Lobo hoops notebook: UNM adds Wednesday game, signs on for two weeks in Utah

Lobo basketball players react to a play during the Jan. 2 game against Nevada in Lubbock Christian University’s Rip Griffin Center. (Courtesy John Moore/UNM Athletics)
Sure. Why not?

In a college basketball season where “uncertainty” and “unprecedented” has found their way into far too many articles, here’s the latest in wild list of firsts for the vagabond UNM Lobo men’s basketball team.

On Monday afternoon, the program relocated out of its home state that has been living out of a hotel and working out in rented gyms in West Texas announced its next temporary home will be a few states over to the West.

UNM announced the following:

• It will spend the next two weeks based out of St. George, Utah.

• It will add a rare January non-conference game there Wednesday against the Dixie State University Trailblazers, a first-year Division I member of the WAC which, ironically, had its WAC-opening series this past weekend against New Mexico State University postponed due to a positive COVID-19 case on the Aggies roster.

• It will make the 2-hour bus ride from St. George to Las Vegas, Nev., this weekend, where the Lobos are scheduled to play UNLV on Saturday and Monday, before returning to Utah.

• In lieu of payment for traveling to play at DSU’s Burns Arena, per a contract reviewed by the Journal, the Lobos get to practice at DSU and “host” their Jan. 21 and 23 Mountain West Conference games against San Jose State. The Spartans, coincidentally, are staying at the same Phoenix-based hotel as NMSU because a county health order forced their relocation out of state.

UNM struck a similar deal in December when it played the Rice Owls in Houston and, instead of receiving payment, was able to practice and host two games at Tudor Fieldhouse.

“I want to say thank you so much to Dixie State for providing this opportunity to better the experience of our basketball team during these unusual times,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “… We are grateful to all of the people and places who have aided us in this journey and look forward to continuing our fight forward.”

The change of scenery can’t hurt the Lobos, who are 3-6 overall (0-6 Mountain West).

The past four games — two losses to Nevada, two losses to Utah State — were scheduled home games for UNM, which paid Lubbock Christian University for use of the Rip Griffin Center gym for the games.

HOW TO WATCH: Dixie State has broadcast rights to Wednesday’s game, which will be streamed, free, online on WACDigitalNetwork.com. The contract states “DSU will also stream the January 21 and 23 games with details to be determined separately.”

TALKING GRAMMER PODCAST: What’s Brandon Mason been up to?

I caught up with the former New Mexico State Aggie player and UNM Lobos assistant who resigned in August but has done anything but lay off the hoops scene.

In a conversation recorded for Episode 34 of the Talking Grammer podcast, Mason talks about his new pursuits with youth basketball around the state, the blessing the time with his family has been, whether or not he still watches the Lobo basketball players he helped recruit to Albuquerque, and about the Lobo alumni team he’s helping put together for this summer’s The Basketball Tournament event.

While he hopes to have more specific news to announce soon about his next venture in basketball, for now Mason made clear he’s dedicated to this state and helping kids get an opportunity to play at the college level.

“I’m trying to use all my connections from when I recruited from all these top programs and Nike and Adidas and Under Armour and all that kind of stuff, and bring that kind of connection to New Mexico,” Mason said in the podcast.

ALPHA FAN: It’s been a rough year for Lobo basketball — on and off the court.

Last week, the program that has always been what it is because of the passion and dedication of its fan base, far more than any level of on-court success the team itself has enjoyed, lost one of its biggest supporters.

Dale Kennedy, a regular contributor to the Journal’s Sports Speak Up! section, a regular contributor to TheLairNM.com fan site and a regular at Lobo home and road games, passed away at the age of 70. (Read his obituary here)

The Indiana native is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marcia, three children, four grand children, one stepdaughter and was preceded in death by one son.

He never seemed to meet a stranger, and certainly not anyone he didn’t want to talk about the Lobos with. He held weekly breakfast meetings with “the posse,” as he dubbed them, where the talk was always about Lobo basketball, no matter what time of year.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Dale through the years, talking on social media, through email and plenty of times in person — at games and on flights — two seasons ago when he and a friend checked off their bucket list attending every Lobos road game for a season.

He always asked about my family, bragged about his and, of course, about the Lobos.

He was a good man and he, not the games themselves, was one of the reasons I’m blessed to have the beat I do covering Lobo basketball.

In lieu of flowers, the family noted in an obituary published this week in the Journal that donations can be made to the Lobo Scholarship Fund through the UNM Lobo Club.

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Lobo hoops notes: Commit White cracks ESPN’s Top 100

Santa Fe’s J.B. White goes up for a shot against Highland’s Jose Murillo, left, and Josh Barraza during boys prep basketball action last December. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

J.B. White has made it clear.

He plans to finish his coursework at Santa Fe High School this summer in time to enroll at New Mexico by August and be a part of the 2020 recruiting class.

And, while it would be a year earlier than originally planned when he committed two years ago to play for Paul Weir, there is no denying that on paper, the 6-foot-8 White would be one of the highest-rated players to play for the Lobos right out of high school. He also is one of the highest-rated New Mexico high school players recruited in many years and now a top 100 recruit according to three major national recruiting services.

While White already sees his national ranking sitting at No. 33 on 247Sports.com and 96 by rivals.com, this week ESPN dropped its first ESPN 100 rankings for the Class of 2021. It included White among the top 100 recruits nationally, checking in at No. 100.

It is unclear where he would be ranked as part of the Class of 2020, which he is attempting to join.

For comparison’s sake, since 2007, the furthest back ESPN archives online its high school basketball recruiting rankings, there have been three New Mexico high school graduates finish in the Top 100 on ESPN: Hobbs High’s Jeff Taylor at No. 69 in 2008 before going to Vanderbilt, Los Alamos graduate Alex Kirk at No. 99 in 2010 before going to UNM, and Eldorado High graduate Cullen Neal at 87 in 2013 before starting at UNM.

Taylor was also rated No. 52 by Rivals and 247Sports didn’t have a list that far back. Kirk was No. 90 by 247 sports, but outside the Top 100 for Rivals. Neal was outside the top 100 of both Rivals and 247Sports.

So, what does Weir think about this week’s ranking for his prized recruit?

“Unfortunately, JB is not someone I can comment on other than to confirm we are recruiting him,” Weir said in a teleconference with area reporters on Tuesday. “He has not signed anything. And unfortunately, there’s not anything I can comment on.”

The NCAA prohibits coaches from talking about specific players until they sign a National Letter of Intent, which normally they can’t do until November of their senior year of high school, unless they are allowed to reclassify, as White is attempting to do.

But, until he does, Weir can’t publicly talk about him.

As for that one open scholarship on the Lobos roster right now?

“We have one scholarship remaining, a lot of different things could happen with that,” Weir said. “I don’t really have a definite answer for you as far as this is exactly what’s going to happen with it. There’s some different variables in play there.”

FRANCIS WAIVER: There is no ruling on whether Jeremiah Francis, the North Carolina transfer point guard, will have to sit out this coming season per NCAA transfer rules or will be immediately eligible, though he and UNM are filing a waiver hoping that happens.

“I’m gonna do everything I can, and obviously with Jeremiah and his family and other people’s help as well, to do everything we can to put our best foot forward with the NCAA in their eyes to allow him to play in the fall,” Weir said.

What grounds are Francis and UNM using as a basis for their waiver appeal?

Weir said FERPA prohibits him from disclosing that information.

ROSTER: Weir on his roster: “I feel really, really good about the recruiting class we have coming in – the high school kids we signed in the fall had terrific seasons, and I feel really good about them. I think we have some returners that are very undervalued. Keith McGee, Makuach Maluach and Zane Martin, I think, are three seniors that are undervalued because of either the guys they played with or played behind this past season. But I think going into their senior years, they are guys that I really consider to be among the top of our conference at their respective positions.”

WHY NOW? In case you’re wondering why Weir and UNM called Tuesday’s Zoom conference – a 33-minute Q&A with local media – you might not be alone.

“I didn’t know when to do this personally,” Weir said. “Obviously, we never had an opportunity to kind of have an end-of-season presser. … I was a little sensitive to when’s the right time. Our season ended and then obviously coronavirus came along and turned everyone’s life upside down. I didn’t really know when the appropriate time was to start talking about a basketball team again given the seriousness of what we’ve all been through and what we’re still going through.”

Top 100s

ESPN’s college basketball recruiting rankings have been archived since 2007. From that year through the Class of 2023 (the classes of 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 of course are not yet final lists), there have been four New Mexico high school players ranked in the ESPN 100 with the addition of Santa Fe High’s J.B. White this week to the class of 2021.

Here is the list (rankings in parentheses, college chosen):

• 2008 (69) Jeff Taylor, Hobbs HS — Vanderbilt
• 2010 (99) Alex Kirk, Los Alamos HS — UNM
• 2013 (87) Cullen Neal, Eldorado HS — UNM
• 2021* (100) JB White, Santa Fe High — UNM **
*Not final ranking.
** A commitment. The soonest White can sign is November, though he can enroll at UNM earlier.

• • •

Other top-100 players who played collegiately in this state:
• 2007 (32) Herb Pope, Aliquippa (Pa.) High School — NMSU
• 2008 (42) Phillip McDonald, Cypress Springs (Texas) High — UNM
• 2011 (82) Sim Bhullar, Toronto/Huntington Prep — NMSU

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Emptying the Notebook: Lobos fall at home to Fresno State

Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, tweets, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Saturday’s 81-73 Fresno State win over the UNM Lobos in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit:

Vance continuing to emerge

A couple weeks ago, things weren’t looking great for Vance Jackson.

The sophomore wing seemed to be in a tough spot. He was then, and still is today, the highest usage player on the team (meaning when he’s on the court, he is a part of more offensive possessions than any other Lobo). And he was second on the team in pretty much every statistical category (points, rebounds, assists, etc.).

Basically, he was filling the stat sheet on a regular basis, but he was doing it on an increasingly inefficient manner, which starts to look bad for any player asked to play such a big role in the offense.

Remember, it was just two weeks ago that, despite scoring 16 points in a loss at Fresno State, he did it on 5-of-17 shooting, including a dreadful 1-of-11 clip from 3-point range.

So, was Jackson supposed to back off a bit? Or press forward even more aggressively when the team needed it?

That can be debated, but here’s what the stats say happened: Jackson had scored in double figures 12 consecutive games between Dec. 18 and the Feb. 2 loss at Fresno State when he went 1-of-11 from deep.

In the past four games, his scoring output was: 4 points, 5 points, 9 points and then, on Saturday in the Fresno State rematch, Jackson had a career night.

Jackson’s stat line on Saturday: 30 points, 4-9 on 2-point shots, 4-6 on 3-point shots, 10-of-11 on free throws, 8 rebounds in 32 minutes. He also had the best plus/minus number of any Lobo at plus-5, which means in the minutes he was on the floor, UNM outscored Fresno State by five.

If UNM outscored Fresno State by five in the 32 minutes that Jackson was on the floor, that means it was outscored by 13 in the eight minutes he was on the bench. Those are results hard to ignore, and it’s something Lobos head coach Paul Weir says he has been happy to see for Jackson because he has been working harder in practice over the past two weeks than any time this season.

“I thought it was great shot selection,” Weir said of Jackson on Saturday night.

The coach feels Jackson is at his best when his dribbling in the half court offense is kept to a minimum.

“At the end of the day,” Weir said, “when the ball hits the floor too many times, the shot percentages start to go down and I thought he was much more efficient with himself offensively tonight.”

Jackson felt the best part about Saturday’s loss was continued strides on defense.

“Despite the little defensive errors towards the end, I feel like our defense got so much better and I think our rebounding got better,” Jackson said. “We’ve been working on it all week. Our ball handling on offense just, things like that. I feel like we’re going to get better.”

And after the game, Jackson posted a message to Lobo fans on social media:

The gamer

Here’s the gamer I filed from the Pit on Saturday night:

Fresno State’s dynamic duo too much for Lobos

Go away already!

Lobo fans will be more than happy to see Deshon Taylor’s eligibility run out next month. The Lobo killer has made a career out of being a thorn in the side of UNM, even before Paul Weir took over as coach.

Aside from being a Lobo fan favorite (ok, so he’s not the most popular of opposing players right now for a variety of reasons), Taylor is simply a guy who has found a way to produce big nights against the Paul Weir-coached and the Craig Neal-coached Lobs over the past three seasons.

Here are Taylor’s past six stat lines vs. the Lobos:

2018-19 season
• SATURDAY (Fresno State win): 26 points, 5-8 3s, 7-9 FTs, 5 assits, 3 steals
• Feb. 2 (Fresno State win): 20 points, 6-10 FTs, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals

2017-18 season
• March 3, 2018 (UNM win): 23 points, 10-12 FTs, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
• Jan. 13, 2018 (Fresno State win): 22 points, 3-5 3s, 9-12 FTs, 4 assists

2016-17 season
• *March 9, 2017 (Fresno State win): 21 pints, 3-8 3s, 8-8 FTs, 3 assists, 2 steals
• Feb. 18, 2017 (Fresno State win): 15 points, 4-5 3s, 3-4 FTs, 4 rebounds
*Mountain West Tournament

Lobos Love Pink

Saturday was UNM’s “Lobos Love Pink” cancer awareness game with a variety of initiatives being a part of the game and around the arena.

Here’s a look…

Assistant coach Jerome Robinson had a better look at the gear than I did…

A number to know: 7

Saturday was the seventh loss in the Pit this season. The Lobos are 7-7 in home games.

The most losses in the Pit was 12 in the 1979-80 season. There were eight losses in the 1994-95 season, but those came in a 20 home-game season, so it was packaged with 12 wins.

This season is now tied with several others with seven losses.

UNM has two games left in the Pit: March 2 vs. Colorado State and March 6 vs. Boise State.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta…

There was a Noodles sighting at Saturday’s Georgia Tech game (a loss to Florida State, the seventh consecutive loss for the Ramblin Wreck).

He said it

“Our staff found a spot for him, a little sweet spot in the zone and Deshon made some penetration and kicked to him and he knocked it down. He just wasn’t in rhythm in the first half because he was in and out of the game. Braxton can make shots.” — Fresno State coach Justin Hutson on senior guard Braxton Huggins, who scored all 19 of his points in the second half.

Meanwhile, in Fresno…

The outcome wasn’t much better for the UNM women’s basketball team in their road game at Fresno State.

Around the Mountain

There were five games in the Mountain West with five key ones coming up midweek (one on Tuesday, four on Wednesday):

SATURDAY
• Utah State 76, Air Force 62
• UNLV 71, San Jose State 64
• San Diego State 71, Boise State 65
• Fresno State 81, New Mexico 73
• No. 7 Nevada 82, Wyoming 49

TUESDAY
• UNLV at Wyoming, 8 p.m.

WEDNESDAY
• Colorado State at San Jose State, 8 p.m.
• Air Force at Fresno State, 8 p.m.
• UNM at Utah State, 9 p.m.
• No. 7 Nevada at San Diego State, 9 p.m.

Mountain West standings

Through Saturday’s game, here are the MWC standings:
11-1 Nevada
10-3 Fresno State
10-3 Utah State
8-4 San Diego State
8-5 UNLV
6-7 Boise State
5-8 Air Force
5-8 New Mexico
4-8 Colorado State
2-10 Wyoming
0-12 San Jose State

A look ahead

Based on the game-by-game results predictor on the analytics website KenPom.com, here are what the Mountain West Tournament seeds and final records will look like with all applicable tie breakers being applied based on the predicted results:

• Top five get byes to quarterfinals:
1. Nevada 17-1
2. Fresno St 14-4
3. Utah St 14-4
4. UNLV 11-7
5. UNM 9-9

• Seeds 6-10 start in the play-in round
6. SDSU 9-9
7. Boise St 8-10
8. Colorado St 7-11
9. Air Force 6-12
10. Wyoming 4-14
11. San Jose St 0-18

My two cents

While the projected MWC seeding above would have the Lobos move all the way up to the 5 seed and avoid having to play an extra game, that’s not necessarily a good thing. And what’s more, it’s not what I think will happen.

First, why it won’t happen. San Diego State, mathematically, is only projected to win one of its final six games. I don’t buy it. The’ll finish better than 9-9. I do think the Lobos will lose Wednesday at Utah State and then close the regular season with four consecutive wins, to finish league play at 9-9, but I think they’ll be behind SDSU.

Now, why that may not be a bad thing.

There’s never been a MWC Tournament winner come out of the six seed since that has meant an extra game in the play-in round (there was a six-seed champion once, but when they started in the quarterfinals and it was an eight-team conference).

However, this is a unique season for the MWC. Nevada is that good and if you’re a 4 or 5 seed, you’re on the same side of the tournament bracket as Nevada and would face the Wolf Pack in the semifinals. If you “fall” to a six seed, you would have to play an extra game, but that might be a price worth paying to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid Nevada as long as possible.

Some pictures

Here is a link to the Journal’s photo gallery from Roberto E. Rosales: PHOTO GALLERY, Fresno State at UNM (Feb. 16, 2019)

Meanwhile, in Las Cruces

NMSU went all out on a Pack the Pan Am game and got a good announced turnout of 11,889 for the first-place Aggies, who had to raly from 13-points down to beat Seattle.

Announced attendance

The announced attendance on Saturday for Fresno State at UNM in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit: 12,494

It should be noted that attendance was helped greatly by the halftime Razzle Dazzle cheerleading performance, but those are all paying customers (the parents anyway), too. So good haul for UNM at the gate on Saturday.

Plus/minus

Here are the plus/minus stats from Saturday’s game for the Lobos with minutes played in parenthesis at the end. These are starting to show a troubling trend for the Lobos with who is at the bottom.

+5 Vance Jackson (31:50)
+4 Keith McGee (23:29)
+3 Vladimir Pinchuk (4:28)
-1 Drue Drinnon (16:27)
-4 Makuach Maluach (21:29)
-6 Carlton Bragg (24:08)
-8 Corey Manigault (24:47)
-16 Dane Kuiper (20:43)
-17 Anthony Mathis (32:39)

Final stat sheet

Here’s the final stat sheet from Saturday’s game:

Video: Postgame presser

My postgame presser video of Paul Weir as posted on the Journal’s Facebook page:

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses AND my daughter’s coin flip picks both went 3-2 on Saturday against the point spread, though we did have different picks in four of Saturday’s five games.

I’m now 37-31-1 ATS on the season and #TeamCoin is 32-36-1 ATS on the season. (I had her record wrong in the tweet below. The losses should have been 34, and she’s now at 36 losses… and still very much within striking distance to catch, and pass, her old man).

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Weir isn’t only Mountain West coach facing sophomore slump

There’s just something about that new (courtesy) car smell.

Athletic directors around the Mountain West Conference seem to think so, anyway. Since there was no coaching turnover for the 2014-15 men’s basketball season, the conference has had 10 coaching changes, affecting nine of its schools in the past four seasons, including the UNM Lobos.

It’s probably no coincidence, then, that the league has struggled to reach its old form of being an annual contender to get multiple teams into the NCAA Tournament.

But that doesn’t mean rookie head coaches are always the problem. In fact, as the past 11 months have shown, the league has generally seen the first-year head coaches catch lightning in a bottle and struggle to recapture that magic in the second season. (No, not always as Eric Musselman and Nevada are an exception to a lot of Mountain West rules lately.)

On March 10, 2018, it was two first-year league coaches in UNM’s Paul Weir and first-year San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher squaring off in the Mountain West tournament championship game with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line — the Lobos having gone 19-15 with a third-place regular-season finish and the Aztecs going 22-11 with a fourth-place finish.

And now, as the calendar flips to February of their sophomore campaigns, Weir and Dutcher are leading the two programs considered the biggest disappointments in the MWC thus far this season. Both programs — UNM (9-11, 3-5 MWC) and SDSU (12-8, 4-3) — are still 10 wins away from last year’s total with only 10 regular-season games left for the Lobos before the conference tournament and 11 for the Aztecs.

After Nevada (20-1, 7-1), the league’s clear-cut top dog, it’s a couple more first-year head coaches wowing the league as Craig Smith at Utah State (16-5, 6-2) and Justin Hutson at Fresno State (15-5, 6-2) are tied for second place in the league — the Aggies having just won in Albuquerque this past weekend and the Bulldogs set to host the Lobos on Saturday in Fresno.

So is there something Weir can look to this year’s rookie coaches for to try and recapture the magic from a season ago?

“I hate even answering that question to be totally honest with you,” Weir said on Thursday.

Why?

“Because I think that’s me not owning my own flaws or weaknesses to date that have maybe put us this way,” Weir said. “But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I don’t call coaches, mentors or whoever and ask them, ‘Hey. What do you think? How are things going?’ And a lot of them say the second year’s always the hardest year. There’s a lot of other great coaches and great programs in their second year that are really, really struggling. There’s coaches in our own league … who, in year two, happen to be in a step back. That’s wasn’t anything I ever saw happening, and it’s not something I really want to say is going to happen (at UNM). …

“I think there’s some merit to what you’re saying (about second-year coaching struggles), but I don’t know if that necessarily takes me out of being responsible for that. That’s still on me. I do think as a first-year coach there are some inherent advantages you can tap into that maybe you can’t quite (do) as a second-year guy.”

THE NUMBERS: Of the 10 new head coaches in the MWC in the past four seasons, three won at least 22 games and two more — Smith and Hutson — are well on their way this season.

The combined record of first-year head coaches in the MWC since the 2015-16 season (10 head coaches as Utah State has had two changes) is 158-140. Of the four coaches who have already completed their second season, two had a worst record in year two and all three second-year coaches this season, according to KenPom.com, have teams that will not pass last year’s win total, bringing the total to five out of seven.

ON DRINNON: Freshman point guard Drue Drinnon, who missed the past three games while under concussion protocol from a fall in practice on Jan. 17, returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since the injury and is expected to be available on Saturday at Fresno State.

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Emptying the Notebook: Controversial ending as UNM loses to Utah State

Here are some news, notes, tweets, videos, stats, quotes and whatever else I could find in the old notebook after Saturday’s 68-66 Utah State win over the UNM Lobos in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit:

No margin for error

The Lobos, as head coach Paul Weir has said over and again, have no margin for error. They simply haven’t proven to be good enough to overcome such self-inflicted errors as a ton of turnovers or horrible shooting nights.

And getting the bad end of a blown call in a key moment certainly qualifies as one of the things the Lobos aren’t good enough to overcome.

That is why getting told after a loss from the league offices that the head of officials agreed a call was blown didn’t help Weir or the Lobs feel better about the reality that they found another way to lose.

“I feel like Sean Payton,” Weir said at the start of his postgame presser.

The call switched the game from UNM with a one-point lead and possession to Utah State ball with a chance to win, it hurt Paul Weir.

It isn’t the first time it’s happened to the Lobos, who are all too familiar with that Mountain West postgame memo admitting an official’s blown call when the team had a lead in the closing seconds gave the other team a chance to tie or win.

Remember this? Feb. 6, 2016 — Mountain West: Call on UNM in-bounds play was incorrect

Mountain West: Call on UNM in-bounds play was incorrect

Anyway, the Lobos did plenty to lose again on Saturday. But also did plenty enough to win. The call did matter, so let’s take a look at the call and the statements made about it after the fact.

First, here is video of the call that head official Winston Stith said was a back court violation, meaning his determination was Anthony Mathis had established himself in the frontcourt then passed it into the backcourt to Vance Jackson:

I requested from UNM an official explanation from the officiating crew about what Stith had determined constituted the violation on that call. Instead of any sort of honest answer about what he saw, Stith chose to give an official statement that was essentially reading aloud what the rule book says constitutes backcourt. And he answered only after calls back and forth with the league and the head of officials and not with a reporter actually being able to ask the question in person.

Stith’s statement, as delivered to me by UNM Sports Information Director Frank Mercogliano: “Front court status is attained once all three points are across (ball and two feet). A ball that is not in contact with a player or the playing court retains the same status as when it was last in contact with a player.”

Thanks, Winston. Very helpful for those who invested time and emotion into Saturday’s game get a much clearer understanding of the biggest moment of the game from the man who made the call.

(SIDE NOTE: I’m not nearly as anti-official as most think I am, but I think it’s absurd that a person who plays such a key role in an event watched by nearly 11,000 people in person and thousands more on TV around the country doesn’t even have to answer, in an honest fashion, even one question about his impact on the most vital moment of that game. No coach or player gets that luxury.)

As for the Mountain West office, it at least was honest with its assessment, admitting about 90 minutes after the game that the call was wrong and saying it will be a part of upcoming, though internal, officiating reviews. Not that anything changes, but they at least found the value in acknowledging the call was wrong.

The Mountain West statement: “After postgame video review, the Mountain West has determined the whistle for a backcourt violation in the final minute of the Utah State at New Mexico men’s basketball game was incorrect. Inasmuch as the situation involved a judgment call, it was not reviewable via the instant replay monitor in accordance with NCAA Playing Rule 11-1.4. The matter will be addressed via the Conference’s internal officiating evaluation procedures.”

For a Lobos team that has now lost five off six, there is no moral victory in keeping it close or being told the call was blown.

And there shouldn’t be. Those are the breaks, even for a team at a time that seems like they can’t catch any breaks.

“To me, you want to be process oriented, not win and loss oriented,” said Weir. “Unfortunately, the losing takes a toll and this losing is taking a toll. We have to find a way to win some games while we’re process oriented because it’s really hard to just stick with that.”

The game winner

Of course, all that missed call stuff led to something, right? Here’s what it led to — the Abel Porter game-winning 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining.

The gamer

Here is the gamer I filed from the Pit and posted by the crew back in the office:

Inhuman error: But it’s OVER, AND the Lobos can’t get it BACK

He said it, Part 1

“It was one of those feelings, you go with your gut, but it just felt like the way this game was going, the last team that has the ball was going to win the game. I felt like even if they scored, we couldn’t stop them the last 10 minutes and we’re a very good defensive team. But we struggled stopping them. I felt if we scored and they had the ball, they were going to make the last-second shot. You make a gut decision.” — Utah State coach Craig Smith on his decision to run the shot clock down at the end of the game with the ball, down 1, and 31 seconds on the shot clock after the back court violation was called on UNM.

Mathis got going in the second half

At halftime, I admit it. I was talking to another reporter on press row about how bad Anthony Mathis has been playing of late. He was held scoreless in the first half on 0-for-3 shooting, had a turnover and was at -8 on the +/- when he was on the court in the half.

And to start the second half, it wasn’t exactly much better for the Lobos leading scorer.

Then, in true Mathis fashion, he scored a bunch in a hurry.

Still scoreless and the clock flipped past the 14 minute mark in the second half, Mathis ended up with 16 points and four made 3-pointers in the final 13:58.

This one gave the Lobos their first lead since 2-0, and even brought out of Mathis a bit of a hop.

It seemed the only thing that might stop him was a headbutt he took that busted open his lip and left him bleeding all over the court and near the team bench late in the game.

He returned, though. And took all the Utah State defensive attention down the stretch.

A number to know

Here are some telling numbers from Saturday’s game, and why Utah State controlled the first half and UNM controlled the second half:

• 1st half points in the paint: Utah State 22, New Mexico 4
• 2nd half points in the paint: Utah State 8, New Mexico 14

D on Q

Entering the game, UNM head coach Paul Weir said of Neemias Queta, the 6-11 freshman phenom fro Portugal, that he’s an NBA player.

There might not be any player in the Mountain West who changes things around the rim on both ends of the court than Queta, who leads the league in blocked shots (he had three more on Saturday).

But the Lobos knew he was prone to get whistled for charges, and tried to use that to the team’s advantage, getting Queta in foul trouble. He still played 30 minutes, had eight points and 12 rebounds, but was largely held in check, though it was in a way that he was clearly still opening things up for his teammates. Here’s a four-frame picture from Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales that I tweeted during the game that showed just how the attention the Lobos gave Queta was opening things up for his teammates:

His main matchup was with Lobo junior forward Carlton Bragg, who has a career-high 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from the free throw line after drawing a game-high five fouls.

Much of Bragg’s success came from stretching Queta out of the lane, trying to pull him away from the rim and hitting 12-15 hoot jump shots over the Aggies big man:

Vlad’s line

There isn’t a Lobo who gets more groans and heckles from his own fans in the Pit, and on social media, than Vladimir Pinchuk. You can hear it every game.

And while I’m not about to say he needs any more minutes than he’s getting, I will point out his stat line on Saturday was pretty darn good, which has been the norm for most of his games. While the 6-foot-11 center isn’t offensively gifted, the reality is he isn’t trying to be. He knows his role and plays it about as well as anyone on the team.

His stats on Saturday, including being matched up against Utah State’s Neemius Queta pretty much the entire time he was in the game:

• 13:51 minutes
• 0-0 shots (that is correct, he didn’t even try to take a shot)
• 3 rebounds
• 4 fouls drawn
• 2 assists
• 1 blocked shot
• Team-best plus-8 +/- (in his 13:51 on the court, UNM outscored Utah State by eight points, the best, by far, of any Lobo on Saturday)

Meanwhile, in Logan…

The UNM women’s hoops team kept up their winning ways with a victory over Utah State in Logan, Utah, on Saturday afternoon, 68-64.

Here’s the Jayla Everett 3 in the final minute that would prove to be the game winner:

Meanwhile, in San Diego…

The Aztecs are still good at home. And the Rebels, who hadn’t played a team not in the bottom half of the league standings before Saturday, lost the first in a five game run of games that the computers predict will be an 0-5 stretch.

San Diego State beat UNLV 94-77, with Jalen McDaniels going off for 30 points, 13 rebounds, 5 steals and four assists, including a 3 at the buzzer that led to UNLV senior Kris Clyburn respond to a question saying that shot, the most inconsequential shot of the game, felt like a slap in the face. The sportsmanship in the SDSU/UNLV rivalry isn’t always great, and apparently Saturday wasn’t much different as that shot got a lot of attention from media and fans.

And yet, what I may remember about checking in on the game on Saturday night might be the fact that the Rebels took a bus home to Las Vegas because their charter plane was apparently broken into and the cockpit was damaged.

Oh, Mountain West. Never change.

Around the Mountain

There was a full slate of five Mountain West games on Saturday with only No. 7 Nevada sitting this one out with a bye. Here are the scores:

• Boise State 77, Wyoming 52
• Colorado State 74, Fresno State 65
• Utah State 68, New Mexico 66
• San Diego State 94, UNLV 77
• Air Force 73, San Jose State 71 (2OT)

Mountain West standings

Mountain West standings through Saturday:
6-1 Nevada
5-2 Fresno State
5-2 UNLV
5-2 Utah State
4-3 Boise State
4-4 Air Force
3-3 San Diego State
3-4 Colorado State
3-5 New Mexico
1-6 Wyoming
0-7 San Jose State

And for those interested in the +/- standings (plus-1 for a road win, minus-1 for a home loss):
+2 Fresno St
+2 Nevada
+2 Utah St
+1 UNLV
0 Air Force
0 Boise St
0 CSU
0 SDSU
-1 UNM
-2 Wyoming
-4 SJSU

Former Lobos honored

The UNM Alumni Letterman Association honored dozens of former Lobo players (and a manager) at halftime of Saturday’s game. They were kind enough to give me a list of those honored, which I tweeted, but their pic from the court is better, so here is their tweet, with a list of players below:


Art Duran, 1952
Marvin Spallina, 1954
Micheal Keleher, 1955
Dave Syme, 1957
Jim Fleming, 1957
Gig Brummell, 1961
Frances Coffee, 1962
Dan Ficek, 1963
Ira Harge, 1964
Jim Howard, 1966
Ron Nelson, 1968
Ron Becker, 1970
Pete Gibson, 1971
Bob Toppert, 1975
Rich Pokorski, 1975
Steve Davis, 1977
George Scott, 1985
Niles Dockery, 1985
Paul Lawson, 1986
Kelvin Scarbourough, 1987
Trent Heffner, 1993
JJ Griego, 1994
Chad Toppert, 2009
Phillip McDonald, 2012
Kevin McCurdy (mgr), 2015

Meanwhile, in Edinburg, Texas

The New Mexico State Aggies got a game-winning layup with under 10 seconds left in their 63-61 road win at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley:

For those scoring at home, NMSU won and UNM lost.

For those scoring from their favorite sportsbook, NMSU (an 8-point favorite) did not cover the spread and UNM (a 6.5 point underdog) did.

Lobos plus/minus stats

Here are the plus/minus stats for the game for the Lobos with minutes played in parenthesis:

+8 Vladimir Pinchuk (13:51)
+4 Tavian Percy (9:52)
0 Dane Kuiper (25:18)
-2 Makuach Maluach (32:47)
-3 Carlton Bragg (27:59)
-3 Keith McGee (20:17)
-4 Vance Jackson (33:02)
-4 Anthony Mathis (33:45)
-6 Corey Manigault (3:09)

Some pictures

Here is a link to the photo gallery posted by Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales with one tweet of four of those pics to follow:

PHOTO GALLERY: Utah State at UNM (Jan. 26, 2019)

He said it, Part 2

“(The crowd) can feel like a wave and almost be suffocating for you. It was big thing we talked about with our guys is understanding what we’re getting into here, the environment. Some teams will run away from that, You a have to embrace it because it’s real. They played with tremendous energy especially in the second half. The environment was incredible and for us it felt like a tournament game.” — Utah State coach Craig Smith

Announced attendance

The announced attendance Saturday in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit: 10,752

Postgame video

Here is the video of Paul Weir, Carlton Bragg and Vance Jackson talking to reporters after Saturday’s game, as posted to the Journal’s Facebook page:

Avery Strong

Four years cancer free and still going #AveryStrong. The Lobos coaches, players and fans wore #AveryStrong shirts on Saturday in honor of associate head coach Chris Harriman’s son, Avery, and as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer week of games around the nation.

Trending down…

For the second consecutive game, the Lobos offense was held under 40 percent shooting. Utah State held the Lobos to 39.0 percent shooting overall — 15-35 (42.9 percent) on 2s; 8-24 (33.3 percent) on 3s.

The Lobos have been held under 40 percent six times this season, all losses and all in back-to-back games:

• 28.1 percent/34.8 percent in losses to NMSU and Saint Mary’s on Dec. 4/7
• 36.4 percent/39.3 percent in losses to North Texas and Penn on Dec. 18/22
• 35.5 percent/39.0 percent in losses to UNLV and Utah State on Jan. 22/26

Final stat sheet

Here’s the final stat sheet from Saturday’s game:

They could use these guys

Two guards not playing this season for the Lobos — JaQuan Lyle (our for season with Achilles injury) and Zane Martin (sitting out per NCAA transfer rules after averaging 19.8 points per game last season at Towson) were seen at halftime putting up a few shots before the teams took the floor for the second half.

Up next

The Lobos get their first bye of the season for the midweek games coming up. They next play on Saturday at Fresno State, 8 p.m., ESPNU, 770 AM/94.5 FM

Grammer’s Guesses

I’m back to not knowing how to pick games against the point spread. The Guesses went 1-4 on the day and my daughter’s #TeamCoin coin flip picks went 3-2. I’m 21-18 on the season and she’s now at 20-19.

It isn’t as though I didn’t have a feeling this was coming even before games started on Saturday:

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Walk-on guard, UNLV beat Lobos with ease in Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS, Nev. — It wasn’t the zone defense this time. And it wasn’t the point guard play.

In the gym where the Lobos seemed to turn their season around one year ago, this year’s UNM men’s basketball team found a new way to fall short on Tuesday night in a season that continues to leave fans frustrated and scratching their heads.

UNLV walk-on guard Nick Blair, a transfer from Idaho who had played in just five games with a season high of nine points, went off for 26 points and the Rebels scored 23 points off turnovers to comfortably beat the Lobos, 74-58, in front of an announced Thomas & Mack Center crowd of 8,432.

“He was terrific,” UNM head coach Paul Weir said. “Obviously going into the game, we know who we wanted to take away as far as No. 24 — (Joel) Ntambwe. I thought we did a pretty good job. We were worried about their guard presser. Blair got loose and took some 3s and made some 3s. And then once he started to make some 3s, we adjusted and at that point he became a really tough matchup for us. He was the best player on the court tonight.”

The Lobos fall to 9-10 on the season and 3-4 in Mountain West play. The Rebels, led be former New Mexico State head coach Marvin Menzies, completed the season sweep of UNM while improving to 11-7 overall and 5-1 in MWC play, tied with No. 7 Nevada and Fresno State atop the league standings.

It was the first sweep of the Lobos by UNLV since it happened to Steve Alford’s Lobos in 2011.

The Lobos got a double-double from Carlton Bragg with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Vance Jackson had 16 points and eight rebounds, but UNM couldn’t take advantage — again — of its size advantage in the post.

Part of that had to do with turnovers by the Lobos. On Tuesday, it was 14 turnovers, including 10 in the first half, and the Rebels turning those miscues into 23 points. UNM scored two points off 11 Rebels turnovers.

UNM shot just 35.5 percent overall in the game, 26.1 percent from 3-point range and 53.3 percent from the free throw line. The Lobos had just six assists in the game compared to 16 for UNLV. UNM’s six assists were a season low just three days after a season high (vs. a Division I opponent) 20 against the Wyoming Cowboys.

The Rebels shooting wasn’t great overall (43.9 percent), but scorched the nets from beyond the arc, hitting 14-of-25 3-pointers (56.0 percent) for a team that was shooting under 30 percent before league play began three weeks ago.

“Defensively, I thought we were pretty solid throughout,” Weir said. “I think they obviously made some shots at some different points. We just could never get into any kind of offensive rhythm. It was really unfortunate and I think when you’re turning the ball over like that — 23 to 2 in points off turnovers — it’s really hard to overcome.”

The Rebels led by as many as 19 and the game was never closer than eight points in the second half after a key first half run erased a promising start for UNM.

In a stretch of 6 minutes, 27 seconds late in the first half, UNM didn’t hit a field goal. The Lobos went 0-for-8 from the field in that stretch while the Rebels went on a 16-3 scoring run (all three UNM points were from the free throw lone).

In the stretch, the Lobos missed a dunk (Vladimir Pinchuk), missed a layup (Makuach Maluach) and had a 3-pointer waived off when Dane Kuiper stepped out of bounds.

The Rebels, meanwhile, hit four 3-pointers in that run, including three on three consecutive possessions.

The score went from 18-17, UNLV leading, to 34-20, Rebels in control with 2:25 left before Keith McGee drove the lane for a layup to stop the bleeding.

UNLV took a 39-27 lead into the locker room at the break.

The Lobos had 10 first half turnovers (UNLV had 15 first half points off those turnovers), were 20-of-10 from 3 and were called for 12 fouls in the first 20 minutes.

NO DRINNON: Freshman point guard Drue Drinnon did not make the trip, instead staying back in Albuquerque while under concussion protocol stemming from a hard fall he took in practice last Thursday.

NOTES: The Lobos played mostly man-to-man defense, but did sprinkle in some zone. The first such time came with 14:10 showing on the clock in the first half when UNM tried a 1-3-1 zone look. The result of the possession was a Dane Kuiper steal. …

Referee David Hall broke a finger when accidentally kicked by a UNLV player while calling a foul with 9:39 left in the first half. Hall did not return to the game and referees John Higgins and Bo Boroski were left to call the rest of the game as a two-man crew. …

McGee scored in double figures for the second straight game (12 points). …

Kuiper fouled out with with zero points in 21 minutes played.

Box score: UNLV 74, New Mexico 58

UP NEXT: Saturday, Utah State at UNM, 2 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/94.5 FM

UNLV’s Noah Robotham drives around New Mexico’s Anthony Mathis during the second half on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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Lobos get much needed easy win over ailing Wyoming Cowboys

Lobo Keith McGee walks off the court with a smile after UNM routed Wyoming 83-53 on Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

It was one game.

And against an injury-depleted Wyoming Cowboys roster.

But after the past three losses for UNM, and a week of potential turmoil with a player leaving the team, Saturday’s 83-53 blowout of Wyoming in Dreamstyle Arena — a game in which six Lobos scored in double figures and the team defended as well as it has in two weeks — was exactly what the Lobos needed.

“Unfortunately you never know when your turning point is until further down the line,” said Lobos head coach Paul Weir. “Would I like (the Wyoming win) to be one? Of course. But at this point, we just have to do whatever we can to get ready for Vegas on Tuesday night.”

The Lobos never trailed and led by as many as 33 points in an easy win that moves them to 9-9 overall and 3-3 in Mountain West play, heading into Tuesday’s road rematch with a UNLV team that started their three-game skid with an upset victory in the Pit on Jan. 8.

Saturday, the Lobos shifted from the zone defense that dominated play the first five MWC games and went back to a man-to-man scheme that kept the Cowboys (4-14, 0-5) to 35.2 percent shooting overall (19-of-54) and 27.3 percent from 3-point range (6-of-22).

UNM was led by 16 points, five rebounds and three blocks from 6-foot-10 power forward Carlton Bragg, who said the defense is what Saturday was all about.

“They had two main guys,” Bragg said. “Let everyone else beat us. That was the game plan.”

The two “main guys” for Wyoming — Justin James and Hunter Thompson — combined for 18 points on 8-of-21 shooting. They averaged a combined 33 points per game entering the Pit.

The Lobos used a 14-0 run midway through the first half to extend their lead to 38-16, much to the relief of the announced crowd of 11,744.

UNM’s Vance Jackson, background, passes to an open Carlton Bragg, foreground. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

UNM shot 48.3 percent, had 29 fast-break points and out-rebounded the Cowboys 43-26.

Sophomore point guard Keith McGee had 14 points off the bench and hit three 3-pointers, a welcome sight for a team needing help at the point guard position entering Tuesday’s UNLV rematch. And it hasn’t been easy going for McGee as his coach has been particularly hard on him and his development.

The hard coaching, McGee said Saturday, is why Saturday happened at all.

“It’s hard being a PG in division I basketball,” McGee said. “You’ve got to go hard each and every day. I appreciate my coach for getting on me. Lately he’s been getting on me, and I feel like I’ve just been getting better from it — just coming back and trying to play harder every day.”

Bragg was asked if the win got the bad taste of the three game losing streak out of the team’s mouth.

“No,” he said without hesitation. “We still have a bad taste in our mouths. We’re still hungry.”

NO DRINNON: Freshman point guard Drue Drinnon did not suit up for the Lobos on Saturday due to injury. He fell hard on a drive to the basket in Thursday’s practice, and was tended to then by the team’s trainer. He returned to practice and thought to be fine.

Saturday morning, Weir said, the freshman showed signs that gave the team enough concern that they might be concussion related that they said, “Let’s just kind of sit him and see when he comes back around.”

Drinnon is not officially in the concussion protocol that would require him to be held out 10 days, but could be placed in it if team doctors deem it necessary.

WALK-ONS: Rio Rancho High graduate Clay Patterson scored his first two points as a Lobo with a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left in the game. Fellow walk-on Jordan Arroyo (Atrisco Heritage Academy) also played 3 minutes with a block a rebound, a steal and a technical foul called after taunting a player following the block.

LIMITED COREY: Junior forward Corey Manigault played just 4 minutes, 34 seconds on Saturday. He did not return to the game after an incident in a timeout in the first half, though was cheering for teammates and smiling on the bench in the second half.

“I’ve been here many times with you guys with Corey,” Weir said. “I’m trying to coach and teach him the best way I know how. Unfortunately there are times when he gets coached or gets feedback that he does not always respond appropriately. He’s going to continue to pay the same price. Maybe at some point it will turn the corner. I hope it does. But in the meantime, I’m not going to sacrifice a game or him playing for behavior that I think is detrimental to our overall team or culture.”

Tuesday: UNM at UNLV, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/94.5 FM

Box score: UNM 83, Wyoming 53

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Ezzeddine’s Lobo career appears over

University of New Mexico forward Karim Ezzeddine, left, shown in action earlier this season vs. Colorado, was absent from Thursday’s practice and isn’t expected to play Saturday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

UPDATE: Ezzeddine has left the Lobo basketball team, UNM confirmed on Friday morning. An updated story can be found HERE.


The Lobos’ bench appears to be getting thinner.

Karim Ezzeddine, the 6-foot-8 junior forward who played the previous two seasons at Northwest Florida State junior college and at highly regarded Huntington Prep in West Virginia before that, did not attend the New Mexico men’s two-hour afternoon practice Thursday. That was after he left the team’s bench for the locker room with three minutes still to play in a 97-77 road loss to San Diego State on Tuesday night, when he was visibly upset as he was pulled out of the game.

He is now contemplating leaving UNM. Whether that is a move to transfer to another college or quitting college basketball altogether is unclear, but as of Thursday afternoon Ezzeddine had not yet asked for his name to be placed in the NCAA transfer portal for other schools to be made aware of his desire to transfer. He is still considered on scholarship as a student with the Lobos.

“With Karim, there was a situation and we’re continuing to talk,” Weir said on Thursday. “We spoke a little bit (Wednesday in San Diego) in the airport. We spoke a little bit again today. We’re going to continue to work through that, and once I have a final resolution is when I’ll release something. I don’t want to necessarily prematurely say stuff about that.”

The Journal asked to speak with Ezzeddine on Thursday, but as he was not at practice, he was not available for media interviews.

He has not been kicked off the team or suspended, at least not officially, but UNM (8-9, 2-3 Mountain West) is preparing for Wyoming (4-13, 0-4), Saturday’s opponent, without Ezzeddine as part of the game plan.

“At this point, no (he won’t play),” Weir said, “but until I have a final resolution to that, I don’t really want to talk too much about it, just because he’s involved in this decision as well.”

Independent of the Ezzeddine situation, Weir acknowledged a player hoping to join the Lobos next season – the Journal has learned it is former Texas A&M point guard J.J. Caldwell, though UNM will not confirm that – has been admitted to the university, but has not yet enrolled in classes, which began this week on main campus.

Caldwell was not attending an NCAA Division I school this past semester, will not be on scholarship this semester for UNM, and would not be eligible to play for the Lobos until the middle of the 2019-20 season – much like what happened this season with Carlton Bragg, who also enrolled at UNM last January, not on scholarship.

Weir acknowledged the timing of the two-player situations could look bad, but said they have nothing to do with one another. UNM does not have a scholarship available.

Originally from Paris, Ezzeddine started six games this season for UNM and has played in all 17. He’s averaging 17.1 minutes per game and 4.3 points to go along with 3.6 rebounds.

His minutes have gone down dramatically of late both as the team has transitioned to a zone-dominated defensive scheme and since Bragg was added to the roster in mid-December.

After playing a minimum of 17 minutes in each of the team’s first 13 games, Ezzeddine’s minutes played in the past four games have been 5, 4, 13 and 3. When he was pulled in the second half on Tuesday, he couldn’t contain his frustration on the team bench, which is located right in front of press row at Viejas Arena.

The Journal reported his leaving the team bench, though Weir would not answer Journal questions about the matter after the game.

Teammate Corey Manigault also had bad body language upon being taken out of Tuesday’s games, but that has been an ongoing issue for him this season when struggling in games. Weir made clear on Thursday that Manigault’s and Ezzeddine’s situations are not related.

“I know that I’ve had a lot of questions about Corey and Karim since our last game,” Weir said. “I think they, like a lot of players on our team, are competitive and don’t like the recent string of defeats that we’ve had and, coupled with their playing time, can get a little emotional at times. …

“Corey’s been kind of brought into this because of some body language things that he did, which has been an issue for him this year, which are things we continue to talk (about) and teach and hope that he’ll grow from. But I don’t think anything with Corey is overly significant at this point for me to talk about.”

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Emptying the Notebook: Lobos lose at San Diego State

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Here are some extra notes, quotes, tweets, videos and tid bits I found in the old notebook after Tuesday’s 97-77 San Diego State win over the UNM Lobos in Viejas Arena:

Mathis looked for his shot

As UNM senior guard Anthony Mathis started heating up in the first half of Tuesday’s game, one Lobos fan on Twitter posted a picture of what he felt the CBS Sports Network keys to the game should have been

For UNM: “Give it to Anthony Mathis”

For San Diego State: “Stop Anthony Mathis”

Of course, it wasn’t quite that easy. But I’m sure both @noacb_ and the CBS Sports Network crew are regular readers of the Journal and knew that the headline on the sports section of the Journal’s web site all day Tuesday was about UNM Lobos head coach Paul Weir telling Mathis to quit worrying about what people are saying about him playing point guard and just shoot the ball.

Mathis got more help at the point guard spot on Tuesday than in any previous game in Mountain West action as Drue Drinnon (19 minutes played) and Keith McGee (20 minutes played) were each in the game much of the night. As a result, Mathis didn’t seem quite as fatigued as in the second half of last week’s loss to UNLV nor as disinterested in shooting as he did when he took only two shots in the first half of Saturday’s loss to Colorado State.

Mathis in the first half on Tuesday had 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting (all were 3-pointers and he had a free throw). In the second half, it was eight points on 2-of-7 shooting.

“Early for sure,” Weir said when asked if he agreed Mathis was the aggressive scorer the coach had wanted him to be all season. “And then I thought San Diego State did a great job as the game unfolded of just kind of keying in on him. But I thought early in the game, I thought it was a good response to how things have been going for him.”

Up next

UNM hosts Wyoming at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit. The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com with no television option.

SDSU, meanwhile, will already take its second of two bye slots in the schedule before more than half the league, including UNM, has had its first bye. The Aztecs return to action in a week on the road at Fresno State.

The Gamer

Due to the late start (8 p.m. PT/9 p.n. MT), I had to file a quick and dirty game story right after the buzzer sounded, without quotes or anything.

Here is that version:

Lobos blown out in San Diego for 3rd straight loss

Trouble in Lobo Land?

Weir would not comment when the Journal asked him about two big men having very visibly bad nights on the Lobos bench.

For those who don’t know, press row at Viejas Arena is the row of seats directly behind the visiting team’s bench. So, throughout the game, the bad body language, complaining, agitation, pouting or whatever it was that Lobo big men Corey Manigault and Karim Ezzeddine had going on were happening right in front of a half dozen reporters.

At one point, Manigault sat at the end of the bench disinterested in talking to teammates or coaches. And with three minutes left in the game, Associate Head Coach Chris Harriman talked briefly with Paul Weir, then went down to the end of the bench where Ezzeddine was standing and Ezzeddine went to the team locker room alone and stayed there until the end of the game.

It is unclear if he was sent there or asked to go there, as one person on press row suggested he thought was the case.

Neither played well on either side of the ball, but neither got many opportunities, either. Manigault played nine minutes, Ezzeddine just three.

Where was the Show?

Those who showed, did their thing. But The Show, the San Diego State student section that just a couple years ago had articles in national publications written about it not only as one of the best student sections in college basketball, but really just one of the best part of college athletics in general, isn’t exactly what it once was.

First, the realities of Tuesday’s game are this: School is not in session, the weather wasn’t great and the Aztecs are hardly what they once were more than a few years ago.

But, I was still legitimately bummed out to see this pregame introduction involving The Show — a pregame that once was 3,000 students strong every night regardless of opponent and intimidated opposing teams like crazy with their bench right next to the students.

Again, props to those who did Show. They’re trying to keep what was one of the games most special traditions alive.

And, besides, how can I not give them some love when they had this sign during a the game when there was a referee video review going on?

A number to know: 30

San Diego State had 30 assists on Tuesday.

THIRTY! On 38 made basketball. That’s three days after UNM allowed CSU to dish out 26 assists on 32 made baskets in that Lobos loss.

That was the most for SDSU in a Mountain West game in the 20-year existence of the league.

Another number to know: 50

The Aztecs scored 50 points in the paint against the Lobos zone defense. It’s become a trend, to say the least, and one I’ll flush out in stories later in the week more than in this column.

But know this…

Postgame Paul Weir interview

Here, as posted to the Journal’s Facebook page, is the postgame Paul Weir interview with several reporters, which didn’t take place until more than a half hour after the game ended.

He said it

“They had played a pressing, aggressive style earlier in the year and struggled with it. You have to realize, this team played zone for 40 minutes against Nevada to give them their only loss of the year, so this is a good basketball team that is on a tough stretch.” — San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher on UNM

Meanwhile, in Monaco…

Recognize anyone in this tweet?

Meanwhile, in Boise…

No. 10 Nevada needed all 40 minutes to do it, but they beat Boise State in Taco Bell Arena, 72-71, thanks to a Cody Martin 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Around the Mountain

There were two games in the Mountain West on Tuesday night, each being broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network, and two more coming on Wednesday night.

TUESDAY
• No. 10 Nevada 72, Boise State 71
• San Diego State 97, New Mexico 77

WEDNESDAY
• UNLV (3-0) at Air Force (1-3)
• Utah State (2-2) at San Jose State (0-3)

Mountain West standings

Here are the Mountain West standings through Tuesday night’s games:
3-0 UNLV
4-1 Nevada
3-1 Boise State
3-1 Fresno State
2-2 Colorado State
2-2 San Diego State
2-2 Utah State
2-3 New Mexico
1-3 Air Force
0-3 San Jose State
0-4 Wyoming

So, about that UNM/Nevada game…

No, not Tuesday’s Nevada game, but that one Jan. 5 in the Pit when the Lobos blew out the previously undefeated Wolf Pack before embarking on their current three game losing streak.

Plus/minus numbers

Lots of discussion recently about whether single game plus/minus statistics tell a whole story.

Here’s the easy answer: They don’t. They, not unlike all stats on a stat sheet, can be deceiving without context. But I will continue to post them each game to show the trend throughout the season of the one stat that, ultimately, is what the game is all about: What happens to the score when a certain player is one the court.

Again, small sample sizes can skew this, but through the course of a season, if a player is at minus-100, then something wasn’t going great for his team whenever he was on the court, and that’s what the stat shows. It’s no more end all, be all stat than scoring or rebounding numbers.

Here are the Lobos +/- from Tuesday with minutes played in parenthesis:

+9 Karim Ezzeddine (3)
+3 Vladimir Pinchuk (14)
+2 Tavian Percy (2)
-1 Jordan Arroyo (1)
-1 Drue Drinnon (19)
-7 Dane Kuiper (24)
-11 Corey Manigault (9)
-12 Carlton Bragg (17)
-12 Keith McGee (20)
-16 Anthony Mathis (33)
-25 Vance Jackson (28)
-29 Makuach Maluach (30)

Final stats

Apparently I never tweeted a picture of the final stats from Tuesday’s game. Here’s a link instead: SDSU 97, UNM 77

Grammer’s Guesses

I didn’t think the Lobos would win on Tuesday, but when the Las Vegas betting line grew to plus-seven, I had to go against my gut (silly decision, especially with a gut like mine).

I picked the Lobos and, as a result, the Guesses went 0-2 against the spread on Tuesday. I’m now 12-10 on the season. My daughter’s lucky piggy bank picks also went 0-2 and her #TeamCoin picks are now 10-12, still two games (just two games?) behind her old man.

Until next time

Until next time, Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University…

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Weir to Mathis: Don’t listen to critics, just shoot

Paul Weir wants his players to read.

He encourages it.

The team has a library/book exchange in the locker room and the coach has been known to give books to players on road trips. It’s usually when he feels there is something in the books that might strike a chord with one of the players at a particular time of the season.

As the Lobos (8-8, 2-2 Mountain West) head into Tuesday night’s road showdown with the San Diego State Aztecs (9-7, 1-2 MW), Weir might be considering changing his opinion.

His star senior, Anthony Mathis, appeared to be a different, far more timid player for much of Saturday’s road loss at Colorado State. Weir fears it may have been a case of Mathis paying a little too much attention to critical media coverage, including in the Journal and plenty of it on the always rational world of social media, concerning his dismal second half of point guard play in last week’s home loss to UNLV.

“I don’t know if he reads too much,” Weir said. “I don’t know if he saw too much (on social media) where he was almost just not looking to score (at CSU).”

Mathis is the Lobos leading scorer this season at 15.9 points per game and his 174 field-goal attempts leads the team as well. In fact, he has taken more 3-pointers (136) this season than any teammate but Vance Jackson has taken total shots.

And the numbers suggest it needs to be that way for the Lobos to be successful.

Even as the team continues to adjust to a two-post offense after a four-out, one-in scheme to start the season, the success still seems predicated not only on Mathis’ scoring, primarily from the perimeter, but just being active in general on offense, ensuring opposing defenses are having to focus on him.

“He needs to go out and be an active scorer for us,” said Weir.

In UNM’s eight wins, Mathis has averaged 17.8 points per game and 11.8 field-goal attempts. In two league wins, the averages climb to 22.0 points per game and 15.5 shot attempts.

In UNM’s eight losses, Mathis has averaged 14.0 points per game and 10.0 field goal attempts. In the past two league losses, it’s been 12.5 points and 11.0 shot attempts.

Over the final 20 minutes against UNLV when the 6-foot-3 Mathis appeared incapable of handling the defensive pressure from UNLV point guard Noah Robotham, Mathis shot 2-of-8 (1-of-6 from 3-point range), had six points, zero assists and two turnovers. More important, the Lobos were outscored in the second half 45-27 and lost.

The next couple days brought with it intense scrutiny of Mathis’ ability to play the point guard position.

In the first 20-plus minutes of the CSU loss, Weir noticed his leader wasn’t himself. He wasn’t awful, but he certainly wasn’t aggressive like the team needs, taking only two shots in the opening 20 minutes while committing two fouls and he had two turnovers.

When that sort of play, including not looking to score by the team’s best offensive threat, carried over to the second half, Weir had a quick hook for Mathis, subbing him out of the game just 1:27 into the second half for a little under two minutes. Weir told his senior: No amount of newspaper coverage or anonymous griping on social media will be calling the shots for the Lobos.

“Like I told him tonight, you can read whatever you want from other people, but the reality is we need you to score for us to be good,” said Weir. “Just because you had a bad game (against UNLV) or a game where people were piling on you doesn’t mean now you’re going to make a change. If I tell you you’re going to change, that’s fine. But that’s the only conclusion I came to when I subbed him out.

“I thought when he went back in the remainder of the game he was much more active looking to score.”

After just two shot attempts in the first 24 minutes at CSU, Mathis fired up six in the final 16 minutes, including getting a pair of free throw attempts, scoring 11 points.

While it was too little, too late, Weir hopes his message was clear and the momentary Mathis slump will be a short lived one.

KEITH STEPPING UP: On backup point guard Keith McGee getting his first regular minutes for the Lobos in the CSU loss (he played just two minutes in UNM’s first three MWC games), and responding with eight points and five assists in 24 minutes, Weir was pleased.

“Keith is a very talented player,” Weir said. “Unfortunately, the only reason he hasn’t been in are more off court things we’ve been working through. Nothing major, just him and me and us getting on the same page. It wasn’t a situation where we didn’t feel he was good enough. That’s never been a question.”

VISITING VIEJAS: Due to the league’s unbalanced schedule, the Lobos didn’t play in San Diego last season and won in Viejas Arena in in their last matchup there on Jan. 1, 2017. The last win over the Lobos at home for SDSU was on Feb. 6, 2016, in a 78-71 overtime game the league later issued an apology for on a blown call on a Lobos inbounds play at the end of regulation by referee Randy McCall that could have cost the Lobos the win.

Tuesday: UNM at San Diego State, 9 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/94.5 FM

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