What UNM basketball must fix before conference play

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NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Lobos have lost two straight games and five of the last seven. Scoring has not been the issue, as the team is averaging 80.5 points per game, tied for 35th in the country. With an offense like that the Lobos should, in theory, have a better record than 6-6. Well, they don’t.


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Here is a quick breakdown of what has been going wrong for UNM as of late.

Defense

It should come as no surprise that a 6-6 team scoring over 80 points per game (PPG) gives up a lot of points. The Lobos actually score more on average than they give up (78.8), just not lately. Over its last two games, UNM has given up 167 points (83.5 per game) and been outscored by a combined 26 points. The Lobos 78.8 defensive PPG ranks last in the Mountain West and 332 out of 350 in the country. There are currently four other teams in the conference that score at a rate of around 80 PPG, however, no team in the MW comes close to allowing opponents to score at the rate that UNM does. It sounds simple and obvious, but the Lobos won’t be able to compete in the conference if they continue to give up points at the current rate.

Rebounding

The Lobos have been consistently losing off the glass. The team is only averaging 35 rebounds per game (RPG) while allowing 39.5. That gives UNM a -4.5 margin, bad enough for last in the Mountain West. UNM’s 35 RPG actually ranks in the middle of the pack for the conference, but the 39.5 given up has no doubt been hindering the team. The reality is the Lobos were never going to be dominating the boards this season. Coach Pitino has been starting four guards for the cherry and silver that have a combined average height of only six feet three inches. If the Lobos are going to stick with the small guys, they need to be more aggressive in the paint.

Passing

Looking at the scoreboard, it looks like the Lobos are a very efficient team on offense. Well, the scoreboard doesn’t tell the entire story. Much of the scoring for New Mexico comes through iso ball and it can come across and kind of selfish. The Lobos are only averaging 12.67 assists per game (APG), which ranks 8 in the Mountain West and 219 in the nation. To put that number in perspective, if only seven players appear in a game, they would each need to only get two (2!) assists for the team to have a higher APG average. The team isn’t necessarily making bad passes, as the Lobos rank second in the conference with a +2.67 turnover margin, however, they are not making passes that lead to buckets.

Despite the flaws listed above, there are still many things that the Lobos do well (blocked shots, free throws). These are just some areas to be concerned about as the team begins conference play. UNM will have a favorable matchup on Tuesday night against Norfolk State to address these concerns before opening Mountain West play against Colorado State on December 28.

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