The New Mexico Lobos picked up a 92-71 victory over the Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds during their 2019-20 season opener. Head coach Paul Weir said the potential for his team is definitely there but there are also some obvious things his team still needs to work on.
“A lot of things that were a little ugly at times,” said Weir during the postgame press conference. “But I think overall, the gist of what we’ve been trying to do is get better defensively… I think we can all see the offensive talent.”
As of last week, the Lobo coaching staff was still working on figuring out rotation. For Wednesday, the starting line up for New Mexico consisted of JJ Caldwell at point guard, Makuach Maluach, JaQuan Lyle, Vance Jackson and Carlton Bragg.
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The scoring began with Caldwell putting up two points for the Lobos, but Eastern New Mexico responded with back to back three-point baskets. By the first timeout of the night (15:50) ENMU had a one-point lead at 11-10. The Greyhounds had already registered three successful shots from beyond the arc. The game stayed pretty close for the first few minutes but the Lobos were able to eventually pull away.
By halftime, the Lobos were enjoying a 45-34 lead. Bragg was the only player seeing double digits at 10 points. Isiah Murphy was leading the Greyhounds with nine points thanks to three successful three-pointers. The Lobos didn’t allow him to score any more points for the rest of the night. ENMU shot at 40.7% from the field during the first period and dropped to 35.0% during the second.
New Mexico fans had a bit of a scare when Bragg went down during the first couple minutes of the second half. He had to be helped up and walked up the ramp with what looked like it could have been a leg injury. Fortunately for the Lobos, he returned to the bench shortly after and was back on the court with a little under 12 minutes remaining.
The Greyhounds’ leading scorer last season was Devin Pullum with 12.7 points per game. During their exhibition game this preseason, Pullum was able to score 18 points against the University of Tennessee, a Sweet 16 team. For Wednesday, one of the Lobos’ goals was to keep him from getting too hot in the offense. They were successful at this as Pullum got seven points by only making two out of 11 field goals attempts. The only ENMU player seeing double digits that night was Ibn Zaid with 10 points.
On the Lobo side, five players saw double figures with Maluach’s 16 points leading all scorers. Weir said the focus wasn’t too much on the offense but that what Maluach did was impressive because it shows he plays a key role on the team without having to be the guy who gets the ball all the time.
“For Makuach to have a night like that, 5-for-7 from the field, 4-for-5 from the free throw line, it’s big because he doesn’t get the ball much. He just gets it from transition, he gets it from playing off these guys,” Weir said.
The other four Lobos seeing double digits were Bragg, Corey Manigault, Zane Martin and Keith McGee. McGee had 12 points throughout the night while not holding back when it came to getting some air time.
Keith McGee is out here FLYING @why_notkeith
Lobos up 72-48 with 11:26 still left in the game. pic.twitter.com/6ab7Koi3yc
— The Lobo Lair (@TheLoboLairFeed) November 7, 2019
ENMU had a total of 37 rebounds, one more that UNM. The Greyhounds were able to get 16 second chance points while New Mexico only got two. Not too surprising as only three out of UNM’s 36 rebounds were offensive rebounds.
While there will be several things the Lobos work on before their next game, Weir made it clear defense was going to stay a priority for a while. As of last week, the team was still trying different styles to find what worked best with this specific roster.
Weir said defense was about valuing the ball and not being careless. Lyle agreed and said turnovers were probably going to be the key for his team performing better. UNM had a total of 21 turnovers, one less than ENMU.
“I think if we don’t turn over the ball, it will help our defense,” the player said. “We had a lot of turnovers, and whenever a turnover happens I think everybody gets deflated and not as locked in. If we stop turning the ball over as much, then our defense will be much better.”
Next up, New Mexico hosts CSUN on Saturday Nov. 9 at 7pm.