The New Mexico Lobos, the 20th-ranked team in the land, get their first look at the Nevada Wolf Pack as competing members in the Mountain West Conference when the two squads get together in The Pit on Saturday.
The Lobos were somewhat exposed last weekend when they were throttled by San Diego State on the road, 55-34, but the squad bounced back well with a 63-59 triumph over Wyoming earlier this week. With that victory, UNM has now won five of the last six outings, all in conference which places the Lobos at the top of the standings heading into the weekend.
As for Nevada, currently tied with Boise State for the sixth spot in the MWC at 2-4, it bowed to in-state rival UNLV on Tuesday night, 66-54, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Sin City. The Wolf Pack has now dropped two of the last three contests, and all but two since just after Christmas.
Rather surprisingly, this meeting is the first ever between these two schools.
Nevada buried itself with 16 turnovers and just 6-of-24 shooting behind the 3- point line on Tuesday night, bowing to UNLV in league play. Jerry Evans came up a rebound shy of a double-double as he tallied 14 points, his scoring output matched by Deonte Burton who accounted for seven assists and a pair of blocked shots for the visitors. Malik Story contributed nine points, but shot only 2-of-9 from the field. Story remains the second-leading scorer on the team through 20 games with his 15.5 ppg, but at this stage his accuracy from the floor has fallen to only 39.3 percent. Burton (16.5 ppg), who also paces the group in assists with 64, has made better decisions from the field overall (.469), but his 29.4 percent effort on the perimeter has dragged the entire team down to only 29.1 percent.
Now 4-0 in conference games decided by five points or less this season, the Lobos leaned heavily on Australians Cameron Bairstow and Hugh Greenwood, the former scoring a team-best 17 points and the latter recording a double-double with 13 and 10 rebounds in the close call against Wyoming on the road in Laramie. Also scoring in double figures for UNM were Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk with 12 and 10 points, respectively, with both performers coming up with six rebounds as they shot 5-of-10 from the floor. The Lobos survived despite shooting only 2-of-10 behind the 3-point line. Playing more than 35 minutes per game, Williams not only paces the program with his 14.0 ppg, he is also first in assists with 90. Tony Snell checks in with another 12.0 ppg and Kirk 11.3 ppg, to go along with a team-high 7.5 rpg.