University of New Mexico sophomore guard Cullen Neal, the Lobos leading scorer, will likely be out for an extended period after injuring his left ankle in the second half of Thursday’s loss to Boston College in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Craig Neal told the Journal on Friday morning from San Juan, Puerto Rico, that while an X-ray revealed “no major fracture,” that there is still a concern for possible ligament damage or a hairline fracture. The Lobos won’t know the full extent of the injury until the team returns to Albuquerque early next week and has an MRI conducted.
Cullen Neal, who averaged 24.5 points and four assists per game entering the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, landed on the right foot of Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan after a jump shot with 17:11 remaining in Thursday’s game (full game recap here). He was helped off the court and could not put pressure on the injured ankle the rest of the game or after as he was helped to the locker room after the game. He did not leave the team’s bench after the injury.
Through three games, he has scored 51 points (17.0 points per game) with 11 assists (3.7 apg) and seven turnovers (2.3 topg). Aside from his scoring and assist numbers, his absence from the lineup means senior guard Hugh Greenwood will now be called upon to return to primary point guard duties much more than anticipated entering the season.
As an off-the-ball guard, Greenwood had been flourishing as a scorer early this season, something he was not know for as the program’s starting point guard the three previous seasons when he was viewed as a steady game manager and facilitator to offensive stars like Drew Gordon, Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams.
In the first eight minutes of Thursday’s game, while playing off the ball with Cullen Neal running the point, Greenwood scored 11 of his 24 points.
In Cullen Neal’s starting spot will likely be 6-foot-6 junior guard Arthur Edwards, but additional minutes for freshmen Sam Logwood and Xavier Adams in the Lobos backcourt are also likely forthcoming. Walk-on junior college transfer point guard Tim Jacobs, the junior who led the Oñate Knights to a New Mexico state title in 2011, will also likely see much more playing time moving forward. The 6-foot guard from Las Cruces has appeared in one of UNM’s three games this season, playing three minutes.
The Lobos play George Mason in Friday at 5 p.m. in a game that will be streamed online on ESPN3.