Lo­bos mak­ing some (bad) his­tory

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS - By James Bar­ron and Will Web­ber jbar­[email protected]­i­can.com wweb­[email protected]­i­can.com

It’s bad. It’s re­ally bad. The Univer­sity of New Mex­ico’s for­get­table men’s bas­ket­ball sea­son is chal­leng­ing the his­tory books for one of the worst in a gen­er­a­tion.

For the record, we’re not talk­ing about wins and losses. At three games south of the .500 mark en­ter­ing the home stretch of the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Lo­bos have the op­por­tu­nity to at least break even with a fa­vor­able sched­ule that in­cludes two games against bot­tom feeder San Jose State and one apiece against Wy­oming and Air Force.

What we’re deal­ing with is the way the Lo­bos are los­ing. Nine of their 13 set­backs have been by dou­ble dig­its and four have been by at least 20. They’re getting blown out. The worst of the worst reads like this: Drilled by 35 at New Mex­ico State on Dec. 4, by 25 in Los An­ge­les by Saint Mary’s three days later, by 20 on the road at San Diego State on Jan. 15, and then Satur­day’s loss at Nevada — a game that could have (and prob­a­bly should have) been so much worse.

The Wolf Pack led 25-4 just 10 min­utes into the game and hov­ered around the 30-ish-point mark the rest of the way.

The last time UNM lost that many games by at least 20 in a sin­gle sea­son?

Not shock­ingly, it was the Lobo­gate team of 1979-80. Coach Char­lie Har­ri­son’s rag­tag ros­ter of walk-ons and never-was re­cruits fin­ished 6-20, los­ing 14 of their last 17 games but they re­mained oddly com­pet­i­tive most of the way. They had losses of 20 points

at UTEP and Wy­oming, by 21 at na­tion­ally ranked BYU and by 34 at home to Utah State.

The hey­day of Dave Bliss’ years at UNM saw sev­eral blowout losses while the Lo­bos were na­tion­ally ranked in the 1990s, in­clud­ing back-to-back losses of a com­bined 52 points to TCU and BYU when beloved guard Royce Ol­ney went down with a knee in­jury against the Horned Frogs.

With a min­i­mum of eight games left this sea­son, coach Paul Weir’s Lo­bos could con­ceiv­ably ex­tend the mis­ery to gen­er­a­tional pro­por­tions. Not since the 1961-62 sea­son has UNM lost at least five games by 20-plus, and that par­tic­u­lar sea­son is re­garded as the turn­ing point in Lobo bas­ket­ball his­tory. That club fin­ished 6-20 and had seven losses of at least 22 points, but it marked the fi­nal sea­son of then­coach Bob Sweeney’s ten­ure and the in­tro­duc­tion of UNM’s bas­ket­ball God­fa­ther, Bob King.

King took over the fol­low­ing sea­son and the rest, they say, is the mod­ern age of Lo­bos hoops. The Pit opened just four years later and com­pet­i­tive bas­ket­ball has largely been around to stay ever since.

Un­til now, it seems.

Could the Cap­i­tal boys bas­ket­ball team’s run of 17 straight state tour­na­ment ap­pear­ances be com­ing to an end? At 2-4 in Dis­trict 5-5A play and tied for last place with Al­bu­querque San­dia, the Jaguars have a tall task to play their way into the post­sea­son. Bar­ring a four-game win­ning streak to end the reg­u­lar sea­son, their best bet to keep the streak alive is to win the dis­trict tour­na­ment.

It is a truly re­mark­able per­for­mance — only Hope Chris­tian and Hobbs have longer runs — that crossed over two play­off sys­tems. Cap­i­tal started the streak in 2002, back when only two teams from each big-school dis­trict ad­vanced past the dis­trict tour­na­ment. Since 2006, the tour­na­ment ex­panded to 16 teams, and the Jaguars kept right on ad­vanc­ing.

Dur­ing that time, Cap­i­tal won a state ti­tle (2004) and fin­ished sec­ond four times (2005, 2007, 2016, 2017). It also came per­ilously close to miss­ing out on the state tour­na­ment in 2014 and 2015, when it made it as the 15th and 16th seeds, re­spec­tively. The Jaguars al­most be­came the first No. 16 seed to win in the open­ing round, when it lost 46-43 to Las Cruces Cen­ten­nial.

Speak­ing of the Jaguars, their 36-game win­ning streak from 2003-05 is miss­ing from the state’s record books. The way to rec­tify it is for the school to sub­mit the ap­pro­pri­ate doc­u­men­ta­tion to the New Mex­ico Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion, but that hasn’t hap­pened over the past 14 years.

The mark would be the sixth­longest in state his­tory and the fourth-best in the 21st Cen­tury. The long­est win­ning streak be­longs to Hobbs, which won 53 in a row from 1965-67. It also holds the sec­ond long­est (49, from 1979-1982).

The Pe­cos boys could, by all ac­counts, win a third state ti­tle a month from now in Al­bu­querque. For a school that went half a cen­tury be­tween ti­tles, the idea of a three-peat is al­most too much to com­pre­hend.

At 19-3 over­all through this past week­end, the Pan­thers are do­ing it with of­fense. Their 74.8 points per game is the high­est of any team in Class 1A, 2A, 3A or 4A. It is, how­ever eclipsed by 5A pow­ers Hobbs (79.4), Rio Ran­cho Cleve­land (77.3), Roswell (76.7) and Rio Ran­cho (76.1).

None of them comes any­where close to the state record, held by the state cham­pion Hobbs boys in 1969-70 when they av­er­aged a mind-numb­ing 119 points a game in an era well be­fore the 3-point line was even con­sid­ered.

San­ti­ago Gar­cia, a 2017 grad­u­ate of McCurdy, signed a let­ter of in­tent to play foot­ball at Col­lege of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif., on Thurs­day. Gar­cia played for the Bob­cats from 2014-16, and played tight end and line­backer.

Santa Fe High won its first dis­trict wrestling ti­tle in eight years af­ter beat­ing Cap­i­tal 69-6 in the fi­nal Dis­trict 5-5A dual of the sea­son. The Demons went 5-0 in dis­trict du­als, and did it with­out 132-pounder Isaac Bel­tran, who was sus­pended by the New Mex­ico Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion in late Jan­uary af­ter hit­ting a wrestler dur­ing the Joe Vi­vian Clas­sic on Jan. 18.

Against the Jaguars, Santa Fe High lost only one match — at 220 pounds as Ju­lian Sanchez pinned Deonte Teno­rio for Cap­i­tal’s lone points of the match. The dis­trict in­di­vid­ual cham­pi­onships, which will de­ter­mine the qual­i­fiers for the state wrestling tour­na­ment on Feb. 22 and 23, and are set for Satur­day at Al­bu­querque Man­zano.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Coach Paul Weir’s Lo­bos aren’t just los­ing, they’re of­ten getting blown out by dou­ble dig­its, in­clud­ing four games they’ve lost by at least 20.

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