New Mexico St.-New Mexico Preview
While New Mexico was caught off guard during New Mexico State's last visit to Albuquerque, the undefeated Lobos know better than to overlook the Aggies this time around.
Looking to go to 11-0, No. 17 New Mexico tries for a ninth victory in 10 matchups against New Mexico State as these rivals begin a home-and-home set Saturday in The Pit.
The Lobos have won 19 of 20 home games against unranked foes since the start of last season, with their only loss coming 62-53 to New Mexico State on Nov. 16, 2011. New Mexico, which had previously taken eight straight home meetings in this series by an average of 12.8 points, had 21 turnovers in that game and shot 28.0 percent - its worst mark since March 2000.
"They are a good group and there are bragging rights on the line," Lobos guard Hugh Greenwood said. "We weren't ready for it and they hit us first. We regretted it and it hurt us throughout the season."
While New Mexico got some revenge with an 89-69 win at New Mexico State last Dec. 28, it will surely be looking for more come Saturday.
"They won in here last year and not a lot of people can do that or have done that," coach Steve Alford said. "It hasn't sat well with us that we lost a non-conference game in here."
Though Alford's team should have an edge playing at home - these schools meet again Wednesday in Las Cruces - he's wary of the Aggies (5-4), who enter this game having won four of five following a 58-52 victory at South Alabama on Dec. 4.
"They're a very good team. They are big. They are athletic again," he said. "We're playing pretty well. ... They are playing pretty well. It should be a great matchup. We know this is a very difficult test, but it is one I think our guys are prepared for."
New Mexico allowed its fewest points this season and forced a season-high 23 turnovers last Saturday in a 65-52 win over Valparaiso. The Lobos, though, only held a 25-22 rebounding edge over the Crusaders, an effort that may not cut it against New Mexico State.
"They have a plus-9.5 rebound average," Alford said. "That's the thing that really comes to the forefront with them. That's an incredible rebounding advantage. So, I think it starts with the backboard.
"If we defend the way we are capable of defending, we kind of ease the pressure of the backboard."
Chad Adams, Alex Kirk and reserve Demetrius Walker each scored 12 points for the Lobos last weekend. Adams, who totaled six points in his first three games, is averaging 8.7 on 53.1 percent shooting over his last six since moving into the starting lineup.
"Chad has been tremendous. He has had a five- or six-game stretch that has been really special," Alford said. "He is making shots and free throws. We are asking a lot out of him and he has delivered for us."
Adams and the Lobos could struggle to put points on the board against the Aggies, who've limited opponents to 59.6 points per game and 37.9 percent shooting to rank second in the Western Athletic Conference in both categories.
New Mexico State, which is led by Daniel Mullings' 13.9 points per game, has lost 16 of 17 matchups against Top 25 foes, including nine straight by an average of 12.0 points.