New Mexico vs. Grand Canyon: Game Preview, TV, Radio Schedule, Livestream, Odds, More
The Lobos could make it six straight if the hunt against the Antelopes is successful.
Dan Majerle’s squad has not looked as good as expected against a soft schedule, but will the ‘Lopes surprise?
WHO: New Mexico Lobos (10-2) vs. Grand Canyon Antelopes (4-8)
WHEN: Tuesday, December 17 — 7:00 PM MT
WHERE: Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit, Albuquerque, NM (15,411)
STREAM: Mountain West Network
SERIES RECORD: Tied 1-1
ODDS: New Mexico -12.5
The New Mexico Lobos (10-2, 2-0 MWC) host the Grand Canyon Antelopes (4-8, 0-0 WAC) at Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit in Albuquerque on Tuesday.
New Mexico is currently enjoying a five game winning streak heading into the contest, hot on the heels of a 69-62 win over New Mexico state to complete a sweep of the in-state rival. Carlton Bragg earned the Mountain West Conference’s Player of the week accolade in part because of his performance in the Rio Grande Rivalry, scoring 17 for the Lobos and pulling down 17 rebounds.
Grand Canyon’s strife has persisted through 12 games, despite just the 244th ranked strength of schedule according to KenPom.com. The ‘Lopes are coming off a thumping by Northern Iowa in a game which saw the Phoenix-based team struggle to produce offensively, shooting a mere 4-24 from the field. Although, the offensive deficiencies aren’t an anomaly.
The team is scoring just 66.3 points per game. And the defense hasn’t been there either. Giving up 71.3 points per game, Grand Canyon is ranked 254th among NCAA teams in opponents points per game.
While New Mexico has allowed nearly as many points per game (70.3, 216th), a consistent, physical offense has allowed the Lobos to simply outscore opponents from the floor and by way of free throws.
High major transfers JaQuan Lyle (17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1 steal per game) and JJ Caldwell (6.0 pouints, 4.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.3 steals per game) have been especially effective in leading New Mexico’s offense while Carlton Bragg (13.0 points, 10.6 rebounds,1.3 steals, 1.5 blocks per game) has been increasingly effective in the paint, both offensively and defensively. Lyle and Bragg are second in the Mountain West conference in points and rebounds per game respectively, while Caldwell leads the league in assists. Four Lobos averaging double-digit minutes are also averaging a field goal percentage greater than 50% (Carlton Bragg, Corey Manigault, Makuach Maluach and Keith McGee). Reserves Manigault and Maluach are among the most efficient shooters in the Mountain West Conference.
Grand Canyon’s high-major transfer Jaylen Fisher (career averages of 10.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 40.9% three point field goal percentage in three seasons with TCU) and Oscar Frayer (7.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists as in 2018-2019 at Grand Canyon) are out for the semester for academic reasons and Phoenix, AZ native J.J Rhymes (5.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists per game on the season) is out with a season-ending injury, but the team should get a much needed boost from Mikey Dixon, a solid transfer by way of Quinnipiac and then St. John’s (NY). All in all, the roster changes leave a short rotation of just seven players.
Of that rotation, four players are scoring in double figures, led by big man Alessandro Lever (14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game). Contributions from remaining starters Carlos Johnson (13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists 1.3 steals per game), Isiah Brown (11.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals per game), Jovan Blacksher Jr. (11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals per game) and Lorenzo Jenkins (9.3 points, 2.7 rebounds per game) have been balanced, but no single player is shooting better than Lever’s 49.6% field goal percentage, perhaps a function of the short bench for the once up-and-coming Antelopes.
That short rotation may be to New Mexico’s advantage, a team that likes to play a physical brand of basketball, getting in the paint and getting to the line.
In a press conference following New Mexico’s win over New Mexico State, Paul Weir commented on his team’s strategy:
“That’s our bread and butter. We like to score points in the paint. That’s what we do. We don’t rely on the three. That’s why you don’t see a lot of variance in us. Like, we are who we are. We don’t rely on making fifteen threes or if we only make two we’re going to lose. You know, we have, kind of, a bread and butter and we stick to it and we’ve been . . . down this road many times. . . It’s hard to play post defense against these guys. I mean, Carlton (Bragg) and Corey (Manigault) and JaQuan (Lyle) are – they’re tough dudes to guard down there for a full 40 and I think as the game unfolds they get more room to kind of operate.”
For Grand Canyon to be competitive, they’ll have to be able to make stops in the paint and make shots that they have not been making so far on the year, especially from distance.
If New Mexico is to avoid a potential quadrant four loss, and a major stain to a still-alive at-large bid, they’ll have to remain focused, without overlooking their opponent on Tuesday night after an emotional rivalry win.
Or as Weir put it, “It’s a great challenge for us because this is obviously a very emotional game (against New Mexico State) on a Saturday and we’ve got to turn around and play a game on a Tuesday against a good basketball team. . . It’s on us to emotionally, kind of, re-engineer ourselves and get back to where we need to get back to to win Tuesday night. . .They’re a very capable basketball team.”