UW-New Mexico postgame thoughts

No head coach and without one of its best guards.

Outrebounded 43-22.

That’s what Wyoming faced Wednesday night at The Pit against New Mexico. Yet, the Cowboys had a chance to win the game in regulation, but junior forward Larry Nance Jr.’s fade-away jumper in the key didn’t fall.

Not much else fell for UW in overtime in a 66-61 loss. The game was tied at 57 in regulation. The Cowboys (14-8 overall, 5-4 Mountain West) made only one basket in overtime.

Here are some video highlights from the first half. Sorry, no second half or overtime highlights because I had to re-write my story for the newspapers about six different times on a tight deadline.


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UW-New Mexico men’s basketball 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 about Wednesday’s 9:05 p.m. game with the University of Wyoming at The Pit in Albuquerque. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Follow on Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

How is the shin injury for junior post Alex Kirk coming along and how much do you anticipate him playing against Wyoming?

He played 19 minutes Saturday against San Jose State in his first game back from the injury and all signs after the game were there are no lingering issues. He felt good so I’d expect his minutes to be more along the lines of 25-28 against Wyoming with him settling in down the home stretch at about 32 minutes a game.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi offers his first Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings of the 2013-14 season. Look for these rankings once a week through the end of the regular season. As always, your feedback is encouraged.

1. No. 10 San Diego State (14-1 overall, 3-0 MW): The hottest team in the league with a 13-game winning streak. The Aztecs also own the best nonconference win for the MW with a win at Kansas. This was supposed to be a transition year. A healthy Xavier Thames at guard makes a big difference.

2. New Mexico (12-3, 3-0): One of three teams (San Diego State, Nevada) with two road conference victories. Winners of five straight. Has the best frontline duo in the league in Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. The bench isn’t the deepest, but the Lobos are still very good.

3, Nevada (9-8, 4-0): The biggest surprise in the league so far. Can the Wolf Pack keep this up? Time will tell, but the frontcourt is much better and senior guard Deonte Burton (21.8 ppg) is making his case as a player of the year candidate in the league. A home game tonight against Boise State will be another big test. The Wolf Pack is 4-4 at home but 5-2 on the road.

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Pregame notes/quotes for UW-New Mexico men’s hoops

Wyoming (9-5 overall, 0-1 Mountain West) hosts the preseason favorite to win the conference in New Mexico (10-3, 1-0) at 7 p.m. tonight.

The Lobos have won four of the last five MW regular-season titles, and became the first school in league history to win back-to-back regular season and conference tournament titles. Four starters and six lettermen return from last season’s team.

Despite a new coach in Craig Neal, who was Steve Alford’s top assistant and got the job after Alford took the UCLA job, the Lobos do much of the same things — and they do them well.

It should be noted this game was originally scheduled to be played at 9:05 p.m. as a ESPNU/ESPN3 flex game. When ESPNU didn’t pick up the game for television, UW was able to move the game time back to 7 p.m. ESPN3 is an online only way to watch the game. Here is the link to watch it:

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/id/1447688/Mens-College-Basketball-New-Mexico-vs-Wyoming
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UW-New Mexico men’s hoops 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 about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Follow on Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

What are the major changes — good or bad — in the program now that Craig Neal is the coach after he replaced Steve Alford?

The Lobos do an awful lot of the same things. They had worked together for nine years, so it would make sense that they were on the same page on many practice drills and in-game philosophies to a certain extent. In general, Neal is far more animated and wears his emotions on his sleeve — good and bad. He speaks off the cuff and when he’s happy, he gushes over players more than Alford did and when he’s mad he tends to call people out more than Alford did. He says what’s on his mind and moves on. As for on the court, the defense has taken a bit of a hit as the players are still getting used to new associate head coach Lamont Smith, who runs the defense as Alford used to, but he has shown signs of them trending toward being pretty good again soon. On offense the players, at least the four returning starters, are more free to freelance if and when warranted. They get out and run more and create in the open court in transition when possible.

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UW-Lehigh pregame notes

Tonight’s College Basketball Tournament appearance is Wyoming’s 25th in its 108-year history — which is about once every 4.3 years.

UW has been to the NCAA Tournament 14 times (9-19 record), NIT eight times (7-8) and CBI three times (1-2).

The Cowboys are seeking back-to-back 20 win seasons for the first time in a decade, and this is their first time they have been to the postseason in consecutive seasons over that same time frame.

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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.

Eighth seed Wyoming (19-12) plays No. 15 New Mexico (26-5) at 7:30 tonight in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Question: Is New Mexico stinging a little bit after losing 89-88 at Air Force to end the regular season, even though it didn’t affect their place in the conference and didn’t drop it much in the polls?

Answer: Not really. It got some good out of the Air Force game in that the Lobos, whose main weakness is their shooting, shot the ball better than they have all season with 15 3-pointers in the loss. They are confident their defense will return to its old form this week while optimistic the hot shooting stroke they found Saturday, albeit in a loss, will carry over throughout their March run.

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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. 12 New Mexico (25-4 overall, 12-2 MW, 2 RPI): Clinched the conference title with one week to go in the regular season. Second in the league in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense, but more importantly, first in both categories in league games at 58.6 ppg and 37.7 percent, respectively. When post players Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow are playing well, this team is tough to beat.

2. UNLV (22-7 overall, 9-5 MW, 14 RPI): The Rebels have won four straight and may be playing the best basketball of any team in the conference right now. Junior forward Mike Moser is playing up to expectations after some early-season injuries. They end the season at home with Boise State tonight and Fresno State Saturday, and have the inside track to be the second seed at the MW Tournament in their home arena next week.

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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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