New Mexico vs. New Mexico State Postponed
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A surging New Mexico Lobos squad hosts in-state rivals New Mexico State in first installment of the season.
Saturday’s basketball game between New Mexico and New Mexico State University was postponed after police reported an on-campus shooting on the campus of New Mexico that early Saturday morning.
UPDATE on tonight's game… pic.twitter.com/lfXsSlNNVq
— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) November 19, 2022
BREAKING: Tonight's NMSU Aggies at UNM Lobo basketball game in the Pit is postponed after involvement of an NMSU player in an overnight homicide on UNM's campus (the player is NOT the deceased) https://t.co/A2GCj1yoRL via @ABQJournal
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) November 19, 2022
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW:
WHO: New Mexico (3-0, 0-0 in the MWC) vs. New Mexico State (1-1, 0-0 in the WAC)
WHEN: Saturday, November 18th, 5:00 PM MT
WHERE: University Arena AKA “The Pit”, Albuquerque, NM
STREAM: Mountain West Network
Line: KenPom, The Lobos are favored by 5 points
SERIES RECORD: New Mexico leads all-time series 124-102
For college basketball fans in the Land of Enchantment, the always highly anticipated Rio Grande Rivalry is a circled date on the calendar annually. Both programs always make things interesting, no matter the rankings and no matter the head coaches.
A sweep in the series is coveted and tough to achieve. Not too hard for former head coach Chris Jans, now at Mississippi State after last season’s NCAA Tournament run with the Aggies. Jans went 5-3 against the Lobos during his time in Las Cruces. Including two sweeps and four straight wins in his first two seasons. First year Aggies head coach Greg Heiar is looking to put his mark on the state’s biggest rivalry.
New Mexico comes home after a fruitful road trip to Dallas, TX. Securing a quality 83-64 win against SMU inside Moody Coliseum. This statement win puts the Lobos at 3-0 on the season. And with confidence as well as winning momentum heading into their weekend rivalry match up.
Second year head coach Richard Pitino’s squad is really modeling that Mountain West Sleeper tag given to them in preseason coverage. A win Saturday could help cement that label and put the team in great shape heading into next week and as hosts of the Lobo Classic.
Their counterparts, the New Mexico State Aggies are in a bit of a rebuilding mode this season. Although it’s hard to call a squad with two former SEC starting guards and a Junior College First Team All-American “a rebuild”. Still, losing a three time WAC Coach of the Year Chris Jans and nearly the entire roster from last season’s historic squad is tough. And the transition pains are already showing.
The Aggies are 1-1 through two games thus far. With a 49-point win over D-II opponent New Mexico Highlands in the season opener. And then a more revealing 67-64 loss on the road to I-25 rival UTEP, inside Don Haskins Arena last Saturday.
With such a heralded recruiting class, and ties to the same coaching tree coach Jans hailed from. Expectations haven’t changed in Las Cruces for coach Heiar. That means the pressure to win is on. And winning against your two rivals is a must. Already down 0-1 in that category, Saturday could either be a huge boost to morale inside the program or a nuclear bomb.
The last time these two programs met on the hardwood was Dec. 6th of last year. The Aggies secured a 76-74 revenge win inside the Pit. This after the Lobos traveled south, breaking the 100-point seal in their 101-94 victory inside the Pan Am Center. Most of New Mexico State’s squad is gone from that series, and several key Lobos have yet to play in minute in this rivalry. But coach Pitino is 1-1 against their southern neighbors. While his star backcourt, Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. average 48.5 PPG combined against the Aggies.
But a near sold out University Arena, AKA The Pit and two hungry squads are going to make for must watch TV Saturday night. With more on the line than meets the eye.
Players to Watch:
G Jaelen House–New Mexico
The Lobos floor general and spark plug has helped lead New Mexico into the national spotlight after their 21-point road win on Tuesday. The 6-0 senior guard is averaging team highs in scoring (20.7 PPG), assists (6.3 APG) & steals (3.3 SPG) through three contests. For those who have not yet caught a glimpse of him. House is a lightening quick, gritty do it all floor general for the Lobos.
House AND-1 opens the second half scoring for the Lobos!! #GoLobos pic.twitter.com/c86571ZYm2
— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) November 12, 2022
With the ability to drive through traffic, shoot the open three and get down hill at will. He’s also a very capable distributor and perimeter defender. But he will face some very difficult defensive foes Saturday. In either Xavier Pinson, DaJuan Gordon or Deshawndre Washington. All lengthy, quick and strong. Well it’s a good thing House has help, to take the attention away from him for just long enough. Just look at highlights from his performance at SMU, most of his damage was done in the second-half.
G Deshawndre Washington–New Mexico State
House’s counterpart you may ask? The 6-7 Aggie floor general and swiss army knife Deshawndre Washington. The Juco transfer apparently spurned high major offers to follow his head coach from Northwest Florida State to Las Cruces this offseason. The Chicago, IL native headlined a monster recruiting class that gave fans and media following the Aggie program confidence in the transition between coaching staffs.
Washington like House has an effective partner in the backcourt, former LSU starter Xavier Pinson. Averaging 4.5 APG over two games, plenty of those looks find their way to Washington. With his frame, athleticism and skill set. The point forward can do a little bit of everything from the floor. Averaging 17.5 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 6.0 APG & 1.5 SPG through two games. While posting a triple-double in the Aggies’ season opener and double-double at UTEP.
Pinson puts it on a platter for @Nogood_24!💥#AggieUp pic.twitter.com/QtUeC2lJ7F
— NM State MBB (@NMStateMBB) November 8, 2022
Keys to the Game
For New Mexico: A balanced attack, Create turnovers & Stay out of foul trouble
In the Lobos’ recent thrashing of SMU on the road in Dallas, it seemed as if everything was going right for coach Pitino’s squad. To secure the first win of this rivalry series, New Mexico is going to have to provide fans an encore performance at home Saturday afternoon.
They’ll have to create turnovers and find a way to maximize those opportunities as they did in Dallas (20 points off of 15 forced turnovers). The Aggies themselves appear to be struggling with ball handling issues at the moment. With 20 turnovers to a mere 8 assists in their road loss in El Paso. The Lobos will also have to minimize defensive fouls as they did against SMU as well (only 16 Lobo fouls). To help keep their best players on the court. As New Mexico’s starters account for nearly 83.8% of the teams total scoring average at the moment.
Lastly they’ll need a balanced offensive attack against the Aggies. By balanced I don’t mean contributions from multiple players. I mean finding a way to get buckets at all speeds. The Lobos have a near top-30 fast paced playing tempo (per KenPom) in the entire country. The Aggies are not to far behind (138th) and have very capable players who could thrive in the open court.
New Mexico will have to find a way to keep their offensive tempo balanced. If their forced into a relay race or even worse a hacking contest to see who can make the most free throws to win, their in trouble.
For New Mexico State: Protect the paint, Attack the rim & Limit turnovers.
The Aggies may have had more time off to rest before Saturday’s showdown. But the momentum is almost all on the Lobos side. The visiting squad needs to find a way to protect the paint, attack the rim and play with stable ball control.
As mentioned above, the Lobos play fast. And a part of that fast game is having their guards drive to the rim, take mid-range jumpers and get the ball to their bigs. The Lobos take 70.1% of their shots from inside the arc, and make an even higher rate of those shots versus three pointers (79.9%). Coach Heiar’s squad won’t be able to be the Lobos at their own game, but slowing things down and protecting the paint could force the Lobos to attempt three point shots. An area they do lack in, making just 6.0 three-point field goals a game while shooting 32.7% from distance.
Attacking the rim may also be the key to an upset on the road. And attacking the rim and putting their starting bigs in foul trouble could hurt. New Mexico doesn’t have the most deepest frontcourt depth coming off of the bench. Removing their double-digit scoring starting frontcourt could really hurt their scoring efficiency and force House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. into tougher shots. Lastly, take good care of the ball. The Lobos thrived off of forcing turnovers last game and it could have well been the Aggies kryptonite. If they protect the ball, New Mexico State should even the playing field.
Prediction: New Mexico 78, New Mexico State 73
The KenPom line in this one is a five-point Lobo win at home. Given New Mexico’s run of form and home court advantage, I think it’s going to be a close one but a Lobo win nonetheless.
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.