PHOTO: The Daily Lobos Cameron Goeldner sent this tweet of the Lobos and Aggies get into a scuffle prior to Tuesday night’s game. The Aggies swept the season series and have won five straight against New Mexico.
By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
I heard it time and time again during the past two weeks:
“The only reason the Aggies beat us, was those guards. The Aggie guards will never shoot like that again in their lives.”
The reference was to New Mexico State’s 98-94 win against the University of New Mexico in the Pit on Nov. 17. NMSU led by as many as 19 points in the second half before the Pit fans willed the Lobos to a near-miraculous comeback in the final two minutes.
And those game-of-their-lives Aggie guards — AJ Harris and Terrell Brown — combined to hit 9-of-11 3-pointers, had 51 points and got to the hole anytime they wanted. Could they ever shoot like that again? Maybe, but they didn’t need to in Round 2 of the year’s series — this time on Dec. 4 in Las Cruces.
I will give those amateur analysts this: They were right about Ellis and Brown in the second go-around. The two were just 3-of-11 behind the arc for a combined 15 points.
The problem for the Lobos, was the other 12 Aggies — who combined for 85 points on Tuesday night. Yep, that adds to 100. The Lobos had just 65. But hey, they did close the game on a 5-0 run, to keep it safely under a 40-point burial.
If you have trouble with math, that makes the final: NMSU 100, UNM 65. JoJo Zamora was 6-of-6 from 3-point range for 27 points for NMSU.
It is the worst Lobo loss to their intrastate rival since 1959 (96-59).
It’s also the Aggies’ fifth-straight win in the series, the first time that has happened since 1956.
It was every bit as bad as the score.
The Lobos had trouble even drawing iron in the first six minutes, finished the first half 7-of-33 from the floor (21 percent) and trailed by counts of 11-0, 41-12 and 50-22 at the half.
It got worse early in the second half as the Aggies looked like they were having a layup drill.
The rebounding was obscene, with NMSU taking a 52-31 advantage. And even those “damn refs,” couldn’t be blamed.
The Lobos had more free throws, going 19-33 (57.6 percent). The Aggies were 18-26 (69.2 percent).
If you want to see any more stats, check the box for yourself.
I don’t want to look at it.
Lobo coach Paul Weir used words like “embarrassing” and “sickening.” It’s easy to see why.
ONE, NOT DONE: It’s one game. Indeed, it was one horrendous game, but it’s a long season. The Aggies (7-1) are night-and-day better than the Lobos (4-2) this season.
Accept it and move on with the season. Mountain West play is still about a month away. On top of that, the Lobos still have won 11 of their past 14 games since the stretch of last season and got to the 2018 MWC title game.
It’s time to R-E-L-A-X — unless you’re Mike McCarthy, of course.
TRANSFER TWO-STEP: Weir has gone for the quick-fix, trying to rebuild a program that was decimated under fired former coach Craig Neal. Weir’s roster is filled with talented transfers.
One of the problems with transfers, is they had some issue with a former school, coach, girlfriend or whatever, or they would still be at their original school. Typically, it takes time to get a group of talented transfers on the same page.
The key to tinkering with transfers — and Loboland has learned from Norm Ellenberger to Dave Bliss-to Fran Fraschiila-to Ritchie McKay-to Neal – is keeping those talented transfers happy, while molding them into a “team.”
Chemistry can be rough. And in games like Tuesday in Las Cruces, if guys haven’t bought into the “team” concept it can snowball during a blowout. Sometimes, there just isn’t the desire to battle through adversity.
MAN OH MANIGAULT: Weir benched one of those transfers, Corey Manigault, much of the game just more than a week ago against UTEP. The coach said it was his decision, but wouldn’t elaborate.
Manigault was right back in the mix during the Lobos’ 85-75 win at Bradley on Saturday. He played 24 minutes and had 18 points.
And he was right back in the mix again on Tuesday night – but prior to tip-off.
Weir says he’s still trying to determine the circumstances of the tiff. To his credit, after the game KKOB Radio’s play-by-play announcer Robert Portnoy asked Weir about the incident. As seen in the photo, taken and tweeted by the Daily Lobo’s Cameron Goeldner, Portnoy (far right, sitting with black shirt) and radio analyst Hunter Greene (standing on stairs, black shirt) had good views of the skirmish.
Goeldner tweeted that Lobo senior Anthony Mathis was also in the mix-up. Goeldner tweeted that he only saw an NMSU player throw a punch, and Manigault was pulled away before throwing one.
Weir was spot-on by telling Portnoy and Greene it didn’t matter how it started, his players shouldn’t have been in the mix.
Issues seem to be a pattern with Manigault.
Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal said he spoke with people at Tuesday night’s game who witnessed the skirmish, and was told “players on both teams” threw punches. Grammer added that Manigault also had verbal exchanges with some Aggies before the teams’ previous meeting in the Pit, and that Manigault “definitely bumped into some Aggies” as the teams were warming up.
SAINTLY TIMING: The Lobos have little time to lick their wounds. They get back on the floor at the LA Staples Center on Friday, playing against Saint Mary’s. A quick turnaround is just what the Lobos need.
But they also need a victory.
A loss to the Gaels on top of the Aggies rout, could sour some folks who were previously anxious to see the Lobos’ next home game, Dec. 15 against Colorado.
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in the state’s history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.
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