Stevens: Neal's Lobos To Face Colorado State Rams
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/24/2014

New Mexico Lobos Basketball  -- On The Mountain West Road

Who/When: 2 p.m. (MT), Saturday –New Mexico (14-4, 5-1 MW) at Colorado State (12-7, 3-3)

On The Air: ESPN3 (internet only); 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network

GoLobos.com:  Game Story, Statistics, Quotes, Video Interviews

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.

It’s probably fair to say that Lobos fans would like to see a number of things Saturday when the Lobos step into Moby Arena to face the dangerous Colorado State Rams.

For sure, all Lobos want to see a victory because nobody needs to fall two games behind San Diego State in the loss column.

But Lobo fans – and Coach Craig Neal – also would like to see the Hugh Greenwood fellow who bombed Boise State for 20 points in UNM’s 84-75 Pit win make an appearance in Moby.

Greenwood’s performance vs. the Broncos was big for reasons beyond the 20 points.  It was Greenwood’s first double-digit game of the season and added another outside touch to take pressure off – and open up the paint – for New Mexico’s Twin Towers combination of 7-foot Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow. It also makes things easier for Kendall Williams.

Greenwood said he was “just trying to join the party” by contributing on the scoreboard and that’s a catch-22 situation.  Of course, it’s always nice to add point to the board. Eventually, those numbers decide who wins and loses.

But the Lobos have scorers.  Bairstow takes a 20.3 scoring average to Fort Collins followed by Kendall Williams at 17.8 and Kirk at 14.0.

But what happens when a team slows down one of the “Big Three” and another one has an off night?  Or if injury takes a bite out of the UNM roster like vs. the Rams where 7-foot Alex Kirk will not play due to a foot injury. Then the Lobos need another scorer and there is no reason Greenwood shouldn’t be the answer like he was against Boise State. He’s now a junior.

Greenwood has been hindered by a wrist injury and missed three games. The Lobos lost one of those – to New Mexico State.  UNM is a better team with Greenwood in the lineup and healthy. UNM is 65-13 with Greenwood as a starter.

The Lobos surely are a better team when Greenwood is aggressive offensively. Is it time Greenwood joined the party for good?  Well, that might be a game-to-game question, but Greenwood has enough talent to push his game to another level much like Bairstow has in 2013-14.

The fundamental stuff that Greenwood does is almost amazing statistically.  He has 14 turnovers in 15 games averaging 31.7 minutes a game. Williams has 40 turnovers in 35.7 minutes per game and freshman Cullen Neal has 41 in 20.6 minutes of playing time per game.  Greenwood is a rock with the rock. 

He also is No. 3 on the team in rebounding with a 5.1 average and is No. 2 on the team in assists.  He averages 6.3 points. 

Greenwood’s wrist looked back to normal in The Pit, but it also will be needed on the road, in the MW Tournament, in NCAA play.

It might be needed at Colorado State, too.  The Rams are good.

CSU made a little run at the Lobos in The Pit before falling 80-73. Daniel Bejarano burned UNM for 25 points, but Bairstow was a dagger for the Lobos with 29 points and Williams added 22. Greenwood had eight points and no turnovers.

Bejarano and teammate J.J. Avila are the only two players in the MW to rank among the league’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists per game. Avila is third in scoring (18.9), ninth in rebounding (7.4) and fifth in assists (3.5).  Bejarano is eighth (16.2), seventh (9.1) and 10th (3.2) in those categories.  This is a tough duo.

The Rams also are reaching that point of desperation.  This is yet another MW team feeling the wall creeping up toward its back and the Rams need to push away.  A win over UNM would be a big push. 

The Rams are 3-3 in league play and looking up at 6-0 SDSU and 5-1 New Mexico and 5-1 Nevada with league play about one-third over.  The Rams are around 150 in RPI and there is no NCAA bubble in the Rams’ future – unless they change things. Or win the MW Tournament.

Mountain West teams are looking to build confidence for the upcoming MW Tournament in Las Vegas where the NCAA gives hope to all with an automatic bid going to the winner. The Rams also don’t want to lose in Moby Gym. There are a lot of spurs in the Rams' side.

The Lobos have motivation, too.  You want to hang close with 17-1 SDSU.

Some coaches like to say in order to win a league title you have to win at home and split on the road.  That might not be the case in  2014 because of the Aztecs and because of the Lobos. Its a fair guess to say the one or both of these teams will win a lot of road games.

The Lobos are at CSU on Saturday and move on to Utah State for a 9 p.m., ESPNU tip with Utah State – another desperate MW team at 2-4 heading into a home battle on Saturday with SDSU. 

You can’t help but think someone will put that first dent in the Aztecs’ armor, but it until that happens, all teams eyeing a MW title while chasing the Aztecs need to go on the road with a sweep-sweep mentality.

Including New Mexico.