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Friday, December 19, 2014

Men's Basketball: Conference wins add up

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Junior Guard Hugh Greenwood brings the ball down court while heavily guarded by a Colorado State Rams defender earlier this month. Saturday night’s game against last-place San Jose State marks UNM’s third home conference game in 2014. Men’s Basketball vs. San Jose State is this Saturday, 6:05 p.m. at The Pit.

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New Mexico’s road warriors return home to The Pit for the next two games, concluding a stretch of 17 days on the road in the last 24. So far the road has not tripped the Lobos up since Mountain West play began earlier this month.

The Lobos (16-4, 7-1 MW) have yet to lose a conference game in five outings away from Albuquerque this season. Only San Diego State can make the same claim since the Aztecs have not lost a game – conference or otherwise – since Nov. 14.

Over the next 10 games, the Lobos play at The Pit six times with four more road trips. There are no more trips with more than two consecutive games on the schedule until the Mountain West Basketball Championships in mid-March.

Saturday night’s game against last-place San Jose State marks UNM’s third home conference game in 2014, then the Lobos host Wyoming next Wednesday Feb. 5. UNM has one more slate of back-to-back home games at the end of February.

“The schedule’s pretty favorable for us,” UNM Head Coach Craig Neal said. “Hopefully we can take advantage of that, but it starts Saturday with San Jose State.”

The Lobos enter Saturday’s contest fresh off a 68-66 win at Colorado State and a 78-65 victory against Utah State. While UNM remains undefeated in Mountain West road games, SJSU (6-15, 0-9 MW) has not won away from home at all this season in five tries.

The Spartans’ last win came in their final non-conference game, an 87-59 win against Pacifica College.

SJSU’s current winless streak in conference play includes a previous meeting against New Mexico. Last time in San Jose the Lobos captured a 69-65 win and UNM guard Kendall Williams netted a team-high 19 points.

Coincidently, UNM endured its lowest shooting percentage in a Mountain West game this season, firing a 39 percent clip against SJSU. In every other conference game to this point, the Lobos shot 42.9 percent or better.

San Jose State suffered it’s worst loss since joining the Mountain West this year in a 70-46 loss to UNLV on Wednesday. The Spartans have been outscored by an average of 15 points in conference play and have been kept under 60 points in their last four games.

“It’s tough for them because they’re coming into a conference that’s a really good conference,” Neal said. “I think Utah State’s found that out (as well) like Nevada did last year.”

At 66 points per game through 21 games, SJSU ranked last among conference teams. Rashad Muhammad is the only Spartan to crack the top 20 in Mountain West scoring with 14.7 points per game.

UNM, meanwhile, have its big three offensive threats in the conference top 20: Cameron Bairstow is second at 20.4, Kendall Williams fourth at 18 and Alex Kirk 16th at 14.

Kirk’s status is still uncertain

Neal said Thursday that Kirk’s playing status remains day-to-day regarding the injury to his lower leg. Kirk has been sidelined for the last two games because of the injury.

The coach said Kirk was to visit a doctor late Thursday afternoon.

“I would suspect that he won’t play, but he could come in tomorrow and tell me that he’s fine, and the doctors could say he could go,” Neal said. “Then that’s a decision I have to make, but it’s up to Alex if he plays or not, depending how he feels.”

Men’s Basketball vs. San Jose State
Saturday,
6:05 p.m.
The Pit