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Film study, NBA’s Westbrook fuel McGee’s resurgence

February 16, 2019

Something happened about a month ago, something that lit a fire under Lobos player Keith McGee.

He’s not sure what it was and neither is his coach.

It could have been thoughts of his favorite player, the Oklahoma Thunder’s Russell Westbrook. It could have been long talks in the film room with Lobos coach Paul Weir.

Whatever it is, it’s working.

Right after an extended illness that kept him in street clothes during the University of New Mexico’s Dec. 30 trip to Hobbs, McGee has become the point guard the Lobos have needed all season.

A 6-foot-3 sophomore, he arrived on campus last fall with bloated expectations after leading his junior college team in March to a national title. It took him the first half of this season to get on solid footing.

Weir said McGee’s lack of experience caused the slow start. He didn’t play much the first half of his freshman season and came into his own late last season. McGee got off to another slow start at UNM, something Weir attributed to an adjustment to life as a student at the major college level.

“He’s just a younger kid that’s obviously very talented, but has to work through some things,” Weir said. “A lot of times where he’s getting yo-yoed in and out of starting lineups or minutes or whatever, unfortunately a lot of times it’s off-court things.”

Rumors circulated about McGee transferring when he sat out the game in Hobbs and then played just two minutes Jan. 5 in the historic upset of No. 6 Nevada. Ever since, he’s been a different player, scoring at least eight points in eight of the past nine games. That includes 19 points on Feb. 5 against San Diego State and a career-high 20 against San Jose State.

The Lobos host Fresno State on Saturday with a chance for McGee to take yet another step in his resurgence. At 11-13 overall and 5-7 in the Mountain West Conference, the Lobos have the potential of getting hot down the stretch.

McGee said the root of his turnaround is his film sessions with Weir. McGee has shown a thick skin that has paid dividends in a Weir system that stresses heady play from the point guard. Since McGee and freshman Drue Drinnon are the only true point guards, it gives each player a chance to make a mark on this year’s team.

“Everything just becomes easier,” McGee said of watching film with Weir.

As for him being more like Westbrook?

“I’m not there yet,” McGee said. “But I’m working on a similar style.”

LOBO NOTES

Women’s basketball: Just call it separation Saturday.

With Fresno State lurking two games behind in fourth place, UNM (20-3 overall, 10-2 Mountain West) could turn the conference race into a two-team sprint to the finish with a win over the Bulldogs (15-8, 8-4) on Saturday afternoon.

The Lobos trail first place Boise State by a game. The Lobos are coming off a comfortable win Wednesday against San Jose State, a game that saw them open a 30-point lead before winning by 19.

Saturday’s game features the top to scorers in the Mountain West. Fresno State’s Candace White leads with 19 points per game while UNM center Jaisa Nunn averages 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds.

The game will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network.

Baseball: Of course it had to end that way.

After one of the worst seasons the program has experienced under head coach Ray Birmingham, the Lobos launched their hopeful turnaround Friday in Arizona against defending national champion Oregon State. They had the Beavers on the ropes, up 4-0 in the seventh inning and 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Oregon State rallied for a 6-5 victory in the first round of the Surprise Tournament, the season opener for both teams. UNM will play No. 24 Minnesota on Saturday in the second of four games in Surprise, Ariz.

Oregon State got the game winner on a two-run single with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth. Beavers pinch hitter Greg Fuchs delivered a single to left against Lobos relief pitcher Malachi Emond.

Emond (0-1) had pitched the seventh and eighth innings but failed to record an out in the final frame. He was charged with four runs, giving up five of the Beavers’ six hits.

Los Alamos High graduate Jared Mang homered and drove in two runs for the Lobos, while his brother, Connor Mang, had a double and scored a run.

Up Next

Saturday: Fresno State (18-6, 9-3 MWC) at New Mexico (11-13, 5-7), 5 p.m. in The Pit

TV: none

Live stream: ESPN3

Radio: KKOB-AM 770

Live stats: www.GoLobos.com

Twitter: @SportsScribe505