Lobos have rare shot at staying undefeated in The Pit

Jan. 2—Undefeated at home.

It's happened only twice in the history of The Pit for the Lobos men's basketball team. As the 2022-23 season inches toward the midway point, UNM is 10-0 on its own hardwood with nine home dates left before the Mountain West Tournament begins in March.

The Lobos have won 19 home games four times in a single season, but the best zero-loss season they've ever had in University Arena came in 1996-97 when the Dave Bliss-coached, Kenny Thomas-led Lobos won all 18 games in front of their own fans. The other unbeaten year was in 1973-74 when Norm Ellenberger's Lobos went 15-0.

The next Pit stop for the Lobos is Saturday when UNLV drops by for a visit. As of Sunday, only about 1,200 tickets remained.

----It would take some doing, but Santa Fe High's boys basketball team has a shot at snapping a historical run by Volcano Vista at this week's Albuquerque Public Schools Metro Tournament.

It's the first time in the event's history that teams from outside the actual metro area will take part in the 16-team, four-round event.

The Demons and Hobbs are part of the tournament, which starts Tuesday at four predetermined home sites around Albuquerque. Santa Fe High faces Atrisco Heritage in the first round at Sandia. Volcano Vista is on the opposite side of the bracket and will open against Albuquerque High on Tuesday at La Cueva.

Volcano is the reigning Class 5A state champion, coming off an undefeated 29-0 season. Winners of their first 11 games this season, the Hawks' 40-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest in state history and is the longest of any boys team in New Mexico since Cliff rattled off 42 in a row, ending in the 2007-08 season.

The longest streak on record is 53, set by Hobbs between 1965 and 1967. Volcano could tie that mark by remaining unbeaten into February and knocking off Rio Rancho on Valentine's Day.

The potential record-breaker would come two days later with arguably the toughest road game of the season on Feb. 16 at Atrisco Heritage.

The Demons could end all that by making a run to the finals of the Metro Tournament and taking down Volcano in the finals Saturday. Santa Fe High would have to run the gauntlet, beating Atrisco and potentially No. 2-ranked Sandia in Wednesday's second round, then a potential matchup with Cleveland in the semifinals.

----The Northern Rio Grande Tournament is traditionally one of the best small-school tournaments in the state. This year's addition on the girls side won't just identify arguably the best team in Northern New Mexico; it could determine the top team in Class 2A right now.

Escalante is the top-ranked team in the class, according to New Mexico Overtime Sports' coaches poll. Mesa Vista is No. 1 in the rankings. The bracket for the NRG is determined by overall record, so the Lady Trojans are the top seed because of their 7-0 mark.

The Lady Lobos, however, are the third seed because their 6-3 record is a half-game worse than No. 2 Dulce.

The Lady Hawks are ranked fifth in both rankings, while Peñasco is the fifth seed in the tournament but ranked seventh by the coaches.

The winner of this weekend's tournament can lay claim to being the top team in 2A — for now.

----Only at Capital can 10 equal 300 and 600.

The 7-3 Jaguars are three away from registering 600 wins in its 35-year history, while head coach Ben Gomez is also three away from 300 wins in his coaching career — all at Capital.

The march to 300 and 600 picks up this week, as the Jaguars play at Los Alamos on Tuesday, at Albuquerque Academy on Thursday and at home to Española Valley on Saturday.

If it doesn't happen this week, Capital has a pair of home games against Valencia on Jan. 10 and Pojoaque Valley on Jan. 14. Should the momentous occasion happen against the Elks next week, it would be a nice symmetry. The Jaguars' first win came against Pojoaque in the program's debut game in 1988.

----Video began surfacing last week of a Taiwanese professional basketball game that featured former New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar pushing and shoving his way through a contest against former NBA big man Dwight Howard. Look it up on YouTube. It's worth the 90 seconds of video most clips show.

Howard is trying to keep his fading career alive. He's a member of the Taoyuan Leopards of the Taiwanese T1 League. Bhullar's brief stint in the NBA now has him hanging on with the Tainan TSG Ghosthawks.

A 7-foot-5 monster who made the 6-10 and chiseled Howard look like a shooting guard, Bhullar is shown swiping, pushing and throwing hands at the former NBA star — who, it should be noted, does the exact same to him. Bhullar blocked at least two of Howard's shots, including one in transition that Howard thought was a foul and ended up bear-hugging Bhullar in front of a referee.

Bottom line? Howard had 21 points and 13 rebounds, Bhullar had 17 and 8 but his team got the win. Advantage: Bhullar.

----The most decorated player on the UNM football team last season is headed home. Freshman defensive back A.J. Haulcy entered the NCAA transfer portal in December, and just hours before the ball dropped in Times Square on Saturday, he announced he will sign with Houston.

Haulcy is from Missouri City, Texas, a Houston suburb, which makes sense. Adding to it is the fact Houston is set to join the Big 12 next fall, making the Cougars an official member of the NCAA's elite Power Five.

----Research by the National Golf Foundation shows golf's numbers in 2022 were among the most productive the sport has ever seen, at least here in the U.S. The sport's average of daily rounds experienced a dramatic uptick during the first year of the pandemic and have been largely on par with 2020 ever since.

Using three-year averages before and after COVID-19 surfaced, average daily rounds are up 16 percent since the pandemic began. The peak came in 2021 as social distancing rules and mask mandates were eased, but followed a strong 2020 when most indoor activities were eliminated for months while golf remained largely unchanged. The daily averages rebounded slightly in 2022, showing that the three-year figures are still strong.

The NGF tracks the sport's economic side, using data to show trends in the game.