UW-New Mexico Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Geoff Grammer, who covers New Mexico men’s basketball for the Albuquerque Journal.

Wyoming (18-10 overall, 4-10 Mountain West) plays at No. 14 and first-place New Mexico (24-4, 11-2) at 3 p.m. today at the Pit.

Question: The Lobos seem to be the most complete team in the Mountain West this season. Can you elaborate on that and, in your opinion, what has made them so good this season?

Answer: Alex Kirk, UNM’s sophomore center, said something after the San Diego State win on Wednesday that seems to have become the team’s unofficial motto for the season. He was asked about how Kendall Williams was OK with going from scoring 46 points last Saturday in a win at Colorado State to making just one field goal but dishing out eight assists in the SDSU win. Kirk said, “You can’t guard an unselfish team.” The Lobos have embraced the notion of a different man stepping up each night and don’t seem to care who that guy is from game to game. That makes them hard to prepare for. When CSU keyed Tony Snell last week in Fort Collins (Snell had 23 points against the Rams in their first game), Williams went off. It’s hard to know which player will be the guy each game.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. No. 16 New Mexico (22-4 overall, 9-2 MW, 3 RPI): Remains No. 1 this week with a half-game lead over Colorado State. Junior guard Kendall Williams leads the conference in minutes played and is second in assists (4.67 per game). Other than sophomore center Alex Kirk’s 1.64 blocked shots per game (second in the conference), no other player ranks in the top five in statistical categories it tracks. Shows that this is one of the most complete teams in the conference with several players that can hurt teams. The Lobos play at Colorado State Saturday.

2. No. 22 Colorado State (21-4 overall, 8-2 MW, 13 RPI): If the Rams are going to win the league title, this could be the pivotal week with games at UNLV Wednesday and at home against New Mexico Saturday where they have won 27 straight. A road win at Air Force last week was impressive, but one at UNLV would be even bigger. New Mexico may be the most complete team in the conference, but the Rams arguably have the best starting five, all of which are seniors.

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UW-New Mexico Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi exchanged email questions and answers with New Mexico men’s basketball beat writer Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal about tonight’s game at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

The first part is Grammer’s answers to Gagliardi’s questions. The second is Gagliardi’s answers to Grammer’s questions.

Look for Q&As with writers who cover UW’s Mountain West foes throughout the conference season.

Question: Aside from San Diego State being a good defensive team, what were New Mexico’s biggest struggles in last Saturday’s 55-34 loss on the road to the Aztecs?

Answer: The Lobos’ biggest weapon on offense this season has been the free-throw line, getting there 25.5 times per game. They’ve hit 377 free throws while their opponents have only attempted 304 (and made just 205). In fact, UNM is the only ranked team in the nation to have actually made fewer field goals than their opponents this season, yet have won 17 of 20 games. Saturday, a combination of SDSU avoiding foul trouble in general and UNM not adjusting to the game officials not calling the game very tightly led to UNM getting to the free throw line only 11 times. They seemed out of sorts on offense all game and I think it started with the fact that they abandoned what they do best: attack the basket looking for contact. UNM did not adjust to the officiating very well, as they failed to do in the first at Saint Louis on Dec. 31 when they scored just 13 points in a game the officials weren’t callinmany fouls. The lack of adjustment to the officiating took them out of everything they do on offense.

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MW men’s basketball power ratings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every Tuesday during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these first rankings heading into league play.

1. No. 15 San Diego State (14-2 overall, 2-0 MW, 29 RPI); The highest ranked team in the conference that won its first two league games despite guard Xavier Thames’ back troubles. The Aztecs won both of their games by a combined 10 points, but as stated last week, they remain the most complete team in the MW.

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Thiam has bruised toe

Wyoming men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer said Thursday senior forward Djibril Thiam has a bruised toe, which he aggravated in the Cowboys 73-60 loss at Colorado State Tuesday.

Schroyer said Thiam hurt the toe last week in practice, and injured it again going up for a layup in the first half at CSU.

Schroyer expects Thiam to start and play Saturday at home against New Mexico. Thiam is UW’s second-leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and leading rebounder (5.7 rpg), but had only five points and three boards in 31 minutes at CSU.

Schroyer held a teleconference with the media in his office Thursday. Here’s some other news and notes from that:

–Sophomore forward Amath M’Baye picked up his fourth technical foul of the season in the second half against CSU. The foul came early in the second half and M’Baye wasn’t much of a factor after that. He finished with four points and six rebounds. Schroyer said M’Baye responded well to the tongue-lashing he gave him after the technical and the next day after the game.

“Amath has to play well for us to have success,” Schroyer said. “We’re putting a lot on him as a sophomore. He’s a very emotional player and sometimes his emotions get the best of him. But he does play with passion and it matters to him, which is a really good thing.”

–Schroyer described New Mexico center Alex Kirk and guard Kendall Williams as the two best freshmen in the Mountain West Conference. The 6-foot-11 Kirk set a New Mexico freshman record with 31 points in the Lobos’ 102-62 home win over Cal-State Bakersfield Wednesday.

“He’s good, but he’s going to be really, really good,” Schroyer said of Kirk. “He reminds me of a (former Utah and current St. Louis men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus) big; a big dude that can score on the block but step out and shoot it. Kind of like a Michael Doliac kind of guy.”

Williams is New Mexico’s second leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and shoots 53.8 percent from 3-point range. Schroyer added he thinks Williams is the most talented freshman in the MWC.

–About New Mexico senior point guard Dariese Gary, Schroyer said: “He’s the most underrated player in the league. His on-ball defense is the best in the conference. He doesn’t make mistakes. He makes his free throws. He’s as good of a point guard as there is in the league.”

–Schroyer also described New Mexico junior forward Drew Gordon, a 6-9 transfer from UCLA, is a future NBA player.

–Junior forward Afam Muojeke (knee) and junior center Adam Waddell (Achilles) were “OK” during Wednesday’s light practice and work-out session. Both are expected to play Saturday, but still are day-to-day.