Emptying the Notebook: Are these Lobos the best UNM offense in Mountain West era? - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Are these Lobos the best UNM offense in Mountain West era?

The UNM Lobos played their final regular season home game on Tuesday night in the Pit. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

Here are some extra notes, tweets, stats, trends, quotes and any other odds & ends I managed to empty out of the old notebook after Tuesday’s 94-80 Lobos win on Senior Night over the Fresno State Bulldogs — the final regular season game played in the Pit this season:

Lobos leave the Pit with an offensive show…

Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Defense Wins Championships. This opening section of ETN today is not for you.

We’re 30 games into the Lobos season and we know the identity of this team is NOT about defense, nor will that somehow change over the next week.

Instead, this opening chunk of words in my very wordy postgame column after Tuesday’s 94-80 Lobos Senior Night victory over Fresno State is here to point out just how good this UNM offense has been this season — something I don’t know if I’ve done a good enough job reporting or fans, even as this up and down season has been playing out right in front of your very eyes, have done a good enough job appreciating from a historical standpoint.

The stats tell us this is the best offense UNM has had in the Mountain West era, which started in the 1999-2000 season.


According to KenPom.com, this season’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency rating is the best for the program since the Dave Bliss-coached 1998 Lobos squad with the likes of Kenny Thomas, Lamont Long and Clayton Shields. That squad posted an AdjO rating of 117.8, which ranked No. 7 in the country.

This year’s team is ranked 20th in the country and has an AdjO of 116.5 — best for a UNM team in the Mountain West era, which started in the 1999-2000 season.

UNM Top 5 offensive efficiency in MWC era
(Per KenPom.com, national ranking in parenthesis)

• 116.5 (20th) — 2022-23 season
• 113.6 (26th) — 2009-10 season*
• 113.5 (41st) — 2013-14 season*
• 113.3 (51st) — 2017-18 season
• 112.8 (30th) — 2004-05 season*
*NCAA Tournament teams

I know none of this makes the defense-first junkies just magically overlook the frustration with not being able to come up with big stops when needed. That’s OK. That doesn’t exactly sit well with Lobos coach Richard Pitino, either.

“If we were just good defensively, because we’re really good offensively,” Pitino said on Tuesday night after allowing a usually-low-scoring Fresno State team go off for 42 first-half points.

“I think we’re getting better, and I do think some of it is we’re a little small on the perimeter. But we just got to be scrappier and we got to show some fire and some fight on the defensive side of it. It’s just part of this. It’s too tough of a league, and you can’t rely on scoring 94 points all the time. You got to be scrappy, and you got to disrupt.”

The reality is this Lobos roster isn’t exactly made up of a bunch of players known before they got here as lockdown defenders, the ones who do play plus defense tend to be foul prone and the roster itself is just plain short — as in almost never taller than the opponent at any position on the court at a given time, which is sort of a big deal in the sport of basketball.

So, the Lobos naturally lean on their offense.

And why not? They have three of the Mountain West’s top 7 scorers during conference play:

1. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., — 19.4 points per MW game
5. Jaelen House — 17.0 points per MW game
7. Morris Udeze — 16.1 points per MW game

No other Mountain West team has even two players ranked in the top 11.

Here are some of the bullet point highlights for this season of offense for UNM:

• 80.7 points per game leads the Mountain West — Utah State (78.4) is 2.3 points lower in second
• 78.6 points per conference game leads the Mountain West — Boise State (73.2) is 5.1 points lower in second
• 50 first half points the Lobos scored Tuesday were the most allowed by Fresno State in the first half since Jan. 9, 2016
• 94 points scored Tuesday is most this season against Fresno State and most in a regulation game since allowing Nevada to score 102 on Jan. 31, 2018.
• First team ever to break 90 points against a Justin Hutson-coached team (he started in the 2018-19 season)
• 143.1 offensive efficiency put up against on the road against San Jose State in UNM’s 96-68 win ranks 2nd all-time in the Mountain West era for the Lobos (best single-game OE was in a 91-51 win over Colorado State on Feb. 5, 2008)

UNM has posted a top three scoring total (in regulation games) against 13 of the 23 teams it has played this season (they play eight conference opponents twice):

• Southern Utah (89)
• South Alabama (80)
• Northern Colorado (98)
• Saint Mary’s (69)
• D-II Western New Mexico (102)
• UT-San Antonio (94)
• Prairie View A&M (94)
• Colorado State (88)
• San Diego State (76)
• San Jose State (96)
• Boise State (77)
• Air Force (81)
• Fresno State (94)

So, no. The Lobos really would rather not give up 80 points to Fresno State, or not be able to come up with a key second half stop in losses to San Diego State and Boise State in the past week (obviously).

But there are two sides of the court. And while the Lobos rank 99th out of 363 Division I teams in defensive efficiency (a number I’m guessing most fans would have assumed was much worse), they are right now ranked as a top 20 offense in the country and are on pace as the season winds down to post the program’s best offensive efficiency rating since 1998.

The gamer…

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

1,000 point club

Jaelen House score 24 points on Tuesday, giving him an even 1,000 scored in a Lobos uniform over the past two season (he has 1,229 overall counting his first two seasons played at Arizona State).

House becomes the 37th player to join UNM’s 1,000 point club and the second this season, joining teammate Jamal Mashburn, Jr., who scored 13 points on Tuesday and passed three more Lobos on the list.

UNM’s all-time scoring list

20. Tony Dandridge (2005-09): 1,260
21. Marvin Johnson (1976-78): 1,246
22. Cameron Bairstow (2010-2014): 1,239
23. Mark Walters (2002-2006): 1,200
24. Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (2021-present): 1,163
25. Roman Martinez (2006-10): 1,159
26. Charlie Thomas (1987-1989): 1,158
27. Johnny Brown (1984-86): 1,157
28. Phillip 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): 1,010
36. Hugh Greenwood (2011-15): 1,006
37. Jaelen House (2021-present): 1,000

Planting a seed…

With only six regular season games remaining, only one of the Mountain West’s 11 teams knows what seed it will be in next week’s Mountain West Tournament.

Here’s a look at the tournament seeds as we know them for sure so far, through Tuesday’s games:

1. San Diego State


FORMAT: Top five seeds get a bye into the Thursday, March 9, quarterfinal round while seeds 6-11 play in the “first round” of the tournament on Wednesday, March 8. All games are in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

As far as the UNM scenarios? Well, they need to win Friday at Colorado State and have San Jose State lose at Air Force on Saturday for the Lobos to be the 5 seed.

Good bye, Mo! And maybe more…

Tuesday was senior night. And for those who don’t yet know, while five Lobo players and two team managers were honored in a pregame ceremony, ONLY Morris Udeze knows with 100% certainty he will not be with the Lobos next season as he has exhausted his NCAA eligibility.

The other four players — Jaelen House, Emmanuel Kuac, Josiah Allick and K.J. Jenkins — all have the option to add a “Covid season” of eligibility and play in college again next season, be it at UNM or elsewhere.

And while Emmanuel Kuac, the longest tenured Lobo, has suffered season-ending leg injuries each of the past two seasons, the four other Lobo seniors who played on Tuesday did things like this, which for my money might be one of the all-time Senior Night highlight plays you’ll ever see.

Got all that?

Senior forward Josiah Allick starts things off with a blocked shot that is gathered in by senior guard K.J. Jenkins, who then sends the ball up court to senior point guard Jaelen House who then proceeds to pass the ball off the backboard for a dunk by senior forward Morris Udeze.

Here are the senior night stat lines for UNM’s four seniors who played on Tuesday night:

Morris Udeze
• Points: 25
• FG: 11-13
• Rebounds: 9
• Steals: 1
• Blocks: 1

Jaelen House
• Points: 24
• FG: 6-9
• 3FG: 3-4
• FT: 9-11
• Rebounds: 5
• Assists: 5
• Steals: 1
• Blocks: 1

Josiah Allick
• Points: 5
• FT: 3-4
• Rebounds: 5
• Assists: 3
• Steals: 1
• Blocks: 1

K.J. Jenkins
• Points: 11
• FG: 3-4
• 3FG: 3-3
• FT: 2-2
• Assists: 2
• Blocks: 1

He said it…

“It’s been a blessing for this one year here. I wish I came here earlier, to be honest. I love the fans out here, my teammates, everybody, man. It was kind of an emotional last home game. All this is a blessing for me to compete with all these fans.”

–Morris Udeze, Lobos senior about his one season at UNM after having played his first four years at Wichita State.

OK, forget the old dudes, how about that freshman!?

Donovan Dent — dubbed the future of the Lobos program before the season even began — hit a freshman wall the past month or more.

There have been some injuries slowing him (shin splints we heard Tuesday night for the first time) and opposing teams have, frankly, been able to get some game film on him and slow him down themselves, too.

But on Tuesday, he sure looked the part again of that future star with some of that high-end, elite potential on both defense with team-high two blocks and offense, where he had three assists and this monster dunk that deserves a look from two angles:

And what about from the baseline?

Lobo love was in the air…

She said Yes! It was Lobo love in the Pit.

The groom-to-be had just won an Outback gift card during an in-game promotion he did, which made me wonder if the girl — a Lobo senior spirit squad member having her senior night, too — said yes just because of that.

As it turns out, they knew each other and the gift card was just an added perk.

Congratulations to the happy couple.

Javonte’s improved play continues…

Javonte Johnson, the Lobo junior wing, has been playing better and better of late, and finished Tuesday’s game with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting.

Johnson double-digit scoring
• First 17 UNM games: 0 times
• Past 13 UNM games: 6 times


The announced attendance for Tuesday’s Fresno State at UNM game in the Pit: 12,520

Tuesday was the home regular season finale for the Lobos, meaning we can put a bow on some of these attendance stats for the season:

• Total fans (19 games): 221,422
• Avg. home attendance: 11,654
• National rank: 29 (first time inside the Top 30 since 2016-17)
• Total fans conference (9 games): 126,007
• Avg. home attendance conference: 14,001
• Mountain West rank: 1

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)
• 12,520 — Fresno State (Feb. 28)
• 11,519 — San Jose State (Jan. 17)
• 11,185 — Wyoming (Feb. 14)

Good riddance, February…

Since I’ve made a note of it a couple times, and since we have now come to the end of February, here’s this season’s final update on the oddity that is February for Lobo basketball in its time in the Mountain West Conference:

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: 2-6 (Entered February 19-3)
• 2022: 4-4
• TOTAL: 6-10 (.375)

Paul Weir era
• 2021: 1-3
• 2020: 2-6 (Entered February 16-7)
• 2019: 2-5
• 2018: 5-2
• TOTAL: 10-16 (.385)

Craig Neal era
• 2017: 3-4
• 2016: 3-5
• 2015: 0-8 (Entered February 14-7)
• 2014: 6-1
• TOTAL: 12-18 (.400)

Steve Alford era
• 2013: 6-1
• 2012: 5-2
• 2011: 3-4 (Entered February 15-7)
• 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: 90-82 (0.523)

Fresno’s dominance…

Tuesday’s win was significant for a lot of reasons for the Lobos.

It was a bounce back from a heartbreaker on Saturday vs. San Diego State. It was a potential momentum starter heading into the Mountain West Tournament next week. It kept pace with trying to catch San Jose State in the standings.

But maybe most of all, it was a win against the team that has quietly had UNM’s number more than any other in Mountain West play.

Yes, Fresno State has owned the Lobos.

The win ended a seven-game losing streak by UNM and here is a look at the past 15 games in the series, which Fresno State leads in that span 12-3 and also ended the Craig Neal and Paul Weir coaching eras:

Past 15 games in Fresno State/UNM series:

• 2/18/17 — FS 71, UNM 61
• 3/09/17 — FS 65, UNM 60 (Final game in Craig Neal era)
• 1/13/18 — FS 89, UNM 80
• 3/03/18 — UNM 95, FS 86 (OT)
• 2/02/19 — FS 82, UNM 70
• 2/16/19 — FS 81, UNM 73
• 1/07/20 — UNM 78, FS 64
• 2/01/20 — FS 82, UNM 77
• 1/28/21 — FS 64, UNM 62 (OT)
• 1/30/21 — FS 65, UNM 55
• 3/10/21 — FS 85, UNM 77 (Final game in Paul Weir era)
• 1/25/22 — FS 65, UNM 60
• 2/28/22 — FS 71, UNM 68
• 1/03/23 — FS 71, UNM 67 (Ended UNM’s undefeated season 14-0)
• Tuesday — UNM 94, FS 80

Pitino hasn’t beat…

The list of Mountain West teams Richard Pitino’s Lobos has yet to beat is down to two:

• Nevada (0-4)
• Utah State (0-3)

Future Lobos…

Two future Lobos — Jayden Toppin out of Texas and Tru Washington out of Arizona — have been choosen to participate in the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic.

Wait, there’s more…

Journal Sports Editor Randy Harrison was at Tuesday’s game and wrote a column about the Lobos season — some optimism and perspective about what this season was for a program that needed this season to happen.

Video: Pitino and Udeze…

Here is the postgame presser with Lobos coach Richard Pitino and senior forward Morris Udeze…


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

+21 Jaelen House (30:14)
+18 Josiah Allick (23:34)
+15 Javonte Johnson (32:18)
+8 Morris Udeze (33:55)
+6 Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (35:13)
+3 Donovan Dent (21:01)
+2 K.J. Jenkins (20:13)
-1 Safi Fino-A-Laself (00:43)
-2 Birima Seck (2:49)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had 15 unique lineup combinations in Tuesday’s game and played nine players. San Diego State had 18 lineup combinations and played 10 players.

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

STARTING LINEUP (and best lineup)
• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn, Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +11 (32-21)
• Time on court: 12:03
• NOTE: It seems to be a little back and forth lately with this stat. The starters have been the best or the worst lineup of the night a lot lately.

Tuesday, in the final game in the Pit this season, they were the best, scoring 1.5180 points per minute, dishing out seven of the team’s 18 assists, grabbing 10 of the team’s 32 rebounds and coming up with four the team’s six steals, all while playing together just about a dozen minutes.

It sounds like a rather obvious statement at this point of the season, but it sure would be a good sign for the Lobos if their starting five can be at its best together heading into the postseason.

• NOTE: See above. There was a lineup that was +6 in just 3:10 on the floor together, maybe even better offensively than the starters in a shorter sample size with the changes being Mashburn and Johnson on the bench with Dent and Jenkins on the court along with usual starters House, Allick and Udeze.

• Who: Donovan Dent/Jamal Mashburn, Jr./K.J. Jenkins/Birima Seck/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: -7 (0-7)
• Time on court: 2:34
• NOTE: That wasn’t good. This lineup couldn’t score in more than two and a half minutes on the court together, didn’t grab a rebound, didn’t have a steal, assist or point.


Around the Mountain…

There were three games around the Mountain West on Tuesday night following up on the huge upset in Laramie on Monday. One midweek game and five conference games this weekend and that’ll be it for the 2023 regular season.

• Wyoming 80, Nevada 71

• Boise State 66, No. 18 San Diego State 60
• San Jose State 63, Colorado State 46
• New Mexico 94, Fresno State 80

• 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 Tuesday:

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

+/- or home/road standings…

Here are the +/- standings through Tuesday 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 Tuesday night in the Pit: New Mexico 94, Fresno State 80

And if you prefer the digital version, here you go: New Mexico 94, Fresno State 80

Grammer’s Guesses…

For some of us, this season needs to end already.

The Guesses have another losing night, going 1-2 and I’m now just 41-52-1 on the season with six game remaining.

I’m starting to think I may not turn this into a winning season after all.

My daughter’s coin flip picks went 2-1 and she’s at 45-48-1 and will be grounded until June if she makes it to a .500 record.

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Are these Lobos the best UNM offense in Mountain West era?

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