Suited up at Monday’s New Mexico Lobos practice but not a full participant while nursing a right wrist injury he suffered Dec. 4 in Las Cruces, junior guard Hugh Greenwood joked he can shoot just fine with his left hand.
In the season-long coaches vs. players half-court shooting contest UNM plays at the end of the last practice before every game, Greenwood hit a half-court shot Saturday morning in Kansas City, Mo., using his left hand.
Just to remind everyone who is boss, though, Lobos coach Craig Neal on his first shot Monday night sank a half court shot to give this win to the coaches.
And in a much more serious show of who’s in charge, Neal may limit Greenwood’s on-court action or possibly even bench the usual starter for tonight’s game versus instate rival New Mexico State in the Pit at 7 p.m. That would give the Australian time to rest his wrist (UNM isn’t saying specifically what the injury is but he banged it on an NMSU player late in the Dec. 4 game). Greenwood has averaged 34 minutes of playing time the past two games with the injury.
“The thing that I have to be concerned about is my job is not only is to be their coach, but my job is to protect my guys,” Neal said. “My job is to make sure they’re all right. He’s one of those kids that’s going to do anything. He might be the most selfless kid we’ve had in our program since we’ve been here. (With Greenwood), it’s all about team. It’s all about what I can do for the team. It’s going to come to a point where I’m going to have to do what’s best for Hugh. That’s my job. … Sooner or later, I’m going to have a very tough decision to make, but that’s going to have to be my decision.”
Neal insisted a final decision hasn’t been made, saying “we’ll see.” It isn’t something the team fears will worsen if he plays. But rest, naturally, can speed a full recovery.
Senior guard Kendall Williams, Greenwood’s starting backcourt mate the past two seasons, said just to be safe he’s preparing for the worst.
“As far as I know he’s going to be out the next couple games,” Williams said.
Should Greenwood’s play be limited tonight, freshman guard Cullen Neal will see the majority of time. He, Williams and Greenwood play the same combo guard position.
Even with Greenwood, UNM’s offensive game plan has become one that relies on Williams, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow to score their average of 57 points. It hopes for about 15 more from any combination of the remaining two starters and the bench. That wasn’t the case in losses to No. 22 UMass or No. 18 Kansas, begging the question about who else will step up to score consistently.
“Hugh is hurt and Pancake (sophomore starter Cleveland Thomas) is young,” Williams said. “It’s just a matter of him staying confident, which he will be. He’s a great player. We’re going to keep him confident. The coaching staff is going to keep him confident. The bench just has to keep their heads in it.”
Said Craig Neal on player confidence, “There’s not anybody in the country, there’s not a person that can take your confidence. That’s within you. … That’s something that has to come from within. I think our guys have got to have confidence. I give them confidence. I never tell them not to shoot. It just tell them make sure you take good shots.”
In the Dec. 4 win over NMSU, the Lobos got 53 points from their big three while Thomas added eight, Greenwood six and Cullen Neal six. In each case, NMSU double teams in the post and late rotations left those players open with regularity.
POLL WATCH: New Mexico, for the first time this season, including in the preseason, received no votes in Monday’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Lobos received three points in the “others receiving votes” category of the USA Today Coaches poll.
TICKETS: As of Monday afternoon, there were just 60 club-level tickets remaining for tonight’s game in the Pit with all 12,000-plus lower bowl tickets having already sold.
ONLINE ONLY: Tonight’s game will not be on any television, local or national. ESPN3.com has exclusive broadcast, or webcast, rights.
PLAYER OF WEEK: Wyoming’s Larry Nance, Jr., was named on Monday the Mountain West Player of the Week after scoring 38 points and 12 rebounds in a Saturday loss to Denver.