UW at New Mexico men’s hoops: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

My three keys for Wyoming’s regular-season finale today at New Mexico. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. MT at WisePies Arena, aka, the Pit in Albuquerque.

Hugh Greenwood

Hugh Greenwood

1. Defend Greenwood: New Mexico senior guard Hugh Greenwood leads the Mountain West with 66 made 3-pointers, and he made five in UW’s 63-62 overtime win in Laramie in January. Perimeter defense has been an issue for the Cowboys, but they were better in Wednesday’s 76-53 win over Utah State as the Aggies shot just 6 of 18 from behind the arc. No one else on the Lobos roster that will play today has made more than 16 3s. UW needs to defend well against everyone on the perimeter, but especially on Greenwood.

“We can’t let New Mexico’s crowd and emotion take over because that will be tough to overcome,” senior forward Larry Nance Jr. said.

If Greenwood gets hot — or any of New Mexico’s players — that can easily happen.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

2. Lobos have some size: New Mexico’s starting lineup will go 6-foot-3, 6-4, 6-5, 6-7 and 7-1. It also will bring a 6-10 center off the bench. Bigger teams, especially in the backcourt has given UW fits this season. UW  needs defend 6-5 senior guard Deshawn Delaney well. He leads the team with 12.1 points per game. Look for senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. and redshirt sophomore Jason McManamen to see a lot of time on Delaney when UW plays man-to-man defense. The Cowboys will need to do a good job of getting out in transition and attacking the basket when they can, and also moving the ball around well in their half-court offense. And obviously, UW will have to hold its own on the boards and not allow a lot of second and third-chance opportunities from the Lobos.

One player that has played better for New Mexico inside is 7-1 sophomore center Obij Aget, who over his last four games has averaged 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocked shots and has shot 50 percent from the field.

Here is my video preview of the game:


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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, on Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tipoff is at 6 p.m. at WisePies Arena, or the Pit, in Albuquerque.

Follow on Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

Geoff Grammer

Geoff Grammer

Even in a worse-case scenario, could you see the Lobos struggle like they have this season with a 14-15 record and 6-11 mark in the conference?

No. I knew their selection of No. 3 in the preseason poll was generous, but was based as much on the home court advantage the Pit has been through the years as it was on question marks with other league teams. The fact that New Mexico’s two best offensive players, at least projected heading into the season (sophomore guard Cullen Neal and junior college All-American forward Jordan Goodman) never panned out due to injury was a huge blow to the team. Still, the Lobos went into Laramie in January and had every chance to win and be sitting at 7-2 at the midway point of the Mountain West season. Instead, the Wyoming loss really set them down the downward spiral they’ve been on since, which included an 0-for February eight game losing streak. The fact that they’re playing a walk-on (Tim Jacobs) 25-plus minutes per game is about as telling as anything in terms of how razor thin this team’s margin of error was this season, and injuries took that away.

Injuries to Cullen Neal and Jordan Goodman have led to those struggles, but where else has this team had significant shortcomings?

Craig Neal

Craig Neal

Coach Craig Neal’s offense has been predicated on having at least some sort of post offense, be it from the four or five spot. This year, there has been none, though Obij Aget has played probably four of his best five college games in the past few weeks. Couple that with there being only one plus-perimeter shooter on the roster (Hugh Greenwood, who has trouble creating his own shot but is great in catch and shoot situations) and the Lobos offense has just been dreadful at times. More specific to trends in the losing streak are five minute stretches of mental lapses and offensive hesitancy when players seem afraid to shoot or break down on defensive assignments. In five of the last six games, it’s been in the first half when they had that bad stretch. They’ve fallen behind by double figures in five of their last six first halves and it was 30-8 just 14 minutes into last Saturday’s loss at Fresno State before they rallied to make it a 2-point game late. Sometimes those lapses have been in the final four minutes of games (Air Force loss, Boise State loss, Nevada loss, Wyoming loss in Laramie). Regardless of when, the team has still mostly been good for about 35 minutes per game, just not 40.

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UW-New Mexico men’s hoops: 3 takes, notes, quotes and VIDEO

My three takes from Wyoming’s 63-62 overtime win over New Mexico Saturday at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie:

1. Similar to last week for Nance: UW senior forward Larry Nance Jr. missed a free throw with 14.9 seconds left to play in overtime that would have tied the game. But a few seconds later, he stole the ball and ended up with the game-winning dunk with 3.2 seconds left. In UW’s 70-65 triple overtime win at Fresno State last week, Nance missed two free throws with 0.5 seconds left in the second overtime that would have won the game. “Apparantly its my thing to miss clutch free throws late when we win,” Nance said. Still, Nance finished with a team-high 23 points, and was 11 of 13 from the line. He also had six rebounds, five turnovers, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Only one of those turnovers came in the second half and overtime.

Here are late-game highlights, including Nance’s steal and dunk in the final seconds, and player interviews after the game:

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UW-New Mexico men’s basketball: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

Three keys for Wyoming in its game today against New Mexico, which tips off at 2 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

1. No 3s for Greenwood: New Mexico senior guard Hugh Greenwood shoots 30.1 percent from 3-point range. But he made six 3s in each of the Lobos’ last two road games — both wins. A lot of different New Mexico players can hurt UW today, but the Cowboys can’t let Greenwood go off from the perimeter or it could be a long afternoon.

2. Make perimeter shots: New Mexico will play 11 guys, and there is no shortage of post players it can turn to. UW needs its offense to feed off of senior forward Larry Nance Jr. inside, but the Cowboys probably won’t get New Mexico into foul trouble. The Lobos and a long and athletic squad, so to loosen things up inside, the Cowboys need to make some perimeter shots.

3. Feed off the atmosphere: UW’s largest crowd in 10 years is expected to be there today (10,000-plus). The players need to feed off that energy, especially early. They can’t be too amped up and make silly mistakes, but if they can grab some early momentum and go with it, it could be a fun afternoon at the A-A.

Here is my video preview of today’s game:


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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, on Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 2 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

After losing so much production from last year’s team, how is this New Mexico squad different than ones from the last few seasons?

Not only did the Lobos lose their top three scorers from last season, they lost last year’s fourth leading scorer (Cullen Neal) to a season-ending ankle injury in the third game of this

Geoff Grammer

Geoff Grammer

season. So while the team knew it was going to be a rebuilding season, though it never would use that term, it wasn’t prepared for just how bad it got early in the season. The big difference in this and past New Mexico teams is the overall athleticism and length on this roster is better than in the past. That has allowed the Lobos to use far more zone defenses than they have in many years (they’ve been predominantly man-to-man defense in the previous seven seasons on the Steve Alford/Craig Neal era). That zone defense is the reason they are still in the title race in the Mountain West. They are one of only two Division I teams remaining in the country to have not allowed 70 points in a game (though they’ve allowed 69 now in back-to-back games). This is a defense first team now that keeps them in games when their often average offense struggles.

The season-ending ankle injury to guard Cullen Neal was tough, but who has stepped up scoring-wise for this team in his absence?

The two leading scorers for the Lobos are seniors Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delaney, last season’s No. 5 and No. 6 scorers. Greenwood can be a great shooter when set up well by teammates, but has struggled mightily to create his own shot. With very little help on offense at times, he’s resorted to forcing a ton of shots this season, often contested and often off balance, leading to an abysmal shooting percentage. But when getting help and on his game, he’s dangerous and has already had a pair of Mountain West games with six 3-pointers. Delaney is a slasher who is good when attacking the rim and not settling for jumpers. Maybe more to the point of the question, though, is that everyone on the roster has helped in the scoring department from time to time. New Mexico uses 11 players in its regular rotation and have had multiple games this season with 11 players showing up on the scoreline of the stat sheet.

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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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UW-New Mexico pregame notes

Wyoming has lost three straight games, its roster is riddled with guys who are injured and ill, and it plays at one of the nation’s toughest places against one of the nation’s best teams on its senior day — with a chance to secure at least a share of its second straight regular-season conference title.

Other than that, today’s game at New Mexico is just another game, right?

But one who never likes to back down from a challenge, Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt is looking forward to today’s 3 p.m. tip-off with No. 14 New Mexico at the Pit.

“At the moment, I think everybody is available and I think everybody is improving, but I am not naive enough to think there is some fatigue, illness and bumps and bruises that will heal up by (this afternoon),” Shyatt said. “We have to overcome that, and its a great feeling when you do that. The challenge is going to be be great, but why wouldn’t you want that at this time of the year when we are 18-10 and have done some good things this season?”

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UW-New Mexico postgame thoughts

Three-point shooting wasn’t the problem for Wyoming Wednesday against No. 20 New Mexico.

Scoring inside and defending inside was.

UW was outscored 28-12 in the paint, and New Mexico’s post players held the Cowboys’ Leonard Washington and Larry Nance Jr., to a combined 7-of-21 from the field and 20 points as the 20th-ranked Lobos won 63-59 Wednesday night in Laramie.

A pair of Australians hurt UW as junior forward Cameron Bairstow, who at 6-foot-9 started in place of 6-6 Chad Adams, scored a game-high 17 points. Sophomore guard Hugh Greenwood hit the game-winning shot with 9 seconds left, and added two free throws a little later to ice it.

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