PHOTO ABOVE: New Mexico coach Paul Weir, sitting at center, draws up a play during the New Mexico Lobos’ season-opening win at Cal State-Northridge on Nov. 6. (Courtesy/LoboSportsPhotos.com)
By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
Parents know the feeling oh-too-well.
You spend weeks teaching your 6-year-old son how to ride a bike. Then you spend the next two years chiding him for riding that bike with both hands in the air.
“You’re going to crash, you goofball.”
Or something similar.
And sure enough, despite your 258 warnings, that confident little daredevil eventually loses control of that spiffy, Hot Wheels neon green two-wheeler while gliding into the front yard — steering with nothing but his legs.
And down goes Frazier!
Fortunately for the kid, he tumbles smack-dab into that massive pile of recently raked fall leaves.
“You’re lucky as heck, kiddo! Now grab the rake and get back to work on those leaves.”
“Hopefully,” University of New Mexico Lobo basketball coach Paul Weir said with a chuckle on Wednesday. “That’s a great analogy. We were fortunate to get a win. We certainly have a lot of learning to do. I sure hope Tuesday was a teaching moment.”
Since fall practice started, the ‘Look ma, no hands‘-Lobos had plenty of reasons to showboat.
They are a loaded bunch that fans, media — and certainly, the players — all feel can really pop some wheelies during the 2018-19 season. And maybe even ride where no Lobo program has ridden before, like the Sweet 16.
But after Tuesday night – in which senior Anthony Mathis had to bank in a contested 30-foot, 3-pointer in the final second – maybe it’s time to keep those training wheels on a bit longer.
“What we need to learn,” second-year coach Weir said, “is we haven’t done anything ourselves. We’re hearing about all we are capable of doing, but we haven’t done anything yet.
“Hopefully, this was a little wake-up call. Just because someone says you’re capable of this or of that, doesn’t mean it’s going to come to fruition.”
It was a season opener, and it certainly looked like it much of the night. The Lobos were favored by as many as 15 points, but they were also without injured freshman guard Drue Drinnon (ankle) and are adjusting to losing projected starting guard JaQuan Lyle, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury six weeks ago.
Weir says, however, that injuries come with the territory. A day after the great escape, he wasn’t about to make excuses.
The Steve Alford/Craig Neal-era, after all, is long gone.
“We’ve just got to do a lot of work, and we have a lot to improve as the program moves forward,” he told Enchantment Sports.
On Tuesday, the Lobos struggled against the young Matadors with 20 turnovers and were outrebounded 41-36. Defensively, New Mexico had issues with its full-court press and allowed the Matadors to drill 7-of-12 3-pointers in the opening half.
CSUN freshman forward Lamine Diane had a game-high 34 points and dominated inside during the second half while 5-foot-8 sophomore Terrell Gomez had 21 points – including 16 in the first half.
But the Matadors were 0-for-8 from 3-point range in the second half and the Lobos were strong going to the hole all evening. They got to the foul line 29 times – making 22 – compared to CSUN going 11-of-21.
The Lobos also had nice balance, getting 16 points from Corey Manigault, 15 from Dane Kuiper and Makuach Maluach and 12 from Mathis.
And the bottom line, is the Lobos are 1-0 with a road win against a team that will likely be a handful in the Big West down the road. And New Mexico gets to learn a great deal from a narrow win, instead of a big upset loss.
“We knew we would have a lot of growing and developing to do this season, having so many new faces,” Weir said. “Hopefully, we can learn a lot from the game.”
Including one thing universal and very simple:
When you fall off a bike – the same as taking a spill off a horse – there’s but one thing to do. And the Lobos get right back on the court for an exhibition game on Saturday (Nov. 10) at 7 p.m. in against Northern New Mexico at Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit.
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for four decades and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in state history with awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.