The Lobos have a date with the top team in the Mountain West on Valentine’s Day, and they are even wearing special outfits for the occasion.
After pulling a 74-67 win at Air Force last week, the UNM men’s basketball team returns to WisePies Arena for Lobos Love Pink, an event that aims to help spread breast cancer awareness. The team will wear white jerseys with pink lettering, which will be auctioned off post-game to raise money for the UNM Cancer Center.
It won’t be an easy match as the opponents for the night are the Boise State Broncos, who find themselves at the top of the conference standings with a 16-7 overall record, including 9-3 in conference.
The Lobos sit in fourth place with a 15-10, 8-5 MW record, but are just a game and a half away from the top spot.
“You have to continue to push because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said head coach Craig Neal when talking about the Lobos working their way to the top.
Lobo and Cowboy players scramble for a loose ball Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at WisePies Arena.
Earlier this season, the Lobos managed to pull an 81-70 upset at Boise, Idaho thanks to four players scoring in double figures, and an almost perfect 21-for-22 shooting mark from the free throw line.
In the series between the two programs, which began in the spring of 2012, New Mexico leads 9-3 overall and 4-1 when playing in Albuquerque.
Neal said he was excited about the matchup against the Broncos, saying their team is playing really well and has a few key players that will be looking to give the Lobos a hard time.
One of those players is Chandler Hutcherson, a junior guard averaging 17.1 points per game who sits in three top five lists in the Mountain West Conference. He is fifth when it comes to average points per game, fourth in rebounds by averaging 8.57, and third in field goals made with a 51 percent accuracy rate.
The Lobos, however, have their own junior guard to rely on. Elijah Brown averages 18.8 points per game. The only other Lobo to average in double figures is senior forward Tim Williams, who is currently out with a foot injury.
During Monday’s press conference, Neal said Williams needed to rest his foot for at least four weeks. After this period, it would be up to the doctors to decide whether or not he can return.
“Tim Williams is that valuable. I guess he is our security blanket that we don’t have,” the coach said. “I think our guys have played at a high level considering losing a guy who by far is the best low post player that this league has seen in three years.”
In William’s absence, other players have stepped up, including sophomore Sam Logwood. The guard/forward scored 19 points over San Jose State on Feb. 4, and 17 points against Air Force last Wednesday.
The Broncos are currently riding a four-game winning streak. Their last result was a 76-66 victory over Air Force on Saturday, in which they shot 42 percent from the field, 67 percent from the free throw line and 42 percent from beyond the arc.
When New Mexico took down the Falcons, the Lobos also shot 42 percent 41.8 percent from the field. Their free throws were more productive with a 71.4 success rate, but 3-point accuracy, not among New Mexico’s strengths this season, was only at 36.4 percent.
Neal said he is confident the Lobos still have a chance at being one of the best, a quality the team has also exhibited this season.
“The biggest thing about my team right now is that I’m happy with the way they are playing with the stuff that we’ve had to go through,” he said.
The match is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
Isabel Gonzalez is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She mainly covers men’s soccer and basketball. She can be reached at sports @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @cisabelg.