Some thoughts after four games

Once the conference season starts the pace of games picks up, and other than the two bye dates it is difficult to absorb one game before it’s time to start focusing on the next.  Time to stop and think is rare, time for substantive analysis rarer still.  But at the quarter point of the conference schedule it is good to take at least a quick assessment.

The Lobos stand at 3-1, tied with Utah State for third in the MWC.  Both Fresno and Boise are as yet undefeated.  The schedule does not get easier.  The Lobos’ first four games were all against teams in the bottom half of the current standings—though UNLV is very unlikely to stay there for long.  The next five games against WYO, Utah St, and Fresno—all in the top five currently—as well as a rematch with the UNLV team that defeated UNM last Saturday.  If the Lobos are near the top on the evening of February 2nd, that will be more significant.

The plusses and minuses for the team in conference were much the same as in pre-conference, but the numbers have reduced.  MWC opponents have largely wanted to slow the tempo, and in some cases we were not able to get them to run with us as most the OOC teams did.  The scoring margin has dropped from +16.0 per game to +6.5, due more to lower offensive performances than a worsening defense.

Strengths/Weaknesses:

–The Lobos are still leading in rebounds per game (41.5 per game, third in both offensive and defensive rebounding) but their rebounding margin is down to +3.5 per game, 4th best.

–Blocked shots are good at 6.0 per game, but trail Utah State’s 7.5.

–UNM leads in steals (44), and has caused the most turnovers (82), but is third from the bottom in turnovers themselves.

–Shooting is pedestrian, as we stand 6th overall (38.7%) and 5th in three point shooting (29.2%)—Boise is shooting a torrid 50% overall, led by three players shooting 59% or better.

–Defensively UNM has only given up threes at a 20.0% rate, second best behind Air Force.  We play three of the top four shooting teams in the next quarter of the schedule so we will see if that defensive excellence holds up.

Individually Fresno’s senior Candice White leads the conference in scoring at 23.3 for her first four games, and Utah St’s junior Shannon Duffice is also averaging over 20 per game.  The Lobos have to defend both of them in the next few games.  Jayla Everett is the leading in-conference scorer for the Lobos at 13.8, tied for 9th best.  Duffice leads in rebounding with an impressive 13.8 per game, while Jaisa (3rd) and Nike (8th) lead UNM.  Aisia leads in steals & is second in assists, Jayla is third in assists.

Other things I think I have seen in the conference games that may (or may not) be leading indicators:

–We are having a harder time getting the ball into the post (primarily but not exclusively that means Jaisa).  Part because Jaisa is not a surprise to any conference team, and partly because three of the four MW teams we have played have big/tall defenders who make the entry pass tougher.  UNM can’t stop feeding Jaisa, but the entry passes will have to get better.

–Ahlise continues to do a lot of good things out there, and I am confident her shot will come back around.  But against CSU’s Colaivalu—and to a lesser degree against UNLV and AF—she was physically moved around by stronger guards.  In Colaivalu’s case she was beating Colaivalu for position, and was moving her feet well, but the way the game was called she was bodied aside by the stronger player multiple times.  If that is the way the conference games will be called, the D will take some adjusting.  It may reduce Ahlise’s minutes, but many of the options (Quincy for example) are the same:  quick but not as strong.  As has been the case in the past, officiating style, even if called “evenly” will be important.

–Point guard progress.  In the four MWC games, Aisia has averaged about 28 min/game, down a little from the pre-conference.  For the season she is right at 30 min per game, probably a good number given the speed she plays at and the number of hard falls she takes.  When Aisia has been on the bench, Jayla has become the primary back-up at PG.  Jayla looks more comfortable in that role, and has pushed the pace more than she would early in the season.  Her assists are up to 4+ per game in conference.

–Aisia’s increased minutes of rest have largely been taken up by Madi, who is averaging 14 min/game in the last four.  Her defense is improved from last season, and it is obvious that her outside shooting is something the Lobos need.

–Which leads to my last point, and biggest worry going forward.  We have at least 5 players who are capable of big three-point shooting games, but none has done so consistently.  If this team is going to compete for a conference title, we need one or two of them to do so.  Without it this team will be riding on the cliff edge too much against good teams who pack it in and deny Jaisa.  With good—not great—three point shooting this team can be very good.

The Lobos stand at 3-1, tied with Utah State for third in the MWC.  Both Fresno and Boise are as yet undefeated.  The schedule does not get easier.  The Lobos’ first four games were all against teams in the bottom half of the current standings—though UNLV is very unlikely to stay there for long.  The next five games against WYO, Utah St, and Fresno—all in the top five currently—as well as a rematch with the UNLV team that defeated UNM last Saturday.  If the Lobos are near the top on the evening of February 2nd, that will be more significant.

The plusses and minuses for the team in conference were much the same as in pre-conference, but the numbers have reduced.  MWC opponents have largely wanted to slow the tempo, and in some cases we were not able to get them to run with us as most the OOC teams did.  The scoring margin has dropped from +16.0 per game to +6.5, due more to lower offensive performances than a worsening defense.

Strengths/Weaknesses:

–The Lobos are still leading in rebounds per game (41.5 per game, third in both offensive and defensive rebounding) but their rebounding margin is down to +3.5 per game, 4th best.

–Blocked shots are good at 6.0 per game, but trail Utah State’s 7.5.

–UNM leads in steals (44), and has caused the most turnovers (82), but is third from the bottom in turnovers themselves.

–Shooting is pedestrian, as we stand 6th overall (38.7%) and 5th in three point shooting (29.2%)—Boise is shooting a torrid 50% overall, led by three players shooting 59% or better.

–Defensively UNM has only given up threes at a 20.0% rate, second best behind Air Force.  We play three of the top four shooting teams in the next quarter of the schedule so we will see if that defensive excellence holds up.

Individually Fresno’s senior Candice White leads the conference in scoring at 23.3 for her first four games, and Utah St’s junior Shannon Duffice is also averaging over 20 per game.  The Lobos have to defend both of them in the next few games.  Jayla Everett is the leading in-conference scorer for the Lobos at 13.8, tied for 9th best.  Duffice leads in rebounding with an impressive 13.8 per game, while Jaisa (3rd) and Nike (8th) lead UNM.  Aisia leads in steals & is second in assists, Jayla is third in assists.

Other things I think I have seen in the conference games that may (or may not) be leading indicators:

–We are having a harder time getting the ball into the post (primarily but not exclusively that means Jaisa).  Part because Jaisa is not a surprise to any conference team, and partly because three of the four MW teams we have played have big/tall defenders who make the entry pass tougher.  UNM can’t stop feeding Jaisa, but the entry passes will have to get better.

–Ahlise continues to do a lot of good things out there, and I am confident her shot will come back around.  But against CSU’s Colaivalu—and to a lesser degree against UNLV and AF—she was physically moved around by stronger guards.  In Colaivalu’s case she was beating Colaivalu for position, and was moving her feet well, but the way the game was called she was bodied aside by the stronger player multiple times.  If that is the way the conference games will be called, the D will take some adjusting.  It may reduce Ahlise’s minutes, but many of the options (Quincy for example) are the same:  quick but not as strong.  As has been the case in the past, officiating style, even if called “evenly” will be important.

–Point guard progress.  In the four MWC games, Aisia has averaged about 28 min/game, down a little from the pre-conference.  For the season she is right at 30 min per game, probably a good number given the speed she plays at and the number of hard falls she takes.  When Aisia has been on the bench, Jayla has become the primary back-up at PG.  Jayla looks more comfortable in that role, and has pushed the pace more than she would early in the season.  Her assists are up to 4+ per game in conference.

–Aisia’s increased minutes of rest have largely been taken up by Madi, who is averaging 14 min/game in the last four.  Her defense is improved from last season, and it is obvious that her outside shooting is something the Lobos need.

–Which leads to my last point, and biggest worry going forward.  We have at least 5 players who are capable of big three-point shooting games, but none has done so consistently.  If this team is going to compete for a conference title, we need one or two of them to do so.  Without it this team will be riding on the cliff edge too much against good teams who pack it in and deny Jaisa.  With good—not great—three point shooting and everything else staying about as is, this team can be very good.



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