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Emptying the Notebook: Return of Donnie's Dimes helps lead Lobos past No. 16 Utah State

Jan. 17—Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, videos and other odds & ends I emptied out of the old notebook after the Lobos' 99-86 win over No. 16 Utah State on Tuesday night in the Pit:

Donnie's dimes ...

We've talked a lot of late about Jaelen House's domination of opposing teams and spent a lot of real estate in the game story from Tuesday's 99-86 UNM win over No. 16 Utah State on the breakout game of Nelly Junior Joseph.

Both with very good reason.

But this edition of ETN is going to lead off with some love for the amazing game Tuesday night by sophomore point guard Donovan Dent — a comeback game, of sorts.

No, Dent hasn't been injured or missed any games, but he hasn't been his old self in recent games, either. Tuesday, he was once again brilliant offensively, and that's not to take away from his defense, either, as he had a pair of blocked shots and three steals, including this one:

Here's a look at the entire stat line in the game for Dent:

Donovan Dent vs. Utah State on Tuesday:

—POINTS: 15

—FG: 7-10 (70%)

—FT: 1-1 (100%)

—ASSISTS: 14

—TURNOVERS: 1

—REBOUNDS: 3

—BLOCKS: 2

—STEALS: 3

"I thought Jaelen House controlled the game defensively. Completely disrupted everything," Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle said. "And I thought Donovan Dent controlled the game offensively with his ball screen offense."

UNM coach Richard Pitino in his postgame comments praised the balanced scoring of the Lobos and Dent's mastering of the pick and roll.

"Donovan in those middle ball screens, he was finding guys," Pitino said. "Fourteen assists is pretty amazing. But the balance (scoring for the team), for sure."

Dent had a lot to do with that balanced scoring. He had assists to four of his seven teammates and had 10 dimes to Junior Joseph alone, the most assists Dent has had to one teammate in a college game.

10 — Nelly Junior Joseph

2 — Mustapha Amzil

1 — Jamal Mashburn Jr.

1 — JT Toppin

But there's more.

This ETN's edition of the Steve Kirkland stat of the night, a nugget from UNM Sports Information Director Steve Kirkland (though he assisted on several of these in this ETN), is a good one and shows the rare air Dent's Tuesday performance put him in. Each of these bullet points is from Kirkland:

—Dent's 14 assists are the most by a Lobo since Darrell McGee had 16 vs. BYU on Jan. 5, 1989.

—Dent's 14 assists vs. No. 16 Utah State were the most vs. a ranked team in a regulation game since NC State's Markell Johnson had 14 vs. No. 25 Miami on Jan. 21, 2018. (Johnson had six turnovers and NC State lost that game.)

—Dent's 14 assists vs. No. 16 Utah State were the most vs. a Top 20 team in regulation since Oklahoma's Trae Young had 14 against No. 10 TCU on Dec. 30, 2017. (Young had seven turnovers in that game.)

I added the parenthetical turnover notes to the last two because when I pulled up the game boxes for those games, it stood out to me that while they had 14 assists, neither Johnson nor Young had them in efficiently as Dent did.

In fact, how's this for point guard brilliance, which is what Dent displays when he's at his best.

Dent has now had three games in his career with double digit assists. Take a look at his turnovers in those games:

—14 assists, 1 turnover: Tuesday vs. No. 16 Utah State (the Pit)

—10 assists, 0 turnovers: Dec. 2 vs. New Mexico State (the Pit)

—11 assists, 0 turnovers: Nov. 22 vs. Rice (Henderson, Nev.)

As for where Dent compares to his Mountain West peers this season for most assists in a game:

14 — Donovan Dent vs. Utah State (Tuesday)

14 — Isaiah Stevens (Colorado State) vs. Wright State (Nov. 10)

And, finally, what was so great to see for Lobo fans on Tuesday was this. As noted, it wasn't as though Dent had been missing any action of late, but in his past two games — last week's Lobos loss at UNLV and Saturday's win over San Diego State — he clearly wasn't at his best:

DENT — Jan. 9 vs. UNLV

—Points: 3

—Shooting: 1-6 FG

—Assists: 4

—Turnovers: 2

—Blocks: 0

—Steals: 0

DENT — Saturday vs. San Diego State

—Points: 6

—Shooting: 1-8 FG

—Assists: 4

—Turnovers: 2

—Blocks: 1

—Steals: 0

DENT — Tuesday vs. Utah State

—Points: 15

—Shooting: 7-10 FG

—Assists: 14

—Turnovers: 1

—Blocks: 2

—Steals: 3

So, yeah. Dominant Donnie was back on Tuesday.

The gamer ...

Here's the gamer I wrote after Tuesday's Lobo victory in the Pit ...

The last time ...

UNM beat No. 19 San Diego State 88-70 on Saturday and No. 16 Utah State 99-86 on Tuesday.

The last time UNM defeated ranked opponents in consecutive games was Feb. 15 and 18, 2012 (at No. 13 San Diego State, vs. No. 11 UNLV, respectively).

And the last time UNM beat ranked opponents in consecutive games in the Pit was in March 1993 with wins over No. 9 Utah and No. 21 BYU.

So, about those streaks ...

Two pretty significant streaks ended Tuesday night with the Lobos victory:

—Utah State's seven-game winning streak in the series vs. UNM is over

—Utah State's national-best 15 game winning streak is over

So, naturally, that leads us all to congratulate Samford, now sole owners of the nation's longest win streak at 16 in a row.

Points in the paint ...

The Lobos outscored Utah State 62-46 in points in the paint.

Utah State's previous opponent high for points in the paint was 44.

UNM's previous high this season for points in the paint was 56.

He said it (x3) ...

Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle after Tuesday's game:

"I think their bigs punked us. They scored 62 points in the paint. You can tell they were trying to throw it in there from the jump. I thought (JT) Toppin and (Nelly Junior) Joseph were tremendous."

-AND-

"It was physicality and speed issue. We got nothing easy at the rim. They probably blocked five of our dunk attempts. And they probably came and fouled us on three of them and we got to the foul line, but they weren't and-ones. They were making us earn everything. They flat out beat us."

-AND-

"(Nelly Junior) Joseph and (JT) Toppin are so athletic. They're covering for each other if somebody is beat. They're flying from the backside. It's hard. You have to be able to score some baskets in the paint or at the rim and it seemed every time we missed one of those they were off to the races. The made us pay for every missed layup."

Block party II ...

If Saturday's 14-block game against a ranked opponent didn't quite satisfy you, how about 10 more vs. a ranked opponent for the Lobos on Tuesday night vs. Utah State.

Most blocks by a Mountain West team this season:

14* — New Mexico vs. San Diego State (Saturday)

10* — New Mexico vs. Utah State (Tuesday)

10 — UNLV vs. (non-DI) Bethesda University (Jan. 2)

10 — UNLV vs. (non-DI) Carroll (Montana) College (Dec. 31)

10 — Nevada vs. Pacific (Nov. 15)

* denotes Mountain West game.

Let's take that another step ...

Tuesday was the first time the Lobos had double digit blocks (10) and double digit steals (12) in the same game since Jan. 7, 2012 vs. North Dakota (11 blocks/10 steals).

What about the last time any Division I team did that vs. a ranked opponent?

Last double digit block/double digit steal game vs. ranked team:

—North Carolina vs. No. 18 Alabama in a 4-overtime game on Nov. 27, 2022.

Last double digit block/double digit steal regulation game vs. ranked team:

—Auburn vs. No. 16 LSU Dec. 29, 2021

Whoa, Nelly!

Yeah, Nelly Junior Joseph was the story of the game on Tuesday, and was the main subject of my game story linked above.

But I can't leave him out of ETN entirely.

Junior Joseph's second-consecutive five-block game makes him the first Lobo to have 5 or more blocked shots in consecutive games since Obij Aget did so vs. Boise State and Fresno State on Feb. 14 and 18 of 2017.

And a performance like that will get you the big picture on the Journal's sports page the next day:

That's 50 for Pitino ...

Tuesday's game was win No. 50 at UNM for Richard Pitino.

His record as a Division I head coach:

—18-14 — 1 season at Florida International

—141-123 — 8 seasons at Minnesota

—50-34 — in his third season at UNM

—209-171 — total (12th season)

And then there was one ...

Entering this season, there were just two Mountain West teams the Lobos had yet to beat since Richard Pitino was hired as head coach.

After the Lobos beat Utah State on Tuesday, the list is now down to one.

Mountain West teams Richard Pitino hasn't beaten:

Nevada (0-4)

UNM's next home opponent:

Nevada (Jan. 28)

What Amzil slump?

Mustapha Amzil was a highly regarded transfer from Dayton. The 6-foot-9 native of Finland starred for his home country's junior national team in the World University Games over the summer and even started the season opener for the Lobos.

But to say he got off to a slow start at UNM is an understatement, especially from beyond the arc.

Mustapha Amzil first 10 games

—2.8 points per game

—0 double digit scoring games

—1-21 3-point shooting (4.8%)

Things got so bad that his 11th game as a Lobo, he was a healthy did not play at New Mexico State on Dec. 15.

He's turned it around since that benching.

Mustapha Amzil past seven games

—9.6 points per game

—5 double digit scoring games

—7-17 3-point shooting (41.2%)

On Tuesday, he had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-of-4 on 3s).

Oh, what O ...

The Lobos offense was insanely good on Tuesday vs. a Utah State team that was ranked in the Top 50 (46 to be exact) in KenPom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings entering the game.

Some notes:

—55 points first half: Most vs. Utah State in a half this season

—1.528 points per possession in first half: Most vs. Utah State in a half this season

—99 points: Most vs. Utah State this season (86 by UNLV was previous high)

—99 points: second most allowed by Utah State since the 1998-99 season, according to KenPom.com. (The most allowed was in a 100-70 loss to New Mexico State on Jan. 26, 2008, in Las Cruces).

Lobos most points vs. ranked opponent:

1. 102 — W, 102-98 vs. No. 9 UNLV (Jan. 7, 1978)

2. 100 — L, 120-100 vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (Feb. 20, 1988)

t3. 99 — W, 99-86 vs. No. 16 Utah State (Tuesday)

t3. 99 — W, 99-72 vs. No. 20 Arizona (Feb. 16, 1974)

So, about those free throws ...

The UNM Lobos have had one of their best and one of their worst free throw shooting games in a Mountain West game in the past two weeks:

—Jan. 2 at Colorado State: 4-11 FT (36.4%) — fifth worst FT% in Mountain West game

—Tuesday vs. Utah State: 16-17 FT (94.1%) — seventh best in Mountain West game

House watch ...

Jaelen House stat line on Tuesday:

—14 points

—2 steals

UNM career scoring

20. Elijah Brown — 1,276

21. Jaelen House — 1,269

22. Tony Danridge — 1,260

23. Marvin Johnson — 1,246

24. Cameron Bairstow — 1,239

UNM all-time steals

1. Kelvin Scarborough — 235

2. Hunter Greene — 203

3. Phil Smith — 197

4. Jaelen House — 188

5. Kendall Williams — 186

6. Lamont Long — 184

7. Willie Banks — 183

Toppin the list ...

Monday, JT Toppin did it again, winning his fifth Mountain West Freshman of the Week award...

And on Tuesday, he had a quiet 12-point, five-rebound, one-block, one-steal game.

Oh, and he had this ...

Attendance ...

Announced attendance on Tuesday: 13,106

From this to that ...

The Pit is special. Everyone gets that by now.

But whatever percentage of the Lobos' success over the past two games was based on feeding off the energy of the fans might be a problem the next two games.

Attendance at past two Lobo games

—15,437 — Saturday vs. San Diego State (in the Pit)

—13,106 — Tuesday vs. Utah State (in the Pit)

—28,543 — TOTAL

Avg. attendance at venue of next two Lobo games

—1,500 — Saturday at Air Force (Clune Arena)

—2,100 — Next Wednesday at San Jose State (Provident Credit Union Event Center)

—3,600 — TOTAL (two average attendances added together)

"That can be hard in itself, as well," Pitino said Tuesday when asked about the challenge of getting his guys to play at a high energy level in environments with so many fewer fans than they just had these past two games in the Pit.

"... We're going to have to bring our own energy because we're fortunate to be able to play in front of some amazing fans, some amazing crowds and it'll be a different type of element. And our guys gotta be ready to go."

One more note about the Pit crowds ...

Utah State on Tuesday played in front of a crowd that had 7,000-plus more fans than any other game they played away from Logan, Utah, this season.

That's not uncommon for Lobo opponents. Through 10 Pit games, the crowd was the largest for four UNM opponents and second largest for four more.

Here's a look at the largest road crowd faced this season by UNM Lobo opponents who have visited the Pit:

Texas Southern

1. 16,845 — at Creighton (Nov. 18)

4. 11,106 — at UNM (Nov. 6)

UT Arlington

1. 13,403 — at Arizona (Nov. 19)

3. 10,484 — at UNM (Nov. 16)

Louisiana Tech

1. 10,216 — at New Mexico (Nov. 29)

2. 7,436 — at Grand Canyon (Dec. 30)

New Mexico State

1. 18,438 — at Kentucky (Nov. 6)

2. 15,435 — at UNM (Dec. 2)

UC Santa Barbara

1. 10,311 — at UNM (Dec. 6)

2. 7,121 — at UTEP (Nov. 13)

UC Irvine

1. 12,414 — at San Diego State (Dec. 9)

2. 11,536 — at UNM (Dec. 20)

Eastern New Mexico

1. 11,962 — at UNM (Dec. 29)

2. 1,257 — at Angelo State (Jan. 6)

Wyoming

1. 17,978 — at BYU (Dec. 30)

2. 12,611 — at UNM (Jan. 6)

San Diego State

1. 15,689 — at BYU (Nov. 10)

2. 15,437 — at UNM (Saturday)

Utah State

1. 13,106 — at UNM (Tuesday)

2. 5,992 — at UNLV (Saturday)

Sprinkle in some podcast ...

We interrupt this ETN to remind you that the Talking Grammer podcast is back and this week's guest was Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle, who joined me for a great conversation on Monday to talk about his program's great start to the season and a little about the Lobos game (still very much worth the listen even though the game has passed).

You can listen to the episode wherever you download your favorite podcasts or watch it here:

Also, here's a clip of what Danny said Monday when I asked him about this Lobos roster:

Plus/minus ...

Here are the plus/minus stats from Saturday's game with minutes played in parenthesis:

NEW MEXICO

+15 JT Toppin (19:25)

+14 Donovan Dent (36:00)

+12 Jamal Mashburn Jr. (36:22)

+12 Jaelen House (26:09)

+6 Isaac Mushila (8:41)

+3 Nelly Junior Joseph (33:47)

+3 Sebastian Forsling (1:01)

+1 Tru Washington (21:29)

-1 Mustapha Amzil (17:06)

UTAH STATE

+2 Karson Templin (2:26)

0 Kalifa Sakho (19:22)

-5 Isaac Johnson (6:13)

-6 Javon Jackson (2:36)

-8 Josh Uduje (29:33)

-10 Great Osobor (34:36)

-11 Ian Martinez (38:32)

-12 Darius Brown II (20:24)

-15 Mason Falslev (36:18)

Line 'em up ...

The UNM Lobos used nine players on Tuesday and 14 lineup combinations. The Utah State Aggies used nine players and had 12 lineup combinations.

Here's a look at a few of the lineups for the Lobos, starting with the starters:

STARTING LINEUP

—WHO: Jaelen House, Donovan Dent, Jamal Mashburn Jr., JT Toppin, Nelly Junior Joseph

—POINT DIFFERENTIAL: +7 (31-24)

—TIME ON COURT: 12:07

—NOTE: 10 rebounds. 10 assists. 1.4 points per possession scored. That's some pretty high-end production out of your starting five for a game (and all scored in double figures, by the way). Obviously not all the minutes were lined up starts vs. starters, but for comparison's sake, Utah State's starters were at minus-3 in their 5:07 on the court together.

BEST LINEUP (OK, 2nd best)

—WHO: Jaelen House, Donovan Dent, Jamal Mashburn Jr., Mustapha Amzil, Nelly Junior Joseph

—POINT DIFFERENTIAL: +4 (8-4)

—TIME ON COURT: 4:10

—NOTE: The starting five was the best lineup for the Lobos on both ends Tuesday night. But for the sake of not doubling up the "starting" lineup and the "best" lineup in this ETN, how about this grouping as the "best". It did have the second best point differential, though wasn't exactly lighting it up (0.81 PPP is pretty bad).

WORST LINEUP

—WHO: Donovan Dent, Jamal Mashburn Jr., Tru Washington, Mustapha Amzil, Nelly Junior Joseph

—POINT DIFFERENTIAL: -4 (14-18)

—TIME ON COURT:

—NOTE:This was more of a problem defensively than offensively as this grouping did manage to score 1.1785 PPP.

Video: Pitino and Junior Joseph postgame ...

Here is the postgame press conference with Lobos coach Richard Pitino and Nelly Junior Joseph...

Another Mountain West buzzer beater ...

There was not only another Mountain West buzzer beater on Tuesday night, but the second of the young (conference) season against San Jose State, which also lost a third game against San Diego State in the closing seconds, but not at the buzzer like they did early January.

Tuesday, here was how San Jose State, a +2.5 underdog at Fresno State, ended up losing by 3 ...

Meanwhile, in Boise ...

Well, don't look now but that Boise State team I called the Team of the Week in my Monday Around the Mountain column just lost a home game to what just might be a really good UNLV team (one that beat UNM last week, lost in controversial fashion on Saturday to Utah State and now has gone on the road to beat Boise State).

Around the Mountain ...

There were four games around the Mountain West on Tuesday night and one more on Wednesday for to wrap up the midweek slate. Here's a look at this week's Mountain West games:

TUESDAY

—Colorado State 78, Air Force 69 (OT)

—Fresno State 85, San Jose State 82

—UNLV 68, Boise State 64

—New Mexico 99, No. 16 Utah State 86

WEDNESDAY

—Nevada at San Diego State, 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

FRIDAY

—UNLV at Colorado State, 8:30 p.m. MT (FS1)

SATURDAY

—San Diego State at Boise State, 11 a.m. MT (CBS)

—New Mexico at Air Force, 2 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)

—Fresno State at No. 16 Utah State, 2 p.m. MT (TheMW)

—Nevada at Wyoming, 5:30 p.m. (TheMW)

Mountain West standings ...

Here are the Mountain West standings through Tuesday's games:

4-1 Utah State

3-1 Boise State

3-1 San Diego State

2-1 Nevada

3-2 New Mexico

2-2 Colorado State

2-2 UNLV

2-2 Wyoming

1-3 Fresno State

1-4 San Jose State

0-4 Air Force

Poll position ...

As noted in Monday's Around the Mountain column's weekly "Poll Position" update about teams in the conference and how they're doing in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Mountain West this week has six — SIX! — teams receiving votes in the poll.

That's crazy good, even if only one actually cracked the Top 25 (Utah State).

Here's a look at how Monday's AP Top 25 poll broke down for the Mountain West:

—No. 16 Utah State: Up from No. 20 last week, top vote was No. 10 by two voters, left off of one voter's ballot.

—Colorado State: Was No. 17, now 169 points, one spot out of being ranked, high vote No. 13.

—San Diego State: Was No. 19, 153 points, two spots out, high vote 16.

—Boise State: 22 points, seven spots out, high vote 18.

—Nevada: 22 points, seven spots out, high vote 20.

—New Mexico: 14 points, 12 spots out, high vote 19.

Why yes, that was Holly Holm ...

Not only was Holly Holm at Tuesday's game, she was gracious (as always) with UNM asking her to participate in the flex cam promotion and with posing for photos with no fewer than 25 fans who lined up by her seat at halftime to get her time and photo.

Stats and stats ...

Here is the postgame stat sheet from Tuesday's game: New Mexico 99, Utah State 86

And if you prefer the digital version, here you go: New Mexico 99, Utah State 86

Grammer's Guesses ...

This deserves national attention at this point.

I'm really good at this.

The Grammer's Guesses go 0-4 on Tuesday night and I'm now 4-19 against the spread on the season. Seriously. FOUR. AND. NINETEEN!

Meanwhile, my daughter's coin flip picks went 1-3 and she's 13-10 on the year.

Up next ...

For Utah State: At home vs. Fresno State, 2 p.m. Saturday

For UNM: At Air Force, 2 p.m. Saturday

Lobos schedule/results ...