By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
Despite all of its height, the New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball team hit yet another low on Tuesday night (Dec. 18) in the Pit.
North Texas is a much better team than most folks realized. But the Mean Green probably aren’t as good as UNM made them look in Dreamstyle Arena — The Pit. UNT never trailed in a 74-65 win.
It was the Lobos’ third loss this season in the Pit.
North Texas (11-1) was far more crisp and smooth on offense and played much tougher defense than New Mexico (5-5). When Mean Green players drove the lane, they had options and whipped the ball around the floor for open looks.
Too often, the Lobos continue to look like they are wearing blinders. Their ball movement is slow and when players get hung up on drives, it usually leads to a turnover.
The shorter UNT players constantly made life tough on Lobos in the lane by slapping balls away. UNM also made it rough on itself with yet another terrible shooting performance — especially inside.
The Lobos’ defense has been pretty close to non-existent so far this season. Just as in previous games, New Mexico was eaten alive by quicker players. It’s not just stellar guards giving UNM fits. It’s everyone.
North Texas didn’t have much trouble breaking New Mexico’s full-court press. But what was really impressive, was the way the Mean Green pulled the ball out and controlled the tempo in its half-court offense after getting past the press.
North Texas did a marvelous job of running the shot-clock down on possession after possession, but rarely had to force a shot. The Lobos couldn’t stop the dribble-drive, and the Mean Green abused them with layups.
“I thought for parts of the game we did really well,” said Lobo coach Paul Weir. “Unfortunately, offensively we couldn’t get going in the first half, and we couldn’t get any momentum behind us. The turnovers really hurt us and gave them a lot of breakout opportunities … (With) a team of that caliber, it’s hard to overcome.”
INSIDE INFO: The Lobos missed their first eight shots from the floor, and did not have a 2-point basket until Vance Jackson hit a fade-away jumper in the lane at the first half buzzer. That was one of just six field goals for Lobos in 21 first half attempts.
UNM did go 5-of-12 from 3-point range in the first half and was within 35-29 at the break. But the bricks and turnovers continued in the second half.
The Lobos finished the night 16-of-44 from the floor (36.4 percent). Scoring inside continues to be a huge problem. Once again, UNM missed numerous layups. The Mean Green outscored the Lobos 44-18 in the paint.
GROUND CONTROL: The Lobos are out-of-control far too often. On a handful of occasions, when they needed a big basket after making a stop and getting the crowd revved up, they would take an ill-advised shot or throw the ball away. North Texas had 16 steals. New Mexico ahead 21 turnovers in all.
BOARDS OR BORED?: It was more of the same on Tuesday night. Despite being one of the tallest teams in the nation and going against one of the shortest, New Mexico was out rebounded 31-29. The Lobos don’t box-out well and don’t crash the glass enough.
BRAGGING RIGHTS: New Mexico junior transfer Carlton Bragg, who had an impressive debut in the Lobos’ 82-70 win against Central Arkansas on Sunday, was the tallest player on the floor at 6-foot-10 — but was one of the quietest.
Bragg was just 1-of-6 from the field. The one field goal, however, was UNM’s highlight of the night; Bragg throwing down a huge dunk after a great pass from redshirt sophomore Keith McGee.
Bragg finished the evening with six points and seven rebounds on the night
BOO BIRDS: Oh those doggone officials. Hey, it’s The Pit. You are always going to hear refs getting booed and blasted by the crowd. Tuesday was no exception. However, it would be pretty trying for even the most hard-core Lobo fan to blame officials for this one. New Mexico was 26-of-31 from the foul line. North Texas, meanwhile, hit 4-of-4 free throws in the game’s final 41 seconds with the outcome having been decided. Before that, it was just 6-of-10 from the line.
With 2:29 remaining, UNM outscored North Texas by a whopping 20 points from the foul line— yet trailed 70-63.
When the final buzzer went off, there were still a number of boos — but this time for the home team. It wasn’t very loud, however, as only a smattering of the crowd was still on hand.
The announced attendance was 9,944.