New Mexico basketball took care of business on Wednesday to get back in the win column and has a chance to notch its first victory outside of Dreamstyle Arena on Saturday against UTEP.
The Lobos (3-4, 0-0 MW) handled Evansville in their most recent matchup, a 78-59 triumph over the Purple Aces. But UNM has struggled outside the comforts of home, posting an 0-3 record so far this season.
UTEP has problems of its own. The Miners won their season opener by 50 points—pounding Louisiana College 100-50 at the Don Haskins Center, but have lost six straight games since then.
The losing streak, coupled with the retirement of head coach Tim Floyd, likely has UTEP trying to make adjustments on the fly to get things back on the right track.
The Miners (1-6, 0-0 C-USA) don't seem to have the formula figure out just yet, suffering an 80-60 home loss at the hands of New Mexico State—which was their second loss to the Aggies in five days.
Texas-El Paso is also expected to be without its big man, Matt Willms. His 7-1 post presence could have presented a lot of problems for UNM, especially with the Lobos smaller roster size. New Mexico has experienced a lack of production in defensive rebounding and also struggled defending the paint at times this season, so Willms' absence could have a big impact.
UTEP has had its own issues rebounding the basketball, getting outworked on the glass by an average of 4.1 rebounds per game. The Miners have averaged 35.9 rebounds per game compared to 34.7 by the Lobos, so that could be a key statistical category to keep an eye on.
New Mexico has shot significantly better from the field, especially from beyond the arc and seem to be more fluid in its offense as well. The Lobos have made about twice as many 3-pointer per game compared to the Miners.
The Lobos have also been doing well at sharing the ball, averaging better than 18 assists per game, but have been streaky at times as well—especially on the road.
Senior Sam Logwood and junior guard Chris McNeal will probably be relied on to set the tone for New Mexico. McNeal is the team's leading scorer at 16.6 points and Logwood is close behind at 15.7 per game.
UTEP's guard combo of Keith Frazier and Omega Harris could be names to watch out for on the other side. Frazier has averaged 12.9 and figures to shoulder even more of the load with Willms expected to be out of the lineup.
UNM has also found hit-and-miss success by applying pressure in the background and continuing to trap ball handlers after half court, turning its opponents over 21.3 times per contest.
But interim head coach Phil Johnson said in a release that the Miners have been preparing for the full-court pressure and will be ready for it.
Both teams will probably be looking to dictate the pace and settle into some kind of offensive consistency—the school that can avoid having a long scoreless drought could have the inside track if it is able to pull away and create some separation.
The game will be the first time New Mexico has traveled to face UTEP in the Don Haskins Center since 2009. The renewed rivalry will tip-off at 7 p.m. with the game available to steam on cusa.tv and the radio broadcast being carried on 770 KKOB-AM.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.