New Mexico vs. New Mexico State: Game Preview, TV, Radio Schedule, Livestream, Odds, More
Lobos, Aggies do battle in The Pit
New Mexico State has had a topsy-turvy season amidst injuries, but remains a tough out.
WHO: New Mexico Lobos (9-2) vs. New Mexico State Aggies (6-5)
WHEN: Saturday, December 14 — 5:00 PM MT
WHERE: Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit, Albuquerque, NM (15,411)
TV: AT&T Sports Net
STREAM: Mountain West Network (outside of regional restrictions)
SERIES RECORD: New Mexico leads, 75-64
ODDS: New Mexico -3.5
PREVIEW: There are only two Division I college basketball programs in the State of New Mexico.
For the last several years it had been the New Mexico Lobos that were hobbling around mid-December, desperate (though unsuccessful) in gathering wins before conference play.
And while this team has, arguably, not gathered any marquee wins (save for maybe Wisconsin, which recently lost to Rutgers), New Mexico (9-2, 2-0 MW) has found ways to win in 2019-20 so far, including already having beaten the elusive in-state rival New Mexico State (6-5, – WAC) in the Pan Am Center in Las Cruces and a 2-0 start to conference play.
But the last contest against the Aggies was not without its challenges for New Mexico, which won the game by a narrow 78-77 margin. In a rivalry game that always seems to be close (let’s ignore the thrashing on Dec. 4, 2018), pulling out a road win (or any win) against New Mexico State is a welcome first time feat for Paul Weir as New Mexico’s head coach.
Once again, New Mexico State is expected to play without starters Clayton Henry and AJ Harris, placing on the shoulders of Trevelin Queen (14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 steals per game) and Jabari Rice (13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists per game) to score the ball on an Aggies team that hasn’t been known for its offensive prowess, ball movement, nor even its usual strength, rebounding.
In contrast, New Mexico has been better, statistically, in each of these areas, maintaining its ability to move the ball and score on offense with reasonable efficiency.
With most of the team returning from a 2018-19 season in which the Aggies challenged eventual final four participant Auburn, most expected New Mexico State to fare far better than slightly above .500 mid way through December, but the season has been far from the lofty expectations that some had placed on the team.
Not only are the struggles bad for the Aggies, but bad for New Mexico and, in a more indirect way, for the Mountain West Conference. With few opportunities over quadrant 1 and 2 wins, the two games against New Mexico State were anticipated to be one of such potential games for New Mexico. And while wins over the Aggies will help, losses will almost certainly hurt more than was thought in the preseason, especially if New Mexico has trouble at home.
With all the average to below average statistics offensively and with respect to rebounding, it would seem that the Aggies are lucky to be 6-5 against the 122nd ranked non-conference schedule (per KenPom.com).
So what’s kept the Aggies above .500?
Perhaps a solid defense (holding opponents to 64.0 points per game), and perhaps one of the slower tempos in the country (ranked 281st per KenPom).
But the defense or slow tempo were certainly not on display in the last meeting, which highlighted a more aggressive offensive tempo. Instead, it was the rebounding (especially offensive rebounding) battle that kept the Aggies in the game. Amassing 15 offensive rebounds helped, in part, to give New Mexico State 12 more possessions than New Mexico.
New Mexico State is still a capable squad, especially when Queen is on, and if the pieces are clicking, their deficiencies can quickly become strengths.
Another must-win for New Mexico’s post-season resume, the week-long break was much needed after playing 11 college basketball games through the first five weeks (among the most played by any Division I program this season). If the improving Lobos squad’s offense is firing behind the crafty JaQuan Lyle and the success rebounding the ball continues, the high-volume (both in attendance and literal volume) crowd at The Pit should be celebrating having the premier team in New Mexico once more before the schedule eases up.