Lobos rack up another triple-digit win
ALBUQUERQUE — So far, so good. Two games into the Paul Weir Experiment, the Lobo basketball team is unbeaten with a pair of lopsided wins featuring 35 3-pointers and a 125-point scoring average.
The latest came Tuesday night before a crowd of just 9,601 in The Pit as The University of New Mexico used a late surge to lay waste to Omaha, 103-71. Four players finished in double figures, including a second straight outing with a different Lobo pouring in 24.
This time it was guard Troy Simons, a player who lit up the team’s Cherry & Silver scrimmage a month ago but had yet to show the kind of explosiveness he did Tuesday night. He made half a dozen 3-pointers and threw down an emphatic dunk in the second half, doing all his scoring in just 22 minutes off the bench.
“Everything I do, I feed off the crowd,” he said. “My teammates told me to shoot the ball, they would encourage me to shoot and I would feel it from the crowd.”
The 103 points gave the Lobos consecutive triple-digit games for the first time in 19 years and provided further evidence that Weir’s up-and-down style is going to provide plenty of scoring — and plenty of tired legs.
Omaha was within six points at the midway point of the second half before UNM’s pressure defense simply wore the Mavericks down. Within a 36-second span the Lobos went on a 9-0 run to open a 72-57 lead punctuated by Joe Furstinger baiting Omaha’s Daniel
Meyer into a technical foul.
Within minutes the lead grew to 20 points, then 30. It all seemed to get out of hand when Furstinger’s emotions roiled over and got things going.
“We talk to Joe a lot about channeling his energy in the right way and I think he’s gotten a little bit better,” Weir said. “Joe’s just got a lot of fire and a lot of fight, and it’s really hard for me to not like that. We just have to make sure it’s in a positive way.”
Furstinger came within a pair of rebounds from posting a double-double, finishing his night with 11 points and eight rebounds. He was joined in double figures by Antino Jackson (19) and Sam Logwood (18).
Jackson drained five 3-pointers and logged a team-high 27 minutes. He said he has noticed that UNM’s relentless style of running on offense and pressing end to end on defense has had a marked affect on everyone from the fans to the players.
“Hey, the only thing I noticed is people started putting hands on their knees and just start seeing souls huffing and puffing,” he said.
It wasn’t all pretty. The Lobos started the game by missing 12 of their first 14 3-point tries and were shooting just 33 percent with half a dozen turnovers at the 6-minute mark of the first half.
The lead was just 24-22 at that point as Omaha had figured out UNM’s press and made a few shots of their own, eventually tying the game on a transition layup and going in front on a pair of free throws with 5:08 left.
Things didn’t get much better until the final 10 minutes.
“We talked about it at halftime, but I don’t want blowouts, we don’t want that,” Weir said. “We want to be in fights every night. That makes us better. We want competition, we want to improve.”
The mental grind behind improving started long before Tuesday’s game when workers hung signage outside the visitors’ locker rooms in The Pit. They reminded players of the altitude, that at 5,326 feet there is only 83 percent oxygen molecules available, that regardless of fitness there can be symptoms associated with altitude sickness.
For good measure, on oxygen tank was strategically leaning against the wall under a bright red sign that read, “emergency oxygen.”
“When I got here I actually read an article on ESPN with Jim Harbaugh and somebody else talking about the psychology behind the visitor’s locker room and I was like, ‘You know what, we gotta get the psychology going in our visitors locker room,’ ” Weir said. “So we changed our visitors locker room, we changed the hallway and hopefully we continue to do those kinds of things. We’re looking for any single iota of an advantage to help us win a basketball game, so if it helps, it helps.”
Again, so far, so good.
Tuesday’s game was the opening round of the Emerald Coast Classic. The Lobos will host Tennessee Tech in the second round next week and then finish the tournament Thanksgiving weekend in Niceville, Fla. … UNM heads to New Mexico State on Friday, marking the first time Weir has been back to Las Cruces (in an official capacity, anyway) since spurning the Aggies for UNM in April. He will meet with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the game and the likely fallout from it. … Lobos power forward Connor MacDougall sat it out the game in a walking boot. Weir said he was cleared to begin light practices but did not put a timetable on his big man’s return.
New Mexico’s Troy Simons reacts after a dunk against Omaha during Tuesday’s game in Albuquerque. Simons finished the game with 24 points. The Lobos routed Omaha 103-71.