Emptying the Notebook: It's not just the Lobos' defense struggling anymore - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: It’s not just the Lobos’ defense struggling anymore

UNM Lobo center Morris Udeze grabs the rebound against Wyoming during their game in the Pit on Tuesday. (Jon Austria/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, tweets and whatever else I managed to empty out of the old reporter’s notebook after Tuesday’s 70-56 Lobos loss to Wyoming in the Pit:

What’s the point?

As recently as Friday night at the U.S. Air Force Academy following his team’s 89-77 road loss to Air Force, Richard Pitino told the Journal, “the offense is not the problem.”

And that seems like a fair comment considering both how clearly shaky the team’s defense is lately but also the fact that the Lobos, even after Tuesday’s 56-point belly flop of an outing, are still the only Mountain West team averaging more than 80-points per game (league-leading 80.6 ppg overall and a league-best 76.8 ppg in conference games, 2.3-points better than the No. 2 team).

But then came Game No. 2 without their point guard Jaelen House (out with a hamstring injury).

Without House providing the energy, dribble penetration, high-speed unpredictability that keeps opposing teams guessing and back on their heels, and just frankly his running of the offense, the Lobos sputtered to not just a season-low 56 points, but a season low by 11 points fewer than their previous season low (67 points in the Jan. 3 loss at Fresno State).

“Losing one of your best players, one of the best players in the league, we can’t ignore that,” UNM coach Richard Pitino said. “So we’re out of rhythm. And who knows when he’ll be back, you know? He was a little bit closer today, but still not there. Next man up mentality.”

Tuesday had several painful-for-Lobo-fans-to-see sort of offensive stats:
• 56 points (season low)
• 36.8% shooting (first time all season held under 40%)
• outscored 33-15 at 3-point line
• outscored 13-9 at free throw line (more on why that stat, even though just a four-point differential, was so key below)

Tuesday wasn’t just the lowest scoring game of this season, it was tied for third worst of the Pitino era.

UNM’s lowest scoring games in the Richard Pitino era:
• 47 — Jan. 31, 2022, at San Diego State (72-47 loss)
• 55 — Feb. 20, 2022, at San Jose State (71-55 loss)
• 56 — Tuesday vs. Wyoming (70-56 loss)
• 56 — Jan. 11, 2022, at UNLV (85-56 loss)
• 56 — Feb. 22, 2022, at Utah State (81-56 loss)
• 58 — Nov. 26, 2021, vs. Towson (73-58 loss)

As for how it happened, lots of reasons.

UNM’s Houseless 3-guard rotation of Jamal Mashburn, Jr., Donovan Dent and K.J. Jenkins, shot 8-for-32 (25.0%) overall on Tuesday, including 1-for-9 on 3-pointers (11.1%) and got to the foul line a grand total of 2 times (both by Mashburn).

And if we revisit the lead items of two recent ETN columns, we’ll see two topics I’ve pointed out that have been particularly damaging to the Lobos both happened on Tuesday: They were dominated at the 3-point line and outscored at the free throw line.

Wyoming got 18 more points from 3-pointers than UNM did (11-of-29 to 5-of-16 in 3-point shooting).

The 3-point shooting issues are what they are at this point for the Lobos. Jenkins can (usually) hit them while Mashburn and House are enough of a threat to defend out there. And maybe Javonte Johnson (2-for-3 on Tuesday) is coming out of his season-long funk from beyond the arc.

But that is essentially one shooter, two guys who are more scorers than pure 3-point shooters, one guy whose season average is still bad, but maybe improving and then a bunch of non-threats. That means 2-3 defenders most every possession can sag into the paint to make it hard on Morris Udeze to get the ball, which is what happened all night on Tuesday by Wyoming. And if there aren’t spaces for House and Mashburn to drive, the entire offense crumbles.

“I think it was hurting us a little bit that they were playing off of Josiah (Allick) and off of Donovan (Dent),” Pitino said. “That’s a bit of a challenge, offensively, when they’re sitting in the lane off of those two guys. So, we were trying to go inside to Morris, but they were trapping and basically from the backside with either Josiah’s or Donovan’s guy.”

And as for those free throws, well, the Lobos were outscored at the free throw line 13-9 and their record this season when outscored at the free throw line now stands at 1-5. It was only 3-13 last season. That means Pitino’s teams absolutely need those free throws.

The Cowboys were 13-of-14 at the free throw line on Tuesday and the Lobos were only 9-of-13.

To update the FT differential stats I’ve referenced after past games:

FTs made differential
-16 — Utah State 27, New Mexico 11 (Feb. 1, LOSS)
-4 — Wyoming 13, New Mexico 9 (Tuesday, LOSS)
-4 — UNLV 18, New Mexico 14 (Jan. 7, LOSS)
-3 — Fresno State 12, New Mexico 9 (Jan. 2, LOSS)
-3 — Saint Mary’s, New Mexico (Nov. 30, WIN)
-2 — Nevada, New Mexico (Jan. 23, LOSS)

For the season, the Lobos are:

• 1-5 (0.167) when outscored at the FT line.
• 18-2 (0.900) when tied or outscoring opponent at FT line.

The gamer…

Here is the game story I filed Tuesday night in the Pit media room:

Without their House…

Jaelen House was close to playing Tuesday, even warming up for the game down the Pit floor, making it appear as though he was going to play:

Instead, for the second-straight game, and second against a bottom-three team in the conference, House sat and the Lobos lost… bad.

When will he be back?

As mentioned by Pitino in a quote above: “Who knows when he’ll be back, you know? He was a little bit closer today, but still not there. Next man up mentality.”

Another forgettable February…

The Lobos have been awful in February, but that’s not necessarily something new.

And don’t look now, but there are some similarities, at least in win/loss trends, to one of the more forgettable months and endings to a season in Lobo basketball history in 2015 when the Craig Neal-coached Lobos went 0-for February (0-8 to be exact).

That Lobos team was 14-7 overall and 6-3 in Mountain West play after a Jan. 31 win over San Jose State. Then it went 0-8 in February, finished 15-16 (7-11 in Mountain West play) and had a first-round loss in the conference tournament.

This season’s Lobos team was 19-3 overall at the end of January and, like that Neal-coached team, 6-3 in Mountain West play before starting 0-4 in February so far with four more games to play in the month.

Here is a look at how the Month of February has treated each Lobos coach in the Mountain West era (started in 1999-2000):

Richard Pitino era
• 2023: 0-4 (Four Feb. games remain)
• 2022: 4-4
• TOTAL: 4-8 (.333)

Paul Weir era
• 2021: 1-3
• 2020: 2-6
• 2019: 2-5
• 2018: 5-2
• TOTAL: 10-16 (.385)

Craig Neal era
• 2017: 3-4
• 2016: 3-5
• 2015: 0-8
• 2014: 6-1
• TOTAL: 12-18 (.400)

Steve Alford era
• 2013: 6-1
• 2012: 5-2
• 2011: 3-4
• 2010: 7-0
• 2009: 6-1
• 2008: 6-2
• TOTAL: 33-10 (.767)

Ritchie McKay era
• 2007: 2-5
• 2006: 4-3
• 2005: 6-1
• 2004: 3-4
• 2003: 2-5
• TOTAL: 17-18 (.486)

Fran Fraschilla era
• 2002: 3-5
• 2001: 4-4
• 2000: 5-1
• TOTAL: 12-10 (.545)

UNM’s total February record since 2000: 88-80 (0.524)

Rick is Wright…

“In any case, the New Mexico Lobos, who lost 70-56 at home to a last-place team on Tuesday, bore little or no resemblance to the team that won its first 14 games, beat Saint Mary’s and San Diego State on the road, twice broke into the Associated Press Top 25 and has been no worse than an NCAA Tournament bubble team since early in the season.”

We were lucky enough to have Rick Wright on hand for Tuesday night’s game. Here’s the column he filed from the Pit media room:

Mo’s double-doubles…

Considering how impossible it seemed early in the game for the Lobo guards to get Morris Udeze the ball, the fact that the 6-foot-8 center ended up with a monster stat line, albeit in a loss, was pretty impressive.

That stat line vs. Wyoming:

• 12 points
• 3-5 FGs
• 6-10 FTs
• 8 fouls drawn (Wyoming was called for just 14 fouls total)
• 17 rebounds (career high)
• 6 offensive rebounds
• 2 blocked shots

The game was also his Mountain West-leading 10th double-double of the season.

Most double-doubles Mountain West 2022-23 (overall)
10 — Morris Udeze, New Mexico
6 — Dan Akin, Utah State
4 — Eduardo Andre, Fresno State
4 — Rytis Petraitis, Air Force
4 — Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State
4 — Sage Tolbert, San Jose State

Most double-doubles Mountain West 2022-23 (conference games)
8 — Morris Udeze, New Mexico
3 — Dan Akin, Utah State
3 — Eduardo Andre, Fresno State
3 — Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State

So, how about one more Mo highlight in an ETN column that won’t have as many highlights as Lobo fans were looking for…

Fool me once, shame on you…

The Lobos this season are now 0-3 in rematch games (facing the same opponent a second time after having already played them once):

• vs. Nevada: Loss (Jan. 23) — Loss (Feb. 7)
• vs. Air Force: Win (Jan. 27) — Loss (Feb. 10)
• vs. Wyoming: Win (Dec. 31) — Loss (Tuesday)

That brings the Lobos’ two-season record under Richard Pitino to 3-9 in the second games against opponents in the same season, as UNM went 3-6 in the 2021-22 season:

• vs. New Mexico State: Win (Nov. 30, 2021) — Loss (Dec. 6, 2021)
• vs. Nevada: Loss (Jan. 1, 2022) — Loss (March 9, 2022)
• vs. Utah State: Loss (Jan. 8, 2022) — Loss (Feb. 22, 2022)
• vs. UNLV: Loss (Jan. 11, 2022) — Win (March 5, 2022)
• vs. Colorado State: Loss (Jan. 19, 2022) — Loss (Feb. 17, 2022)
• vs. Wyoming: Loss (Jan. 22, 2022) — Win (Feb. 15, 2022)
• vs. Fresno State: Loss (Jan. 25, 2022) — Loss (Feb. 28, 2022)
• vs. San Jose State: Win (Jan. 28, 2022) — Loss (Feb. 20, 2022)
• vs. Air Force: Win (Feb. 5, 2022) — Win (Feb. 26, 2022)

*UNM played Boise State and San Diego State only once, each, in the 2021-22 season.

Bair’s in the Pit…

There was a special guest on hand for the game as former Lobo great Cameron Bairstow was in the Pit, his first UNM Lobos game back in the arena he starred in a decade ago:

Bears in the Pit…

At halftime, UNM had its annual Teddy Bear Toss promotion (there’s another one coming Thursday in the Lobo women’s basketball game in the Pit, too):

So, about those 3s…

As mentioned above, the Lobos were out-scored by 18 points at the 3-point line (11 made 3s to just five for UNM).

Wyoming on Tuesday went 11-of-29 (37.9%) from 3-point range, better than the team’s season average of 35.2% coming into the game and the 11 made 3s was 2.4 more than the 8.6 per game they were averaging made per game before coming to the Pit.

And don’t forget Hunter Thompson, the Cowboys’ 6-10 center who wouldn’t even be seeing the floor much at all had it not been for the season-ending foot injury to Graham Ike. He tied a career high with four made 3-pointers — in the first 14 minutes of the game!

Fortunately for UNM he didn’t hit another in the game, but a weird tone for the game was set largely by Thompson’s early daggers.


The announced attendance for Tuesday’s Wyoming at New Mexico game in the Pit: 11,185

Here is a list of the Lobos’ announced attendance figures in league play:

• 15,424 — UNLV (Jan. 7)
• 15,215 — Colorado State (Dec. 28)
• 15,143 — Air Force (Jan. 27)
• 15,004 — Nevada (Feb. 7)
• 11,519 — San Jose State (Jan. 17)
• 11,185 — Wyoming (Tuesday)
• TBD — San Diego State (Feb. 25)
• TBD — Fresno State (Feb. 28)

NOTE: The Feb. 25 SDSU game is already sold out for the 15,411 Pit.

Bubble burst?

While UNM was still listed as one of the last teams still projected to be IN the NCAA Tournament before Tuesday’s game on most NCAA Tournament projections, including ones done by ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports and the Field of 68, losing on your home court to a bad Wyoming team that will likely count as a Quad 4 loss at season’s end certainly put the Lobos on the wrong side of the line now.

Yes, they still have big opportunities against San Diego State and Boise State, but short of winning both, it now looks like they better get hot in the Mountain West Tournament if they are to break the nine-year postseason drought.

The bad news isn’t just for the Lobos, though. As their computer ratings — primarily their NET ranking — plummet, so do all the quality games that already took place or will take place for Lobo opponents.

UNM was 48 in the NET after the Air Force loss and this one was worse in the eyes of a computer system because Wyoming was worse AND it was a home game for UNM.

As the Lobos’ NET falls, their wins over top Mountain West teams look worse and worse for those teams and their losses to top Mountain West teams look less and less impressive.

Video: Pitino and Udeze presser…

Here is the postgame media session with UNM Lobos coach Richard Pitino and senior center Morris Udeze:

Photo slideshow…

Here is a photo slideshow from Tuesday’s game posted on the Journal’s site:


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

+3 Birima Seck (9:54)
-1 K.J. Jenkins (16:43)
-4 Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (34:22)
-9 Josiah Allick (39:03)
-18 Morris Udeze (35:17)
-19 Donovan Dent (26:54)
-22 Javonte Johnson (37:47)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had just seven unique lineup combinations in Tuesday’s game and played seven players. Air Force had 11 lineup combinations and played eight players.

Tuesday was the second-consecutive game without the usual starting lineup and just the third time this season without it as Jaelen House was out (hamstring injury).

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

STARTING LINEUP (and worst lineup)
• Who: Donovan Dent/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: -6 (7-23)
• Time on court: 13:23
• NOTE: Welp, when the starting five get outscored by 16 points in just 13 minutes, you aren’t going to win very many games.

No need to break this down much. Jaelen House, where are you?

• Who: Donovan Dent/K.J. Jenkins/Jamal Mashburn Jr./Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +8 (8-0)
• Time on court: 2:!3
• NOTE: The three Lobo guards shot a combined 8-for-32 (25.0%) on the night, but with the three of them in the game in this brief spurt of Lobos offense, things looked pretty good. UNM scored 3.6 points per minute with this lineup on the court in a game they scored just 1.4 per minute overall in the game.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas…

The San Jose State Spartans are now in 5th place in the Mountain West — one spot ahead of the UNM Lobos, whom they host on Friday in California — after a comfortable 75-66 win road win over the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Tuesday night in the Thomas & Mack Center.

Around the Mountain…

There were three games around the Mountain West on Tuesday, two more coming on Wednesday and then a full weekend slate starting on Friday:

• Utah State 80, Air Force 65
• San Jose State 75, UNLV 66
• Wyoming 70, New Mexico 56

• Boise State at Colorado State, 8 p.m. MT (FS1)
• No. 21 San Diego State at Fresno State, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

• Air Force at Wyoming, 8 p.m. MT (FS1)
• New Mexico at San Jose State, 7:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

• Colorado State at Fresno State, 4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. MT (TheMW)
• Nevada at Utah State, 6 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

• UNLV at Boise State, 7 p.m. MT (FS1)

Mountain West standings…

Here are the Mountain West Conference standings through Tuesday…

11-2 San Diego State
10-3 Nevada
9-3 Boise State
9-5 Utah State
7-6 San Jose State

6-7 New Mexico
5-8 Fresno State
5-9 UNLV
4-10 Air Force
3-9 Colorado State
3-10 Wyoming

*Top 5 teams get bye into quarterfinals of MW Tournament

Stats and stats…

Here is the postgame stat sheet from Tuesday’s game (the initial stat sheet had an error on a 3-pointer attributed to Birima Seck that should have been credited to Josiah Allick): Wyoming 70, New Mexico 56

And for those who prefer the digital version of the stats, here you go: Wyoming 70, New Mexico 56

Grammer’s Guesses…

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been picking the Lobos a lot lately. So maybe I’m the problem.

I keep thinking they’ll get out of this funk they’re in. I think the last time I picked a Lobos game correctly against the point spread was their double-overtime loss at Nevada when they were getting +3.5 points and only lost by 3.

As for Tuesday, the Guesses went 1-2 and I’m just 32-40-1 on the season.

My daughter’s coin flip picks went 2-1 and she’s now at 30-42-1) on the season (and very close to being grounded if she catches/passes me).

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: It’s not just the Lobos’ defense struggling anymore

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 yourstory@abqjournal.com

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.
Migrants start fire at Mexico detention center, killing 40
ABQnews Seeker
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing ... MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico, starting a fire that killed at ...
New Mexico court upholds Native American actor convictions
ABQnews Seeker
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- The ... SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- The New Mexico Court of Appeals has upheld the rape and voyeurism convictions of Native American actor and film ...
David Batista named branch manager with Yellowstone Landscape
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with ... BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with the landscape company for 17 years.
New Mexico abortion care: What's happening now and what ...
ABQnews Seeker
When Roe v. Wade was overturned ... When Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, New Mexico seemed poised to become a destination for those seeking abortion. Here's what's happened since ...
WaFd's Lonnie Corral promoted to senior VP
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead ... BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead the nine branches he oversees in southern New Mexico.
La Luz Elementary School students were originally expected to ...
ABQnews Seeker
Originally, the district's plans were to ... Originally, the district's plans were to move students out in 2025. Now, APS wants to do it this fall.
Authorities say a man brought a gun into Flix ...
ABQnews Seeker
If not for the theater's beer ... If not for the theater's beer taps or the man's suspected use of cocaine, the gun-wielding patron who sent Flix Brewhouse employees into a ...
Lobo hoops notebook: Seck to transfer, House returns, Udeze ...
ABQnews Seeker
News and notes around Lobo basketball, ... News and notes around Lobo basketball, including another transferring scholarship player and updates on Morris Udeze and Jaelen House.
Judge: District attorney can't be co-counsel in Baldwin case
ABQnews Seeker
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A ... SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A New Mexico judge said Santa Fe's district attorney shouldn't serve as co-counsel in the manslaughter case against actor ...