

And here is the Journal’s recording of Steve Alford’s postgame remarks after Tuesday’s game:

Did you hear?

Monday, I posted a podcast — Episode 60 of the Talking Grammer Podcast, to be precise. It included sound from Jamal Mashburn, Jr., and Richard Pitino talking about the Nevada game and then a 12-minute conversation I had over the weekend with Steve Alford about the game and his return to Albuquerque.

You can listen here or on the links in the tweet below…


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

+7 Donovan Dent (15:19)
+3 Sebastian Forsling (4:00)
0 Josiah Allick (32:32)
0 K.J. Jenkins (16:08)
-2 Jaelen House (37:00)
-3 Morris Udeze (35:10)
-4 Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (33:44)
-6 Javonte Johnson (26:07)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had 14 unique lineup combinations in Tuesday’s game and played eight players. Nevada had 13 lineup combinations and also played eight players.

The Lobos have used the same starting lineup in 23 of 24 games played this season with the lone exception being Jan. 9 when wing Javonte Johnson was out vs. Oral Roberts with an elbow injury.

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

• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: -5 (28-33)
• Time on court: 16:01
• NOTE: The starters played OK. Not great. They had five turnovers and five assists, which for the one unit that plays by far the most minutes together on the season you sure would hope would be better than that, but they also scored 1.7 points per minute and 1.2 points per possession, which are both winning offensive numbers when the defense isn’t giving up more that that.

• Who: Donovan Dent/Jaelen House/K.J. Jenkins/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +5 (2:14)
• Time on court: 5-0
• NOTE: Scoring 1.7 points per possession is great, but holding Nevada in a 77-point night scoreless for more than two minutes of the game is a pretty solid stat. Had any other units been as good defensively for stretches like that, the outcome likely would have been different considering the razor-thin difference in Tuesday’s game.

• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn Jr./K.J. Jenkins/Josiah Allick/Sebastian Forsling
• Point differential: -6 (9-15)
• Time on court: 6:23
• NOTE: Considering the starting five went minus-5 scoring differential on Tuesday, and the lineup with the first sub off the bench most games (K.J. Jenkins for Javonte Johnson) is your worst lineup in less than half the time at minus-6, well, you can see the Lobos losing a game by one point in the final second might be a bit surprising. Essentially, UNM was outscored by 11 using its two most commonly-used lineups. That ain’t great.

Meanwhile, in Fresno…

Don’t look now, but that bad loss Jan. 3 to Fresno State, well it’s still bad for the Lobos. But it’s a lot less bad now.

The Bulldogs are playing some pretty good basketball of late, winning on the road at UNLV on Friday and then knocking off San Jose State at home on Tuesday.

And just like that, Fresno State is at five wins in the Mountain West (UNM is only at six) and has jumped in its last two games from 183 to 160 in the KenPom rankings.

Around the Mountain…

There were three games around the Mountain West on Tuesday, two more Wednesday and then five for the weekend slate…

• Colorado State 69, Air Force 53
• Fresno State 70, San Jose State 62
• Nevada 77, New Mexico 76

• No. 25 San Diego State at Utah State, 8 p.m. MT (CBSSN)
• UNLV at Wyoming, 8:30 p.m. MT (FS1)

• New Mexico at Air Force, 7 p.m. MT (FS1)
• Fresno State at Nevada, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT (FS1)

• UNLV at San Diego State, 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT (FOX)
• Wyoming at Boise State, 6 p.m. MT (CBSSN)
• Utah State at San Jose State, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT (CBSSN)

Mountain West standings…

Here are the Mountain West standings through Tuesday night’s games…

9-2 San Diego State
9-3 Nevada
8-3 Boise State
8-3 Utah State
6-5 New Mexico
5-6 San Jose State
5-7 Fresno State
4-7 UNLV
3-9 Colorado State
3-9 Air Force
2-8 Wyoming

That top grouping…

The top five in the Mountain West that entered Tuesday’s game each in the Top 40 of the NET rankings, top five of the standings and top 50 of the KenPom rankings still have some games against one another left in the season.

Here’s a look at the current records these teams have against each other and what the KenPom game-by-game probability ratings tell us might happen down the stretch, with the understanding, some of those probabilities are razor thin margins:

Top 5 records vs. Top 5:

• Nevada: 5-2
• SDSU: 3-2
• New Mexico: 2-3
• Boise State: 2-3
• Utah State: 1-3

KenPom probabilities for remaining games vs. Top 5:
(With win probability listed)

• Utah State: 3-0
W at home vs. San Diego State (53%)
W at home vs. Nevada (62%)
W at home vs. Boise State (57%)

• Boise State: 2-1
W at home vs. New Mexico (68%)
W at home vs. San Diego State (58%)
L at Utah State (43%)

• New Mexico: 1-1
L at Boise State (32%)
W at home vs. San Diego State (51%)

• Nevada: 0-1
L at Utah State (38%)

• SDSU: 0-3
L at Utah State (47%)
L at New Mexico (49%)
L at Boise State (42%)

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles…

In case your head was entirely in the college basketball sand on Tuesday, you might have missed the biggest basketball news of the night. LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer:

OK, back to college hoops things…

Colleague Sean Reider walked around the Pit on Tuesday asking fans for their thoughts — before and during the game, not after the ending — of former Lobos coach Steve Alford and his return to his old stomping grounds…

Stats and stats…

Here is the final stat sheet from Tuesday: Nevada 77, New Mexico 76

And for those who prefer the digital version: Nevada 77, New Mexico 76

Grammer’s Guesses…

The Guesses struggle again (it was a day ending in Y, after all). My picks go 1-2 against the point spread and I’m now at 27-35-1 on the season.

My daughter’s coin flip picks also went 1-2, and she’s at 24-38-1.

Up next…

The Lobos’ next game is 7 p.m. Friday at Air Force. The game will be televised, again, on FS1 and can be heard on 770 AM or 96.3 FM.

And I will, as always, be on hand to cover it all in one of the coolest venues in college basketball, the Cadet Fieldhouse, which houses several arenas inside it, including Clune Arena for the basketball teams (there’s also an indoor track & field facility and a hockey rink).

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Lobos losing 3-point battle every night becoming a problem

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