Emptying the Notebook: Lobos feel-good season now has multiple final-second disasters - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Lobos feel-good season now has multiple final-second disasters

San Diego State guard Matt Bradley is swarmed by the defense of New Mexico’s Morris Udeze, left, and Jamal Mashburn, Jr., during the first half Saturday in the Pit (AP Photo/Eric Draper)

Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, tweets, and other odds & ends I managed to empty out of the old notebook after Saturday night’s 73-71 Lobos loss to San Diego State in the Pit:

Reliving the root canal…

Ever experience something really painful and heartbreaking and then have somebody want to help you relive it, frame-by-frame?

Well if that doesn’t sound fun for you Lobo fans, I would scroll down a bit.

The Lobos now have a pattern — an unfortunate and, frankly, unlucky one — of late game, painful losses. Since it has now become a trend, I wanted to take the time this game to actually break down the closing seconds of Saturday’s loss with a series of tweets, but first, the uncomfortable reminder of why Saturday wasn’t just a one-off, but now a triple-dose of agony for UNM hoops — all in just a 34-day span.

These are three bona fide, gut-punch losses that weren’t just talked about by fans of the teams involved, but by college hoops fans around the country:

• Jan. 23 in Reno: Nevada 97, UNM 94 (2OT) — Both teams had chances to win at the end of regulation. UNM blew a late 5-point lead in the first overtime. Then the game came down to a foul call that wasn’t first called on the court but then later was retroactively called because of a video review that turned a would-be Lobos final possession play with a chance to win the game into four free throw attempts for Nevada and a three-point Wolf Pack victory in double overtime. It also guaranteed referee Verne Harris’ name being forever etched into Lobo fans’ memories.

• Feb. 7 in the Pit: Nevada 77, UNM 76 — Jamal Mashburn, Jr., hits a jumper with 19 seconds remaining putting the Lobos up 76-75 with 19 seconds remaining. Kenan Blackshear’s jumper in the lane with 0.1 seconds remaining (just call it a buzzer beater) gave Nevada the season sweep of the Lobos.

• Saturday in the Pit: San Diego State 73, New Mexico 71 — Mashburn’s three free throws with 16.7 seconds left pulled UNM within one. Jaelen House’s steal and ensuing layup through traffic put UNM up one (71-70) with 6 seconds remaining. Lamont Butler’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Aztecs the win.

• For extra credit, you can add in Boise State’s Tyson Degenhart hitting a final-second 3-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime on Jan. 20. Though the Lobos went on to win that game in overtime with their own late magic, it’s worth noting that was the third time this season — ON THEIR HOME COURT! — the Lobos held a lead with under 2 seconds remaining in regulation and did not walk of the court as winners after regulation (two losses in regulation on buzzer beaters and the win in overtime).

So, with that as the backdrop, here we go. Here is a step-by-step, blow-by-blow, tweet-by-tweet and quote-by-quote walkthrough of the final 16.7 seconds of Saturday’s brutal loss for the Lobos:

PART 1: 16.7 seconds left, SDSU up by four (70-66) …

PART 2: Mashburn hits all three free throws, pulls UNM within 70-69, setting up this inbounds (the video starts after Jaelen House slapped the ball away from SDSU’s Darrion Trammell into the hands of Morris Udeze) …

PART 3: After House gave UNM the lead at 71-70, SDSU called a timeout and, as Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said, he drew something up that was NOT supposed to be a Lamont Butler 3-pointer (Butler had hit 2 of his previous 15 3-point attempts prior to Saturday’s game-winner) …

Among the people not expecting Lamont Butler to pull up for a 3-pointer there:

• UNM guard Jamal Mashburn, Jr., (I mean, the video shows he was clearly backpedaling anticipating drive, not a 27-foot pull up).

• Pete Gillen on the CBS broadcast yelling “Go to the rim! Go to the rim!”

• San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher who said he drew up a play meant to get Butler to the rim:

“Obviously, I didn’t draw a play up for Lamont to come down and shoot a 3 with six seconds. I said we have six dribbles with six seconds. We tried to get him up the sidelines and get him to the rim. Try to win it at the rim. But he came to the middle, I don’t know if they sent him to the middle or he came there, but he had the poise to raise up and knock down a really hard 3-point shot.”

• New Mexico Lobos coach Richard Pitino:

“You’ve only got six seconds, so I thought they’d probably try to go to (leading scorer Matt) Bradley with something. But like you said, it was just kind of gutsy for them to knock down a 3. It is what it is.”

PART 4: The shot won the game and it won for the Aztecs at least a share of yet another Mountain West Championship and it was as shocking to those in the Pit as those around the country.

Here is the Field of 68 After Dark podcast crew reacting real-time to the shot as they were breaking down some Big 12 basketball late Saturday night with Jeff Goodman, Rob Dauster and John Henson …

Here’s the LINK to the full After Dark podcast from the F68 crew on Saturday, a must-watch or mist-listen show for college hoops junkies.

The gamer…

Here is the no-quotes game story I filed after the buzzer from the Pit late Saturday night:

Half of the story…

UNM’s record when leading at half time: 17-3

Four days ago that record was 17-1.

• Wednesday night in Boise, the Lobos’ 37-31 halftime lead fizzled thanks to second half runs by the Broncos of 6-0 and 13-2. UNM’s best scoring run in the 2nd half was 5-0.

• Saturday night in the Pit, the Lobos’ 37-27 halftime lead fizzled thanks to second half runs by the Aztecs of 7-0 and 12-2. UNM’s best scoring run in the 2nd half was 5-0 — from the 16.7 mark to 6.0 mark in the final minute.

Here’s what the combined score differential has been in the first half vs. the second half of the past two games for the Lobos vs. first-place SDSU and second-place BSU:

• FIRST HALF (+16 over 40 minutes): UNM 74, SDSU/BSU 58
• SECOND HALF (-23 over 40 minutes): SDSU/BSU 97, UNM 74

House’s steals record chase…

Jaelen House’s stat line from Saturday:

• Points: 15
• FG: 5-12
• FT: 3-5
• Rebounds: 6
• Assists: 5
• Turnovers: 2
• Steals: 2

Those two steals pushes him to 73 for the season and he’s at a league-leading 2.7 steals per game. His record pursuit of Hunter Greene now looks like this with at least three more games to play for the Lobos (two in the regular season and one guaranteed in the conference tournament):

UNM single-season steal record:
1. Hunter Greene (1986-87) — 84 (in 35 games)
2. Kelvin Scarborough (1984-85) — 80
3. Kelvin Scarborough (1986-87) — 78
4. Phil Smith (1983-84) — 77
5. Jaelen House (2022-23) — 73 (in 27 games, at least 3 remain)
6. Hunter Greene (1987-88) — 70

House’s current pace, assuming just three more games for a total of 30 on the season, would be 81 steals — three shy of the record. It should be noted that Greene, the team’s radio analyst, played 35 games the season he set the record at 84.

Attendance …

The announced attendance for Saturday’s No. 22 San Diego State at New Mexico game in the Pit: 15,431

The announced crowd Saturday was the biggest of the season and largest since March 9, 2009, when it was announced at 18,018 vs. Utah in the final game in the Pit before the renovation that lowered “official” capacity to 15,411.

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

• 15,431 — San Diego State (Feb. 25)
• 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 (Feb. 14)
• TBD — Fresno State (Feb. 28)

UNM’s average home attendance for the season is now 11,606, which ranks 29th in the country and the game pushed UNM over 200,000 fans for the season (208,902 to be precise) with one home game left on Tuesday night.

Avg. home attendance (No. 24-30) entering Saturday:

24. San Diego State (Mountain West) — 12,251
25. Iowa (Big Ten) — 12,203
26. Michigan (Big Ten) — 12,166
27. Ohio State (Big Ten) — 12,064
28. West Virginia (Big 12) — 11,872
29. New Mexico (Mountain West) — 11,606
30. Missouri (SEC) — 11,377

Should UNM hold its current spot, it would be the first time the Lobos have ranked back inside the Top 30 since the 2016-17 season (remember, the program ranked in the Top 25 in average home attendance for the first half century the Pit was open, but that streak ended during the Craig Neal coaching era and continued to dip in the Paul Weir era).

Average home attendance rankings for UNM, per NCAA.org, since 2016-17:

• 2022-23: 29th (11,606 — with one home game remaining)
• 2021-22: 44th (8,697)
• 2020-21: n/a (no home games all season due to COVID)
• 2019-20: 33rd (10,992)
• 2018-19: 30th (11,107)
• 2017-18: 33rd (10,883)
• 2016-17: 28th (11,769)

Saturday afternoon, UNM blasted this out on social media — a discount for tickets for Tuesday’s home finale:

Speaking of Tuesday…

Tuesday’s home finale against Fresno State (8:30 p.m.) will be senior night.

While only Lobo forward Morris Udeze is out of eligibility, he is one of five seniors being honored as part of senior night with the extra season of COVID eligibility decision yet to be made for four Lobos, though they still get their senior night:

• PF Morris Udeze
• PG Jaelen House
• G K.J. Jenkins
• PF Josiah Allick
• G/F Emmanuel Kuac

“It’s weird with all the COVID stuff because we really only have one guy that can’t come back, and that’s Morris,” said Pitino, referring to the current cycle of NCAA basketball that includes the possibility for every player who was in college during the 2020-21 season to use an extra ‘COVID’ season of eligibility if they so choose, but that decision to return, or even transfer, isn’t required until after the season.

“So, we’ll honor all the guys that graduate. … We want them all to come back, besides Morris (who can’t return). But they’ve all got to weigh their options. It’s just a crazy part of this thing. But when you play in an environment like this, I think a lot of people are going to want to come and be a part of this.”

A familiar face…

During the game, former San Diego State assistant football coach Danny Gonzales (maybe better known in these parts as Albuquerque native and current UNM Lobos football coach) introduced Lobo legend and 2-time Super Bowl champion Robin Cole to the Pit crowd…

Don’t compare scores, lesson No. 482 …

Don’t compare scores.

Don’t ever compare scores from one game to the next and think you know anything about the teams involved and how they might fare against other teams. Matchups make fights, not score comparisons.

So, with that said, let’s compare some scores from this 11-day span below:

• Feb. 17: UNM beats San Jose State by 28 in San Jose (96-68)
• Feb. 22: Boise State beats UNM by 5 in Boise (82-77)
• Feb. 25: San Jose State beats Boise State by 6 in San Jose (74-68)

Mash bounce back offensively…

Jamal Mashburn, Jr., on Wednesday night at Boise State had a 45-game streak of scoring in double figures snapped with a rough 2-for-15 shooting night and just 7 points.

Offensively, the league’s leading scorer certainly bounced back strong on Saturday night, including hitting three clutch free throws late after missing three free throws to start the game (he finished 7-of-10 at the line).

Mashburn’s stat line on Saturday:

• Points: 20
• FG: 6-15
• FT: 7-10
• Rebounds: 1
• Assists: 3
• Turnovers: 1

UNM’s all-time scoring list, through Saturday’s game:

24. Roman Martinez (2006-10): 1,159
25. Charlie Tomas (1987-1989): 1,158
26. Johnny Brown (1984-86): 1,157
27. Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (2021-present): 1,150
28. Phillp McDonald (2008-12): 1,146
29. David Chiotti (2002-06): 1,145
30. Ike Williams (1990-93): 1,086
31. Chad Toppert (2005-09): 1,067
32. Ira Harge (1962-64): 1,016
33. Rob Loeffel (1985-89): 1,011
t34. Alex Kirk (2010-14): 1,010
t34. Ron Becker (1967-70): 1010
36. Hugh Greenwood (2011-15): 1,006

Next on the list…

Jaelen House, mentioned above on an update for his steals record chase, is expected to be the next member of UNM’s 1,000-point scoring club. He, Mashburn and Morris Udeze have each been honored this season for scoring 1,000 points in college — House with some at Arizona State, Mashburn with some at Minnesota and Udeze with the majority of his at Wichita State.

But then Mash passed the 1,000-point mark just as a Lobo and House appears to be next.

House has 976 points scored in his 58 games played as a Lobo with what appears to be at least three more to play.

He said it: Dutcher

San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher on Jaelen House’s late-game steal then layup to give the UNM Lobos a lead and then Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer on a play that was supposed to have him drive inside:

“I wanted him to go to the rim, draw a foul or make a layup, That’s what I wanted. Like I said, players win games, not coaches. He made a play. Like the play on the turnover for a layup, players make plays, and we made one more than they made and they played great, too.”

At least they weren’t alone?

The Lobos weren’t alone on Saturday in buzzer-beating games…

… and this one (featuring former Nevada Wolf Pack guard Desmond Cambridge) …

… and how about this one for North Dakota State …

The February flop continues…

OK, back to the Lobos. And back to the unfortunate trend that is continuing to frustrate fans. For whatever the reason, including several seasons on the list below, the Lobos just can’t find regular success in February.

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: 1-6 (One February game remains)
• 2022: 4-4
• TOTAL: 5-10 (.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: 89-82 (0.520)

One last note borrowed from Mark Ziegler’s story in the San Diego Union Tribune about February wins/losses, and a telling one considering the sustained success of one program and the past decade of struggles for the other.

• San Diego State is 6-0 this February and 25-3 in February over the past four years.

New Mexico Tru …

Future Lobo Tru Washington was in the Pit on Saturday night — a great environment for him to get to see and a great game to watch, though I would understand if he hated the result.

Washington committed on Tuesday to play for the Lobos. The 4-star recruit is the second Lobo in the Class of 2023 recruiting class for Richard Pitino.

Here is the story I wrote on Tuesday after Tru’s announcement: Four-star guard Tru Washington commits to play for Lobo basketball

OK, who needs a little Cherry and Sliver lining?

As it stands right now, the Lobos are the No. 6 seed in the Mountain West Tournament.

That means they’d have to play an extra game, starting in the official “First Round” that most refer to as the play-in round that features seeds 6 through 11. They long assumed they’d be in the 4/5 seed game, most likely playing Utah State.

And don’t get me wrong, they would much rather be there than having to play an extra game against the bottom half of the bracket. But hear me out. If they win a first-day game out of the 6-11 seed line, they advance to a quarterfinal matchup against one of the Top 3 seeds.

As of today, that is San Diego State, Boise State and Nevada — who the Lobos have been remarkably (and as noted agonizingly so at times) competitive with this season. This is how the Lobos have fared against those three teams and the seeds I’m guessing they end up with in the MW Tournament:

UNM vs. No. 1 San Diego State: 1-1
• W — 9-point road win (only team to win in Viejas this season)
• L — Had lead in final second, lost at buzzer in the Pit
(SDSU was ranked in both games)

UNM vs. No. 2 Nevada: 0-2
• L — Double-overtime loss with controversial finish
• L — Had lead in final second, lost at buzzer in the Pit (technically it was in final second, but referee should never have put a fraction of a second back on clock)

UNM vs. No. 3 Boise State: 1-1
• W — 2-point win in overtime in the Pit (with baseball team in attendance)
• L — led by as many as 13 before losing

The little things added up…

Colleague Ken Sickenger pulled double duty on Saturday, covering the women’s game in the afternoon and then wrote the following sidebar for Saturday night on how the little things — a lot of them — added up in a close loss for the Lobos on Saturday: Little things cost UNM in buzzer-beating loss

Remember these guys?

When UNM signed up to play Oral Roberts for a short notice (less than 2 weeks) game on Jan. 9 in the Pit, some of you — yes, you reading this — rolled your eyes and assumed it was just some easy opponent the Lobos were bringing in to get a home crowd to sell a few tickets and hot dogs.

Instead, Oral Roberts, who the Lobos beat that Jan. 9 night in the Pit, 82-75, turned out to be one of UNM’s best wins of the season.

And on Saturday, ORU beat South Dakota State (that other SDSU team), 69-65, to complete a perfect 18-0 Summit League championship season and improve to 26-4 overall this season with the Summit League Tournament ahead.

The only loss Oral Roberts has had in its past 25 games is to the Lobos.

VIDEO: Pitino and Jenkins, via UNM

With early print deadlines and late games, I was unable to attend the press conference on Saturday and record it. So, here are the recording from UNM Athletics:

• Richard Pitino:

• K.J. Jenkins:


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

+8 K.J. Jenkins (21:44)
+4 Birima Seck (7:47)
0 Morris Udeze (37:20)
-1 Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (33:35)
-1 Jaelen House (30:18)
-1 Donovan Dent (9:42)
-8 Josiah Allick (34:53)
-11 Javonte Johnson (24:41)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had eight unique lineup combinations in Saturday’s game and played eight players. San Diego State had 21 lineup combinations and played nine players.

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

STARTING LINEUP (and worst lineup)
• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn, Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: -10 (34-44)
• Time on court: 18:16
• NOTE: Same line I always use here: When your starting five is your worst five in a game, you’ve got issues. The margin for error in this game was razor thin, so this unit being outscored by San Diego State by 10 points in just over 18 minutes together on the court, including accounting for four of the Lobos’ 10 turnovers isn’t a great look.

When these two teams played on Jan. 14 in Viejas Arena, UNM’s starters outscored SDSU by 6 points (43-37) and scored 1.2258 points per possession. Saturday, the Lobos’ starting five scored just 1.0870 points per possession and allowed more like 1.4 points per possession.

• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn, Jr./K.J. Jenkins/Birima Seck/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +6 (10-4)
• Time on court: 3:14
• NOTE: There were two combinations that were at +6 for the Lobos with the only difference being Allick playing the “four” on one lineup and Seck playing the “four” in the one I’m listing here because it had a slightly more efficient offense.

Two takeaways:

1. Seck got good minutes once again and it seems like he probably should for the final stretch of games for UNM — not a ton, but five-plus a game rather than just a 2-3 minute run would be a good thing.

2. The four-man lineup of House, Mashburn, Jenkins and Udeze were part of about 10 minutes of +12 basketball on Saturday. In the first meeting with SDSU, that foursome with Javonte Johnson playing the “four” had a +5 stretch of 2:47 on the court with the best offense the entire game, outscoring SDSU 12-7 and 1.8405 points per possession together.

Point being, that’s a lot of real good offensive minutes with that group of four plus anyone else at the “four.”

• As noted above, the starters were the worst lineup combination of the game on Saturday for UNM, though a good stretch of that unit’s bad play came in the second half when they were on the floor together and SDSU made its comeback.

Meanwhile, in earlier Pit action …

As noted above, colleague Ken Sickenger covered the offensive explosion of UNM women’s game earlier in the day in the Pit with the UNM Lobos beating Utah State, 111-55.

Here’s Ken’s write up: It’s a perfect, and emotional, Senior Day for New Mexico basketball women (with photo gallery)

Around the Mountain…

There were two games around the Mountain West on Saturday, following a three-game Friday night slate. Here are those results plus the schedule for the final week of the regular season.

• Colorado State 84, Wyoming 71
• UNLV 54, Air Force 53
• Nevada 60, Fresno State 56

• San Jose State 74, Boise State 68 (OT)
• No. 22 San Diego State 73, New Mexico 71


• Nevada at Wyoming, 7 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

• No. 22 San Diego State at Boise State, 7 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network
• Colorado State at San Jose State, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network
• Fresno State at New Mexico, 8:30 p.m. MT (FS1)

• Utah State at UNLV, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

FRIDAY (March 3)
• New Mexico at Colorado State, 9 p.m. MT (FS1)

SATURDAY (March 4)
• San Jose State at Air Force, 2 p.m. MT (MWN)
• UNLV at Nevada, 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT (MWN)
• *NON CONFERENCE GAME* Chicago State at Fresno State, 4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. MT (MWN)
• Boise State at Utah State, 7 p.m. MT (MWN)
• Wyoming at No. 22 San Diego State, 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

Mountain West standings…

Here are the Mountain West standings through Saturday and heading into the final week of the regular season:

14-2 San Diego State
12-4 Boise State
12-4 Nevada
11-5 Utah State
8-8 San Jose State
7-9 New Mexico
6-10 UNLV
6-11 Fresno State
5-11 Colorado State
5-12 Air Force
3-13 Wyoming

+/- or home/road standings…

Here are the +/- standings through Saturday where a team gets a +1 for a road win and a -1 for a home loss:

+6 San Diego State
+4 Boise State
+4 Nevada
+3 Utah State
0 San Jose State
-1 New Mexico
-3 Fresno State
-3 Colorado State
-3 Air Force
-5 Wyoming

Stats and stats…

Here is the postgame stat sheet from Saturday night in the Pit: No. 22 San Diego State 73, New Mexico 71

And if you prefer the digital stats, here you go: No. 22 San Diego State 73, New Mexico 71

Grammer’s Guesses…

The results everyone actually wanted to know about from Saturday…

The Guesses went 1-1 and, for a second game in the past week, I picked against the Lobos and they do lose, but cover the point spread by 1 point to give me another loss (UNM was a +6 underdog at Boise State and only lost by 5 points and was a +3 underdog on Saturday and lost by just 2).

So now I’m at 40-49-1 heading into the final week of the season. My daughter’s coin flip picks are 42-47-1.

So there’s still plenty on the line in the Grammer household.

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Lobos feel-good season now has multiple final-second disasters

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