Emptying the Notebook: Can the Lobos get a defensive stop when it counts? - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Can the Lobos get a defensive stop when it counts?

Moby Arena at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., on March 3, 2023. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, videos, trends and whatever other odds & ends I could empty out of the old notebook after Friday night’s 92-84 Lobos loss in Moby Arena:

Oh, that defense…

If you were watching the second half of Friday’s Lobo basketball game and just sure that it had to be the worst defense you could ever remember seeing that team in cherry and silver play, you probably weren’t alone.

And while it still doesn’t rank very high among the worst in the Mountain West era (seriously, it wasn’t among the 10 worst in the past 23 years, according to KenPom.com), it was, indeed, the worst of this season.

It was all of three days prior to Friday’s game that I filled this space in ETN after the Lobos beat Fresno State 94-80 with stats showing this season’s Lobos have the best offensive efficiency rating of any UNM team since the Dave Bliss-coached Lobos of 1997.

And in that ETN, I mentioned the Lobos are comfortable when teams are willing to get into high-scoring shootouts with them because they trust their offense to be better than the other guys.

Well, Friday, it was a shootout with neither team playing much defense. And guess what? The Lobos still couldn’t win.

“We cannot have this, ‘We’re just going to outscore everybody all the time’ mentality and think we’re going to win in this league. The league is too good,” UNM coach Richard Pitino told me after the game. “I was looking at our conference stats. We are first in scoring, and we are last in defense. We got to be better than that. I got to coach better. The staff’s gonna have to do a better job there. … As we build this program, we got to be able to get stops and rebounds.”

To Pitino’s point on the offensive/defensive rankings, here first is a look at the national rankings in efficiency, per KenPom.com, for the Lobos among all 363 Division I programs and where they finished last season:

• Adj. OE: 20th (out of 363) — last season 106
• Adj. DE: 110th (out of 363) — last season 243

And in Mountain West Conference play, here’s a look at the top 3 scoring offenses and bottom 3 scoring defenses:

Scoring offense in Mountain West games
1. New Mexico — 78.9 points per game
2. Utah State — 74.1 ppg
3. Boise State — 73.2 ppg

Scoring defense in Mountain West games
9. UNLV– 74.4 ppg
10. Colorado State — 74.7 ppg
11. New Mexico — 77.1 ppg

But with teams playing very different paces in games, looking at raw point totals can be deceiving (they aren’t necessarily in this case, but since they can be, let’s look at another stat).

Looking at points per possession — a stat that sort of takes out the pace of play factor — you’ll still see the same theme for the Lobos.

Here are the best five and worst five Mountain West games this season for the Lobos’ defense (interestingly enough, Colorado State shows up on both lists):

Most PPP allowed by Lobos in 2022-23 MW season
PPP = Points per possession

• 1.394 PPP allowed — at Colorado State on Friday (Lobos lost 92-84)
• 1.369 PPP allowed — at Air Force on Feb. 10 (Lobos lost 89-77)
• 1.292 PPP allowed — at Utah State on Feb. 1 (Lobos lost 84-73)
• 1.185 PPP allowed — vs. at Nevada on Feb. 7 (Lobos lost 77-76)
• 1.151 PPP allowed — vs. UNLV on Jan. 7 (Lobos lost 84-77)

Fewest PPP allowed by Lobos in 2022-23 MW season
• 0.919 PPP allowed — vs. San Jose State on Jan. 17 (Lobos won, 77-57)
• 0.957 PPP allowed — at San Diego State on Jan. 14 (Lobos won 76-67)
• 1.000 PPP allowed — at San Jose State on Feb. 17 (Lobos won 96-68
• 1.026 PPP allowed — vs. Boise State on Jan. 20 (Lobos won 81-79 in double OT)
• 1.030 PPP allowed — vs. Colorado State on Dec. 28 (Lobos

Quite the trend I discovered there, huh? The Lobos won the five games they defended best in during league play and they lost the five games they defended the poorest in.

Who knew?

A number to know: 92

CSU’s scored 92 points on Friday. That’s the highest point total of the season for CSU, and it’s the third time this season — all in conference play — that an opposing team posted its highest point total vs. UNM:

Teams scoring highest pts on UNM
• 92 – Colorado State, Tuesday
• 89 – Air Force, Feb. 10
• 97 – Nevada, Jan. 23 (2 overtimes)

The gamer…

Here is the game story I filed from Moby Arena on Friday night…

Mountain West Tournament seeds…

Through Friday’s game, and with just four games left in the regular season on Saturday (see more scores/schedule/standings info toward bottom of this column in its usual spot), here are the seeds we know are locked in for next week’s Mountain West Conference Tournament:

1. San Diego State
5. San Jose State

6. New Mexico
11. Wyoming

For UNM, that means they will play No. 11 Wyoming on Wednesday, March 8, at 4 p.m. Pacific/5 p.m. Mountain in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the first round.

The winner of that game would move on to play the No. 3 seed in the quarterfinals, and the No. 3 seed can be Boise State, Nevada or Utah State.

Double-double Udeze…

Morris Udeze didn’t record a double-double on Friday, settling for JUST 25 points and 7 rebounds (he also drew 9 fouls in a rather dominating game in the post). But that was enough to wrap up Mountain West regular season play averaging a double-double in conference play, the first Lobo to do that in more than a decade (Drew Gordon 2011-12).

Morris Udeze in MW play
• Points: 15.9 (9th in MW)
• Rebounds: 10.4 (1st in MW)
• FG%: 62.8% (2nd in MW)
• Double-doubles: 9 (1st in MW)


The announced attendance Friday night at Moby Arena: 4,936

A number to know: 600

Jamal Mashburn, Jr., on Friday scored 22 points and tied a career-high with four made 3-pointers.

His 22 points gives him 603 for the season, becoming the 16th Lobo to ever score 600 points in one season.

Oh, those free throws…

The Lobos outscored the Rams 18-17 at the free throw line.

At the end of the regular season, UNM’s record is:

• 1-6 (0.143) when it is outscored at the FT line
• 20-4 (0.833) when it outscores its opponent at the FT line

Beer for a year!!!

In case you were wondering, the absolute best in-game promotion in the history of the sport of basketball is what Colorado State does every home game in Moby Arena.

Local brewery New Belgium sponsors a “Beer for a Year” contest with one, obviously of-age, CSU student who gets 45 seconds to make a half court shot. One goes in, they get beer for a year.

And guess what? It’s happened FOUR TIMES THIS SEASON!!!

Here was Friday night’s winner.

House’s steals record chase…

Jaelen House’s stat line from Friday:

• Points: 11
• FG: 2-11
• FT: 5-5
• Assists: 5
• Turnovers: 0
• Steals: 2

Those two steals push him to 76 for the season and he’s at a league-leading 2.6 steals per game.

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) — 76 (in 29 games, at least 1 remaining)
6. Hunter Greene (1987-88) — 70

Video: Pitino and Mashburn…

Here is video I put together of the two hallway postgame interviews I had with UNM coach Richard Pitino and UNM guards Jamal Mashburn, Jr., …

NIT or bust?

For some reason, some Lobo fans — fans of a team that hasn’t been to the NIT since 2011 or any postseason since 2014 — think a season in the NIT is almost beneath them.

That’s a pretty poor grasp of where this program is and has been since Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow walked off the NCAA Tournament floor in St. Louis in 2014.

Whatever the case, I wrote on Friday (and it is publishing in print on Saturday) that UNM is prepared to host games in the men’s NIT if they should get selected to play in that come March 14 or 15 (first round) and March 19 (second round).

There are bull riding issues for a possible third round game, but you can read more about that in the article HERE.

Isaiah Steves Game 1 vs. Game 2…

Isaiah Stevens might be the best player in the Mountain West. But the Lobos did a pretty good job defensively against him in the first game back in December.

While the shooting and turnover numbers weren’t really much better on Friday, he clearly had a better control of running the CSU offense and getting the Rams going in the rematch, even setting a program single-game record for assists with 13.

“Finally,” Stevens said after the game in a game-recap posted by the team’s website. “I’ve had 12 (assists) four times in my career, I was messing with John (Tonje) about it last game. It’s all fun and love though, and to be able to get that one holds a special place in my heart.”

Here is the Game 1 vs. Game 2 comparison for Isaiah Stevens vs. the Lobos this season:

Stevens Game 1 — Dec. 28 — The Pit
• Points: 10
• FG: 4-15 (26.7%)
• 2FG: 3-9 (33.3%)
• 3FG: 1-6 (16.7%)
• FT: 1-2
• Assists: 7
• Turnovers: 5
• Result: UNM 88, CSU 69

Game 2 — Friday — Moby Arena
• Points: 17
• FG: 5-15 (33.3%)
• 2FG: 5-13 (38.5%)
• 3FG: 0-2 (0.0%)
• FT: 7-7
• Assists: 13
• Turnovers: 4
• Result: CSU 92, UNM 84

Not a bad senior night for the former Mountain West Freshman of the Year in 2020.

Something seems familiar…

Before this season, no opposing player had had 13 assists against the Lobos since Fresno State’s Chris Herren dished out 13 dimes on Feb. 13, 1999.

Then came this season. As impressive as Stevens’ 13 assists were on Friday night, it wasn’t the first 13-assist game against UNM this season and he wasn’t even the first Isaiah to do it!

Most assists by an opposing player vs. UNM this season:

• 13 — Isaiah Moore, South Alabama (Nov. 11)
• 13 — Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State (Friday)
• 9 — Tre Coleman, Nevada (Jan. 23)
• 8 — Daylen Kountz, Northern Colorado (Nov. 17)
• 7 — Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State (Dec. 28)
• 7 — Matt Bradley, San Diego State (Feb,. 25)

Most assists in a game by UNM opponent:

• 16 — *Tony Gwynn, San Diego State (March 7, 1981)
• 14 — *Tony Gwynn, San Diego State (Feb. 14, 1980)
• 14 — Johnny Mitchell, Kentucky (Dec. 5, 1977)
• 14 — Jeff Jonas, Utah (Jan. 27, 1977)
• 13 — Isaiah Moore, South Alabama (Nov. 11)
• 13 — Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State (Friday)
• 13 — 8 others tied with 13
*Yes. That Tony Gwynn!

2k… 1K… OK…

Congratulations to Patrick Cartier, the CSU big man who transferred from Division II Hillsdale (MI) College for this season. At the 9:51 mark of the first half, he hit a 3-pointer to give him 2,000 career points scored in college (more than 1,600 of them at the D-II level).

Then in the second half, CSU guard John Tonje scored his 1,000th career point (all at CSU).


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

+4 Javonte Johnson (24:25)
0 Jaelen House (34:57)
0 Birima Seck (0:04)
-3 Donovan Dent (18:05)
-9 K.J. Jenkins (16:30)
-9 Josiah Allick (36:46)
-10 Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (34:28)
-13 Morris Udeze (34:45)

Line ’em up…

The Lobos had 13 unique lineup combinations in Friday’s game and played eight players. Colorado State had 16 lineup combinations and played 11 players.

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

• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn, Jr./Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: +1 (29-28)
• Time on court: 14:35
• NOTE: This is what I wrote about this same starting five back on Dec. 28 when the Lobos and Rams played the first time in the Pit (a 19-point Lobos win):

“The ball was moving (7 assists with this unit on the floor) and the offense was efficient (1.4 points per possession).”

Well, in the rematch on Friday in Fort Collins, the starters again had the ball moving well, had seven of the team’s 11 assists and again posted a 1.4 points per possession stat.

Friday, the starters weren’t the problem — at least not the starters when playing together as a unit. They weren’t as dominant as in the Pit, but you expect that to drop some on the road, and the starters +7 in Albuquerque dropping to +1 in Fort Collins isn’t that bad.

• Who: Jaelen House/Donovan Dent/K.J. Jenkins/Javonte Johnson/Josiah Allick
• Point differential: +6 (6-0)
• Time on court: 1:45
• NOTE: There was a Lobos lineup combination on Friday that held CSU scoreless?!?!

• Who: Jaelen House/Jamal Mashburn, Jr./K.J. Jenkins/Josiah Allick/Morris Udeze
• Point differential: -8 (15-23)
• Time on court: 6:00
• NOTE: There were 38 points scored in the six minutes this unit was on the court.


That’s like flirting with a game total of 250 points. The offense was smooth for UNM with a pace over 40 minutes that would have gotten to about 100. And, yet, the Lobos were still outscored by 8 with this unit, allowing CSU to score 3.83 points per minute.

That is … well … that is not good.

Around the Mountain…

There was just one game Friday night around the Mountain West and four more on Saturday’s final day of the regular season.

FRIDAY (March 3)
• Colorado State 92, New Mexico 84

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)
• 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)

• NONCONFERENCE GAME — Chicago State at Fresno State, 4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. MT (MWN)

Mountain West standings…

Here are the Mountain West standings through Friday:

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

+/- or home/road standings…

Here are the +/- standings through Friday 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 Friday: Colorado State 92, New Mexico 84

And if you prefer the digital version, here you go: Colorado State 92, New Mexico 84

Grammer’s Guesses…

I just want to point out that it is actually just as hard to pick games wrong every time as it is to pick games right every time.

So, in that regard, what I’ve been doing with these picks is pretty damn impressive.

Or not.

The Guesses fall to 41-54-1 on the season and my daughter’s coin flip picks are now 46-49-1.

Until next time…

Until next time, Moby Arena, on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., …

Home » Sports » Emptying the Notebook: Can the Lobos get a defensive stop when it counts?

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.
Back in the green: All inspected restaurants pass last ...
ABQnews Seeker
Worried diners can breathe a sigh ... Worried diners can breathe a sigh of relief this week. All of the nearly 40 restaurants inspected last week passed their inspections.
Teenage girls charged in severe beating of 13-year-old
ABQnews Seeker
Two teenage girls have been charged ... Two teenage girls have been charged and a third is being sought in the severe beating of another teen earlier this month at a ...
‘A real tragedy’: Animal nonprofit raising funds to replace ...
ABQnews Seeker
A nonprofit that provides medical care ... A nonprofit that provides medical care for animals in the wild had its trailer full of medical supplies and equipment stolen, now the organization ...
Teens accused in back-to-back carjackings in Southwest Albuquerque
ABQnews Seeker
Three teens are accused of carjacking ... Three teens are accused of carjacking three people at gunpoint Tuesday afternoon before a police pursuit that ended in a crash in Southwest Albuquerque.
Vallejos out as state cannabis director
ABQnews Seeker
The news of Vallejos' departure comes ... The news of Vallejos' departure comes as the state nears one full year of recreational cannabis sales. To date, the state's cannabis businesses have ...
Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly dies at age ...
ABQnews Seeker
Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly ... Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly died Wednesday after a long illness, according to a family spokesman. He was 75.
Spring break's half-over already? Here's a list of low-cost ...
ABQnews Seeker
Spring break is half-over for Albuquerque ... Spring break is half-over for Albuquerque Public Schools kids and their families, and the weather's been meh. With drizzly, moody weather expected to continue ...
$500 rebate for New Mexico residents in 2023: What ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico taxpayers could be taking ... New Mexico taxpayers could be taking home an additional $500 or $1,000 this year. How do these rebates work?
Cloudy with a 100% chance of retirement: 15 questions ...
ABQnews Seeker
Steve Stucker, longtime weatherman with KOB, ... Steve Stucker, longtime weatherman with KOB, will be retiring at the end of the month. From the names — and health statuses — of ...