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.
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.
Mark Smith of the Albuquerque Journal covers New Mexico men’s basketball. He answered five questions I had for him on Saturday’s game with Wyoming:
The Lobos have won four straight and have looked good doing so. Are they playing their best basketball of the season and what in particular have they done well during this winning streak? They are certainly playing their best ball of the season. The guard play has been flat-out terrific, which obviously helps the inside game. The thing that makes the Lobos so potent is the depth at guard. It’s tough for the opposition to focus on any one, two or three of the sharp-shooters they have.
As I did during football season, I hope to do question-and-answer swaps with beat writers that cover Mountain West men’s basketball. Since Wyoming opens leauge play with New Mexico Saturday, I got with Mark Smith of the Albuquerque Journal and we both exchanged five questions and answers.
The following are my questions for Mark, who by the way is one of the best in the business, and his answers. See Friday’s blog for my answers to his questions.