New Mexico-New Mexico St. Preview
After handily getting past New Mexico State at home over the weekend, undefeated New Mexico could be in for a stiffer test on the road.
The Lobos, though, haven't had much trouble in Las Cruces of late.
No. 16 New Mexico aims for a home-and-home sweep of the Aggies, who try to stay unbeaten on their own court Wednesday night.
Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams led the way with 15 points apiece Saturday as the Lobos (11-0) cruised past New Mexico State 73-58. New Mexico recorded a season-high 11 blocks, limited the Aggies to 32.8 percent shooting and held a 37-33 edge on the glass - an area that could prove key again Wednesday.
"A telling statistic is rebounding," said New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies, whose team has a rebounding differential of plus-8.2 per game. "Any time you're outrebounded, typically the team is a little more aggressive, usually a little tougher. And they just out-toughed us (Saturday) on the glass, which is an area that we take a lot of pride in."
Daniel Mullings, who leads the Aggies with 13.9 points per game, scored 14 but was his team's only player in double figures.
Having their way with New Mexico State (5-5) is nothing new for the Lobos, who've taken nine of 10 in this series - including four straight road matchups. New Mexico posted an 89-69 victory last season in Las Cruces.
"It's a rivalry so there's a lot of feel behind it," Williams said. "We hope they don't walk away (from Saturday's game) thinking they have a chance to compete with us wherever we play. ... Every game is important, especially on the road."
The Lobos, who needed overtime to defeat Indiana State 77-68 on Dec. 1 in their only true road game, may find themselves in another tight contest Wednesday. New Mexico State has limited opponents to an average of 52.5 points and 31.8 percent shooting in opening 4-0 at home for the first time since a 6-0 start there in 2008-09.
The Aggies, though, could have their hands full with Kirk again. The 7-foot sophomore had a career-high five blocks Saturday and has scored in double figures in eight straight games.
"I said it a long time ago: He's going to be one of the best centers in the west," coach Steve Alford said. "And he just continues to improve and get better and prove those things right. I think he's a tremendous talent. ... He's getting much better defensively."
The Lobos have also received a huge boost from senior Chad Adams, who had a season-best 13 points against the Aggies and is averaging 11.3 in four games this month - nearly quadruple his career mark of 3.0.
"Everybody is happy right now. This is the happiest I've seen coach Alford in a long time," Adams said. "Everything is going really well, it's really fun and team morale and camaraderie is great.
"We obviously can't stay undefeated forever, but everyone is coming together to make it last as long as we can."
New Mexico, which opened 12-0 in 2009-10, continues to inch closer to its best start in school history. The Lobos won their first 17 games in 1967-68.
New Mexico State has dropped 10 straight against Top 25 foes by an average of 12.3 points. The Aggies nearly pulled off an upset in their only home matchup over that stretch, falling 58-54 to then-No. 25 Utah State on March 2, 2011.