Fascinating games

A dozen games in season, Lobos still meets on the court

UNM goalie KJ Jenkins shoots a 3 point while being guarded by Jordan Johnson of Denver in the second half of their Dec. 9 game in the pit. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

There are no name labels.

But it’s clear – painfully for some Lobo fans whose patience has been tested over the past seven seasons or so – that this new, rebuilding Lobo basketball team is still getting to know each other a lot.

While talking about this fact after every a dozen game loss in the season, and just one before the Mountain West Conference game starts, it’s probably not something some want to hear, the reality is that the UNM’s men’s basketball team is still very much work in progress.


And it was demonstrated with basic communication errors on defense in the last two losses the Lobos suffered in the pit – on December 12 at UTEP and Sunday at SMU.

The main shortcomings were not the lack of capacity issues, or even the lack of understanding. They often seemed to be simple questions of not knowing what a teammate was going to do on defense or not fully understanding who it was to turn defense – mistakes that repeatedly led to lay-ups. , shots to the edge or late. rotational faults.

“I think it’s just a lot of confidence,” said junior guard KJ Jenkins, whose college career began in a Division II program heading into a 2020-21 breakout season at the junior college level, followed by ‘a transfer to the Lobos this season.

“We have never played together. We have never lived these wars together. And just believe that the next man behind you will have his back to the defense. I mean, I think it’s starting to come. It’s just a matter of watching the movie, seeing what we bring up at work the next day.

The Lobos’ three double-digit goalscorers this season – Jamal Mashburn Jr. (18.8 points per game), Jaelen House (16.6) and Jenkins (10.2) – were still registered just seven months ago in schools in Minnesota, Arizona and Texas, respectively. . Even the four returning stock players who played for UNM a season ago did so entirely out of New Mexico state before most of that roster left town in the offseason.

And it’s not just about talking.

The UNM roster ranks 301st out of 358 experienced teams, with the current Lobos averaging just 1.43 years of Division I experience.

Sunday’s 90-72 loss was to a senior EMS team that placed 42nd in experience, and Tuesday night’s game against Norfolk State features a 49th-ranked Spartans team.

And in terms of minute continuity, a metric tracked on KenPom.com that looks at the number of minutes played by the same player on a team from season to season, the Lobos rank 336th at 14.9% (the national average is 48.8%).

So while that might sound like an excuse when it comes to a loss, and maybe it is, there is some data to back up the rhetoric of this team that just doesn’t have a very good performance. idea of ​​how to handle team play scenarios.

“We haven’t played together and we haven’t been through any type of wars together or any adversity together,” said Mashburn, who scored a record-high 25 points in Sunday’s loss to the Mustangs. “We’re all young and we’re all still learning and it won’t be a finished product yet, but we just need to be able to stay positive and work on the things that we need to work on. …

“The little things, which will all come in due time. I am always very excited about this group. And we have a lot of things to do to grow, and it’s exciting.

FREE LAUNCH PLEASURE: If you like free throws, Tuesday’s game is for you.

On Monday night, the Lobos were ranked No.3 (of 358) in the country in free throw attempts (286) and Norfolk State was tied for 15th (258).

NO VAX, YET: While the UNM on Monday announced a new vaccination requirement for fans to watch matches in the pit, the policy comes into effect for the Dec. 28 men’s and women’s games in the arena, not for Tuesday’s game against Norfolk State.

Masks, as they have been throughout the season and will be for the rest of the season even under the new vaccination policy, must always be worn when entering the arena and at all times inside the arena. pit, except for eating or drinking.