Sports Desk: UNM men’s basketball excited to tip-off their season Sunday

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lobo men’s basketball will finally tip off their 2020-2021 season on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Rice University. Scheduling non-conference games have been tough for UNM, but Head Coach Paul Weir is excited to finally see his team in “Real Game” action on Sunday.

“We had a couple of scrimmages out in Texas and we were playing at 100 mph. We fouled a lot and I told the guys we are going to go from 100 and we are going to pull this thing back to about 80. We do intend on playing fast, particularly on the defensive side of the ball and if we can stay out of foul trouble doing it and safely move ourselves faster and faster and faster, then that is something that we plan on doing,” said Paul Weir.

UNM has a lot of new faces on this year’s roster, including 6-foot-10 forward Valdir Manuel. Manuel’s nickname is “X” and Weir says that came from people comparing him to an X-Men character because he is 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. Manuel is a natural 4, but UNM will have him playing in the post. “I am ready to play the 5 this year and I feel like I can be very successful. Plus, I have Coach Padgett who will be helping me and he is very good at that position. He has so much knowledge and I am getting so much better with him”, said Valdir Manuel. “We are hopeful he is going to give us some very good low post scoring, because our team needs it and that’s a part of the reason he is down there. The great thing is he can shoot 3 so we can play him with Byron Matos,” said Weir.

UNM is going into this season with a little uncertainty when it comes to 3-point shooters. Weir hopes to rely on senior’s Keith McGee and Makuach Maluach, but he also says other guys like starting point guard and North Carolina transfer Jeremiah Francis have shown their ability to shoot. Weir also says that freshman walk-on Eloy Medina could be a threat from range.

“Our ace in the hole is Eloy Medina. HE is an elite, elite shooter and has shot it incredibly well in our scrimmages and in our practices. You know if it gets to the point where we are needing to get a specialist on the floor I hope we can get him into the kind of physical shape where he can get out there and show that ability.” said Weir. The West Mesa walk-on made 4 three-pointers in UNM’s last scrimmage, but Weir does want Eloy to get into better shape.

UNM vs Rice will be Sunday at 1 p.m. and that game will be streamed online at CUSA.tv for a fee. The Lobos also announced on Friday that they have added another non-conference game. UNM will play Our Lady of the Lake University, which is an NAIA program, on Tuesday at Rice University.

The Mountain West released its broadcast schedule for Men’s basketball, up to January 2nd, Friday. Here is a look at the Lobos schedule:

  • Dec. 21 | New Mexico at Boise State | FS1 | 7:30 p.m. MT
  • Dec. 23 | New Mexico at Boise State | CBSSN | 8 p.m. MT
  • Dec. 31 | Nevada at New Mexico | FS1 | TBA
  • Jan. 2 | Nevada at New Mexico | CBSSN | TBA

UNM football is also now one day away from their season finale with Fresno State. UNM will look to finish their season with a second consecutive victory, and while Fresno is coming off of a loss this team did put up 485 passing yards against Nevada.

“Our main key is just being able to get pressure on the quarterback because he is a really good QB. He can get out of there, he can throw it, he can do all of that stuff,” said UNM Linebacker Reco Hannah. “We got to just not make any assignment errors and we just got to step up to the occasion and get pressure on the QB, make plays when plays are supposed to be made and we will see how it goes,” said UNM Linebacker Kameron Miller.

UNM will have Rio Rancho graduate and freshman walk-on, Isaiah Chavez, as their starting quarterback on Saturday. Fresno State vs UNM is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and that game will be shown on Fox Sports 1.

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