After barely escaping with a win in their latest outing, the 19th-ranked New Mexico Lobos hope to have an easier time of it on Saturday night when they entertain the Boise State Broncos in Mountain West Conference play in The Pit.
On the road at Fresno State a few nights ago, the Lobos logged their fourth win in five tries, but not before trailing by 13 points in the first half to the Bulldogs and 31-20 at intermission. New Mexico battled back in the second half to claim the 54-48 win in order to move to 8-2 in conference play and remain all alone atop the MWC standings as a result.
Meanwhile, the Broncos were a team that opened the 2012-13 campaign with 13 wins in 15 opportunities, but since then they've had a hard time coming out on top consistently. Although, last weekend the Broncos did play well enough to secure a 68-61 win over Wyoming at home, the team's second victory in the last three outings, but still they are just 4-5 in conference play.
The series between these two schools only began last season when BSU made the switch from the Western Athletic Conference to the MWC and unfortunately for the Broncos, all three previous encounters have been won by New Mexico. The latest battle took place last month at Taco Bell Arena in Boise where the Lobos posted a 79-74 overtime victory.
Boise State, which had a total of just three MWC wins all of last season, managed to exceed that number last weekend as Anthony Drmic opened up with a team-best 21 points and seven rebounds in the seven-point victory over Wyoming at home. Derrick Marks added 17 points and five boards in order to combat his five turnovers and give the Broncos their first season sweep of a Mountain West foe since joining the league last year.
A starter in all 22 games in which he has appeared, Marks paces the Broncos in scoring with 16.6 ppg and is also first ion assists (79) and steals (44) as he gives his all at both ends of the floor. Drmic (16.1 ppg) and Jeff Elorriaga (10.3 ppg) are tasked with giving the Broncos an efficient perimeter presence by combining to shoot 116-of-271 behind the 3-point line as the team shoots a solid 40 percent on the outside overall in order to outscore the competition by more than nine points per game at the moment.
Through nearly eight minutes to start the game against Fresno State, the Lobos had a total of only four points, before Tony Snell sank a 3-pointer to cut the team's deficit to two points at 9-7. Steve Alford's squad shot a dismal 25.9 percent from the floor in the first half, but perked up after the break by both hitting 48.3 percent from the field and also holding the hosts to just seven made field goals in order to steal away the victory. Kendall Williams scored a team-best 13 points and handed out five assists, followed by Snell and Alex Kirk with 10 points apiece, the latter adding nine rebounds and six blocked shots as well.
Kirk (11.4 ppg) is third on the team in scoring behind Williams (13.3 ppg) and Snell (11.6 ppg), but his presence in the paint cannot be understated as he pulls down 7.8 rpg and has rejected 41 shots. By altering countless other shots, Kirk has helped the Lobos to reduce the accuracy of the opponents to only 39.3 percent from the floor, resulting in just 60.7 ppg over the course of 25 contests.