Lobos host Air Force with eyes on staying in second place

Lobos host Air Force with eyes on staying in second place

Mountain West Basketball

Lobos host Air Force with eyes on staying in second place

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New Mexico vs. Air Force: Game Preview, TV, Radio, Live Stream, Odds, More


Lobos trying to keep share of 2nd place in the MW


Contact/Follow @andrewdieckhoff & @MWCwire

New Mexico will look to tame the Falcons after Air Force’s big win earlier this week

GAME DETAILS

WHO: Air Force (8-8, 2-2 MWC) at New Mexico (14-3, 3-1 MWC)

WHEN: Saturday, January 11 — 4:00 P.M. MT / 3:00 P.M. PT

WHERE: DreamStyle Arena, Albuquerque, New Mexico

WATCH: Stadium/Facebook

LISTEN: 96.3 KKOB; Listen Live

ALL-TIME: New Mexico leads the series, 60-23

ODDS: New Mexico -9, per KenPom

GAME PREVIEW

New Mexico will look to keep at least a share of second place in the Mountain West, as the Falcons of Air Force descend upon The Pit on Saturday.

The Lobos are 3-1 in league play so far, trailing only undefeated San Diego State and currently tied with Nevada and UNLV in the standings. Aside from the Aztecs, Paul Weir’s crew has the best overall record in the MW at 14-3, with their loss to San Jose State last week serving as the only defeat since their November 25 tilt with unbeaten Auburn.

New Mexico was back to their winning ways earlier this week, dispatching Fresno State with ease, 78-64. JaQuan Lyle has continued to look like a clear All-Mountain West talent, registering a double-double with 14 points and ten assists.

Even more encouraging for the Lobos is the recent explosion of Vance Jackson. He scored 29 points against the Bulldogs after posting 25 in the loss to the Spartans. Jackson has finished in double figures in five straight games after completing the feat just twice in the team’s first 11 contests.

Adding that extra scoring punch has come at a perfect time as Carlton Bragg makes his way back into the offense. The senior forward was averaging a double-double on the season before his suspension last month. After missing three games, Bragg returned against Fresno State but was ineffective, scoring just two points in 22 minutes on the floor.

But if Weir can get all of his pieces working at the same time, the Lobos may have an outside shot at sneaking into the Big Dance.

Air Force, meanwhile, has finally risen back to .500 after wiping the floor with Utah State on Tuesday. On the back of its stout offense, this Falcons team has started to turn things around after a disappointing 2-5 start to the year. Until the game against the Aggies, though, it wasn’t clear whether this team should be considered much of a threat in the Mountain West.

But Dave Pilipovich and the Falcons made their point.

Ryan Swan had a night to remember against Utah State, scoring a season-high 31 points and adding 11 rebounds. He has overtaken fellow senior Lavelle Scottie as the Falcons’ leading scorer on the season, with sophomore guard AJ Walker not far behind. The trio averages a combined 40 points per night, and both Swan and Walker are shooting over 50% on the year.

As a team, the Falcons have shot at one of the best clips in the country, posting an effective field goal percentage that ranks among the nation’s five best. That number is especially impressive when Scottie’s shooting woes are taken into account. The 6’7” senior was one of the league’s best shooters a year ago, but has struggled to the tune of 47% on two-pointers and 44% overall from the floor.

If he can get hot – and stay that way – Air Force could be a dangerous matchup for just about anyone in the Mountain West.

They’ll test that theory against the Lobos on Saturday.

Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.

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