New Mexico vs San Jose State: Preview
New Mexico and San Jose State are looking for their first conference win.
New Mexico finishes their home stint against San Jose State on Friday.
WHO: New Mexico Lobos (7-13, 0-7 in the MWC) vs. San Jose State Spartans (7-11, 0-6 in the MWC)
WHEN: Friday, January 28th, 7:00 PM MT, 6:00 PM PT
WHERE: The Pit-Albuquerque, NM
STREAM: Mountain West Network
Line: KenPom, The Lobos are favored by 21 Points
SERIES RECORD: New Mexico leads all-time series 17-4
The past couple of weeks have brought Mountain West fans some exciting action. Just this past Tuesday we witnessed the “Battle for First Place” when Boise State beat Wyoming 65-62 at home.
There is another side to the conference standings and part of Friday night’s slate of Mountain West action we bear witness to the “Battle for Last Place”. New Mexico, who is winless in conference play hosts San Jose State (also winless in MWC play) inside The Pit on Friday.
San Jose State is riding a six game losing streak after their 63-53 home loss to Air Force on Tuesday. Junior guard Omari Moore led all scorers with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
While the host team is in the middle of their own losing streak (7 games) since their 65-60 home loss to Fresno State. The Lobos kept things close but ultimately fell to a hot handed Bulldogs squad who shot 47.8% from the floor. New Mexico’s one-two scoring punch of Jaelen House (19 points, 5 assists & 5 rebounds) and Jamal Mashburn Jr. (15 points, 1 rebound & 1 assists) combined for 34 of their teams 62 total points.
The last time these two programs met the Spartans secured their first win . The 83-71 San Jose State win inside Burns Arena in St. George, UT. Neither Tim Miles or Richard Pitino was on the floor in that game. But each team had a player still on their respective rosters who logged double-doubles. Omari Moore had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Lobo senior guard SaQuan Singleton 14 points and 11 assists.
Historically the Lobos have dominated prior meetings with the Spartans, winning three straight prior to last season’s loss. Including a 10-1 record at home against San Jose State.
Even though both coaches met on the floor in the Big Ten in years past (Miles leads 5-3). Both are locked in to their current program’s rebuilds and focused on the present. And at present time, the focus is a win on Friday night.
Players to Watch:
G Jaelen House–New Mexico
The Pac-12 transfer has been a part of a three-headed attack for first year head coach Richard Pitino. The Arizona State transfer is averaging 16.3 PPG 3.2 RPG and 4.8 APG along with 2.1 SPG both team highs.
House like the team’s leading scorer Jamal Mashburn Jr. (17.8 PPG) is an absolute bucket getter for the Lobos. Houses biggest strength is his ability to create his own shot offensively, his speed and defensive presence on the perimeter. Where the 6-1 guard could improve is his three point shot. House averages 5.1 attempts from deep a game, but shoots at a rate of only 28.1%.
W Omari Moore–San Jose State
Moore not only leads the Spartans in points (13.9 PPG), assists (4.6 APG) and steals (1.1 SPG) but is in the top two in rebounds (5.5 RPG) and blocks (1.2 BPG). Easy to say the 6-6 wing does a little bit of everything for first year head coach Tim Miles.
Moore get’s most of his points from driving forward and heading to the free throw line. But he can also knock down the three when necessary, averaging 47.4% on 38 attempts on the season.
Keys to the Game
For New Mexico: A Strong Defensive Effort
Yes, Richard Pitino’s Lobos are still in year one of a rebuild that may take multiple seasons to once again compete in an evolving Mountain West Conference.
“For Year 1, with kind of where our roster’s at without a true low post threat, I think the offense has been pretty good. It’s the defense that’s the issue.” said head coach Richard Pitino
New Mexico is giving up 78.2 PPG (341st in the nation) and allowing opposing teams to shoot 45.4% from the floor (303rd in the nation). Where the home team may hold the advantage in this one is their perimeter defense. House, Mashburn and Javonte Johnson are holding teams to just 33.1% from beyond the arc (185th in the nation) and Spartans like shoot.
The visiting squad is averaging 9.7 3-point makes a game (23rd in the nation) while shooting 37% as a whole. San Jose State gets 42.1% of it’s scoring from deep, which puts them at 10th in the entire country. If New Mexico can neutralize the Spartan three point shot and avoid fouling (Lobos avg. 19.4 fouls a game).
For San Jose State: Defend the Three
The Lobos don’t boast a a huge front court presence or depth down low at the moment. Junior forward Jay Allen-Tovar is proving productive again after a performance against Fresno State. Averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG & 1.0 BPG over his last four. But most of New Mexico’s scoring comes from their quartette of guards who tend to shoot plenty of threes (16.3 attempts per game).
If Tim Miles squad can run New Mexico’s trigger happy guards off of the perimeter and instead send them to the charity stripe. Where the Lobos are averaging 68.3% in conference play, they may have the edge and secure their head coach his first ever win in The Pit (0-5 at CSU).
Prediction: New Mexico 75, San Jose State 65
It’s a little too easy to say both of these squads are in need of a win to finish out the month of January. Both squads are winless in Mountain West play and are playing to avoid digging a deeper hole in last place.
The KenPom line on this one is a 21-point Lobo win inside The Pit. Although the disparity in KenPom rankings between the two programs might warrant that (UNM, SJSU). I’m not too convinced the Spartans won’t put up a good fight in Albuquerque, because they normally do.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.