New Mexico Lobos Basketball -- On The Mountain West Road
Who/When: 7:15 p.m. (MT), Wednesday; New Mexico (18-4, 9-1 MW) at Boise State (15-9, 5-6)
On TV: CBS Sports Network (DirecTV 221, Comcast 274/838 HD, DISH 158)
On The Radio: 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: Live Stats, Game Story, Statistics, Quotes
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
In a way, this is just another, ordinary, run-of-the-mill Mountain West road game for Craig Neal’s Lobos because nothing has changed, nothing is different.
A home team will be jacked up, fired up, revved up to slap down the New Mexico Lobos. And so will the home team fans.
“I’m sure they’ll be ready to play against us,” said Neal. “It’s a big night for them.”
For the Boise State Broncos, it’s Black Out Night. Broncos in black uniforms. Fans in black. Dark thoughts for the Lobos. But, so far, no Mountain West home team has been able to bring down the Lobos.
UNM’s 9-1 MW mark has been blemished only by a Pit loss to UNLV. On Wednesday night in the Taco Bell Arena, the Boise State Broncos – the team picked by at least one publication to win the Mountain West title – takes their shot at the Lobos.
“If you had told me in November, we’d be 9-1 right now, ‘would you take it?’ I’d take it,” said Neal.
For sure, the Lobos need this one. as a win would put UNM into a first place tie with the 10-1, No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs. For sure, the Broncos need this one simply because the Broncos probably are too good to be 5-6 in the Mountain race and need to slip out of a 3-game losing skid that includes a 67-65 loss to SDSU.
The Broncos, like every other team, also like to please the home crowd.
The Broncos may have a few bad marks on the loss side of their ledger, but they don’t have too many bad losses on the scoreboard. They lost by four at SDSU, by two to Wyoming, by seven to Fresno State, by four at UNLV, by six at Utah State.
“Conference is hard,” said Neal.
Boise’s worst MW loss was by nine in The Pit and that was with Derrick Marks scoring 19 points, Ryan Watkins pulling down 22 rebounds (11 offensive) and Boise going 19-of-22 from the free-throw line.
“They are a potent offensive team, so we are going to have to guard them,” said Neal. “If we can dictate tempo and score the ball in the paint, we should have some success.”
The Lobos got 32 points from their Twin Tower combo of 7-1 Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow, but that duo combined for only five boards when Boise came to The Pit. UNM got a huge 20 points from Hugh Greenwood and 18 from Kendall Williams. UNM shot 63.6 percent in the second half and a torrid 57.1 percent for the game.
Will the Lobos match those numbers on the road? If the Broncos have a key word for UNM's visit, it might be: defense.
UNM’s leading rebounder (nine boards) in game one was Deshawn Delaney, who is dealing with a toe injury and might not play at Boise. “Right now, we are planning on him playing,” said Neal.
But for how long? The likely replacements for Delaney are freshman Cullen Neal or Cleveland Thomas.
“I’m sure we have enough guys on our bench to recover,” said Neal. “We won two games on the road without the best center (Kirk) in the league. It’s not like we haven’t been able to win games without a starter.”
Boise State is led inside by Watkins (11.0 ppg, 10.6 rebounds), who is one of 16 players in D-I ball averaging a double-double. The Broncos boast one of the league’s top-scoring guard combos in Derrick Marks (16.0) and Anthony Drmic (17.2).
Boise’s Jeff Elorriaga shoots 47 percent from 3-point range. Drmic had nine points at UNM and Elorriaga did not score. Boise State shot 8-of-26 from 3-point range in that loss.
“Marks played really well, but we took a lot of things away (in other places) that we wanted to take away, that’s why he was successful,” said Neal. “Marks is definitely one of those guys we have to contain. He’s a high-level player. We have to contain his dribble penetration and can’t let them get going on threes.”
Marks penetrated well in The Pit because UNM didn’t give much help defense off the edge because of Boise’s ability to knock down threes. UNM will have the same concern in the Taco Bell Arena.
Coach Neal says tempo is important. Boise averages 77.1 points and UNM scores at a 76.5 clip. Boise gives up 68.5 points a game and UNM yields 69.4. Boise averages 46 percent from the floor and UNM averages 45 percent.
The Lobos have the edge in defensive stats and both teams are solid in honoring possessions. UNM averages 10.6 turnovers a game and Boise State averages 10.1.
The Lobos return to The Pit on Saturday to host Nevada.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.