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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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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All-MW men’s basketball team announced

Here is the link for the 2012-13 All-Mountain West men’s basketball team.

http://www.themwc.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/031113aah.html

The team was selected by the coaches and selected media, and I was one of those selected to vote.

My first team was the same as the coaches and other media members. I also picked New Mexico junior guard Kendall Williams as the Player of the Year, New Mexico’s Steve Alford as the Coach of the Year, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett as Freshman of the Year and Colorado State’s Colton Iverson as the Newcomer of the Year.

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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 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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UW-Air Force Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Wyoming (18-9 overall, 4-9 Mountain West) plays at Air Force (15-10, 6-6) at 7 tonight at Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy.

Question: Air Force won’t win the Mountain West regular-season title, but remains in the hunt for an upper-half finish. Are the Falcons one of the best stories in the conference after being picked to finish last in the preseason?

Answer: The team clearly thinks it is. Coach Dave Pilipovich has used those conference predictions as a constant motivator throughout the season, posting them in the locker room where they are an ever-present reminder of what others think of the team. The improved performance has led to some of the biggest crowds since Air Force’s NCAA Tournament teams of the mid-2000s. It’s always tricky to build programs at the academy between the academic standards, the disadvantage of not being able to add transfers and the post-graduate military commitment, so anytime a revenue sport can enjoy a resurgence it tends to be a big deal around the institution.

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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. 14 New Mexico (23-4 overall, 10-2 MW, 3 RPI): The Lobos did what nobody else has been able to do — win at Colorado State. The 91-82 win last Saturday not only snapped the Rams’ 27-game home winning streak, but it gave New Mexico at two-game lead in the conference standings with four to play. Junior guard Kendall Williams vaulted himself into a Player of the Year candidate in the league (if he wasn’t already) with 46 points.

2. UNLV (21-7 overall, 8-5 MW, 14 RPI): The Rebels may be hitting their stride down the stretch, and are tied with New Mexico for the longest winning streak in the conference at three. A 61-59 home win over Colorado State last week was impressive. The Rebels still have the most talented roster in the league. They won just their second conference road game last week at Wyoming. To stay this high in the rankings, they can’t lose at Nevada Saturday.

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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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