Las Vegas Invitational: New Mexico Opens Against UAB
New Mexico gets UAB in Thanksgiving opener at the Las Vegas Invitational
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Lobos find themselves in a tough round one in the Las Vegas Invitational
WHO: New Mexico Lobos (4-1, 0-0 MWC) vs. UAB Blazers (4-1, 0-0 CUSA)
WHEN: Thursday, November 25th – 4:00 PM CST / 5:00 PM MST
WHERE: Orleans Arena – Las Vegas, NV
STREAMING: FuboTV – Get a seven-day free trial
SERIES RECORD: New Mexico leads, 1-0
LAST MATCHUP: November 21, 2013 – No. 19 New Mexico won 97-93 in double overtime during the Charleston Classic
ODDS: UAB -12.0
OVER UNDER: 147.5
Las Vegas, NV – The 2021 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational isn’t a tournament with a gamut of household names. The tournament, minted 18 years ago, had its last rendition in 2019, when fellow Mountain West program San Diego State won the tournament against the likes of Creighton and Iowa in what would become a banner year for the Aztecs prior to the NCAA Tournament’s cancellation in 2020. The Aztecs finished out the season ranked 6th in the nation.
And though the programs involved this time around aren’t the quintessential powerhouses that have been and will be busy participating in other November tournaments, the Las Vegas Invitational still has a surprisingly decent field, with the Lobos considered to be the heaviest underdogs among the four clubs involved.
New Mexico can hope to capitalize on the same Thanksgiving tournament success that the Aztecs had just 2 years ago.
First on the docket for the Lobos is a Thanksgiving Day matchup with an experienced UAB team.
“They play hard, they’re scrappy – it’s going to be a very challenging game, very challenging. We’ve got to be ready,” said Richard Pitino of the Blazers, which are currently part of Conference USA, and expected to compete in the AAC starting in 2023. “UAB is a team that’s going to win a lot of games this year.”
Like New Mexico, UAB enters the game at 4-1, with their lone loss a close one against a power 5 conference opponent. While New Mexico was within 3 points of the PAC-12’s Colorado Buffaloes, UAB lost a close one to the SEC’s South Carolina Gamecocks, 66-63.
UAB, led by point guard Jordan Walker (17.0 points, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals per game), was picked by the media to win Conference USA behind a bevy of Juniors and Seniors. He is complemented in double figure scoring by Quan Jackson (14.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game) and Michael Ertel (12.0 points per game). But it is the size and strength of junior big men Trey Jemison (7.2 points, 7.8 rebounds per game, 70.8 FG%) and Josh Leblanc Sr. (4.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 62.5 FG%) that will pose the biggest matchup issue for New Mexico, which is a far leaner team.
It will be critical for the Lobos to keep the board differential under control to have a chance to move onto the championship. Keeping Jemison and Leblanc off of the glass will be no easy feet.
Key matchup – Jordan Walker (17.0 points, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals) vs. Jaelen House (19.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 steals)
Both Walker and House are lightning quick guards that open up their team’s offense flow tremendously. This should be a fun matchup that could heavily influence the game (so long as House is cleared to play).
New Mexico: Jaelen House (Questionable, ankle), Emmanuel Kuac (Questionable, knee), Saquan Singleton (Probable, Heart)
UAB: No injuries