OK, this next man up mantra of the injury-plagued Lobos is getting a little out of hand.
With three players being held out with injuries and two transfers who are sitting out this season home for the holiday break after finals, the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team on Monday was simply running out of bodies.
So in stepped head coach Craig Neal.
The 50-year-old former Georgia Tech and NBA player stepped in to run through drills with his team for part of Monday afternoon’s practice in the Pit, slashing through the lane, posting up players in the paint and even firing up a shot or two.
“I thought we were going to have pretty good depth in the backcourt, but now it’s kind of dwindling,” said Neal, whose team is working without injured guards Cullen Neal (high ankle sprain), Arthur Edwards (dislocated/fractured ring finger) and now Sam Logwood (sprained shoulder).
“I even checked if I could have a manager practice today, which I can’t. I had to check the rules with compliance. I was going to put one of our managers in to play today so we had enough.”
Just when the Lobos get the services of forward Jordan Goodman back (he’s “full go” to play in Wednesday’s home game against Central Arkansas, according to Craig Neal), the team learned Monday that Logwood, the 6-7 freshman wing who sprained his left shoulder in Saturday’s win over UL-Monroe, is expected to miss at least the next three games with the hopes of returning for UNM’s Dec. 31 Mountain West Conference opener. Logwood was starting to come into his own for the Lobos, showing particular promise as a perimeter defender as of late.
Making matters worse for Lobo practices for the time being, transfers Tim Williams and Elijah Brown both went home for the holiday break after finishing their finals last week and are not available for practice.
“It’s really hard for kids who aren’t playing – it’s really hard for them to be here the whole time (between semesters) and keep up,” Craig Neal said. “They’ve practiced really hard. They’ve done exactly what I’ve asked them to do. So I let them go home.”
The result of it all?
Not only are coaches taking on much more hands on approaches in practice, but Lobo fans can expect to see the unexpected in coming games.
“You’ll probably see a lot of different lineups than you’re not used to,” Craig Neal said. “We’ll play a lot of different lineups. We’ll play a big lineup. We’ll play a small lineup. So it will be interesting.”
AT LEAST GOODMAN’S BACK: Goodman, the 6-9 former first team Junior College All-American, was all smiles at Monday’s practice and, for the first time since a June knee surgery before enrolling at UNM, seems to be approaching full health.
While Monday was just his 10th practice out of 45 the Lobos have had this season, Goodman was clearly working with as much energy and confidence as he has had all season.
“I think he’s figured out what it takes to guard and how we play team defense,” Craig Neal said. “So I think he’s really excited. He had a great attitude on the bench (at Saturday’s game). … I think he’ll be ready to go. I think he can score the ball, but he’s got to get his feel back. He knows how to play and hopefully he’ll be able to score for us.”
ROAD WOES UPDATE: Entering games on Dec. 6, the Mountain West Conference was 2-17 in true road games during non-conference play. Since then, the league has rebounded a bit, going 6-2 in true road games, standing now at 8-19 on the road. There are 10 remaining true road games on the league’s non-conference slate.
Air Force (0-3) is guaranteed to finish without a road non-conference win while Nevada (0-2), San Jose State (0-2), Wyoming (0-2) and San Diego State (0-1) each have one more chance to win a road game before league play begins.
The league went 25-17 in non-conference road games in the 2012-13 season and 14-20 last season.
POLL POSITION: The San Diego State Aztecs (7-2) remain the only Mountain West team ranked in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, but dropped one spot to No. 19 after another dismal, though winning, offensive showing last week vs. Long Beach State.
The Aztecs appeared on 59 of 65 ballots with a high vote of No. 13.
Colorado State (10-0) was the league’s only other team to receive votes, getting 75 points in the “others receiving votes” category. That places the Rams 41 points behind No. 25 Michigan State.
CSU appeared on 25 of 65 ballots with a high ranking of No. 19.
One voter, Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, actually dropped the Rams from No. 15 in last week’s poll to No. 21 this week despite CSU going 2-0 last week, including a road win at rival Colorado.
MWC POW: Air Force senior guard Max Yon was named the Mountain West Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in a pair of Falcons home wins last week over Nebraska-Omaha and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
He shot 61.9 percent from the field in the two games and connected on 8-of-14 (57.1 percent) of his 3-pointers.
BOX OUT: Since the Dec. 1 announcement that the Pit’s new official name is WisePies Arena, UNM has not scored 65 points in a game. That means the longtime Jack in the Box promotion of two free tacos when the Lobos score 65, has not happened.
UNM insists blocking out promotions with other restaurant chains was not part of the WisePies deal.