A short-handed University of New Mexico men's basketball will hit the road to take on Utah State, hoping to extend its current three-game winning steak.
But it could be a big challenge for New Mexico (11-11, 6-3 MW), which will be without the services of Sam Logwood, Antino Jackson, Vladimir Pinchuk and Jachai Simmons.
Jackson's absence came as a surprise to many, as a tweet from the senior transfer made the announcement that he would not play in Wednesday night's matchup against Utah State.
Geoff Grammar of the Albuquerque Journal referred to the situation as "an in-house issue", which means the impact felt by Jackson and the team could be limited to just the one game.
Playing on the road has not been kind to UNM, which is just 1-8 outside the friendly confines of Dreamstyle Arena aka The Pit—though the win came in the Lobos most recent away game, an 85-81 triumph over UNLV.
The Aggies (12-11, 5-5 MW) have played well at home, but the team has lost two of its last three at home in Logan, Utah. Utah State is 8-3 at home so far this season.
With New Mexico missing four players—all of whom have seen significant playing time when active—is a major obstacle, but could be an opportunity for others to step up.
Junior guard Anthony Mathis has emerged as a reliable scorer for the team, exhibiting some sharp-shooting from the outside. He leads the team in made 3-pointers and is second in scoring, averaging 11.4 points per contest.
Troy Simons, another junior guard, made his return to the court in the team's 80-65 victory over Colorado State. Simons played harassing defense—stepping in front of passing lanes and helping himself to four steals. He was no slouch at the offensive end either as he put up 13 points in just 17 minutes of action.
The offensive performance of the duo of Mathis and Simons will likely be crucial to the Lobos' chances of staying in the game against the Aggies. But the team will have its hands full at the defensive end trying to plug the holes.
UNM senior Joe Furstinger will be patrolling the paint and might be poised for a big game as he has often risen to the occasion when his team had needed him. He has been very consistent, scoring double figures in 10 of the last 11 games and registering 10 or more rebounds in six of those.
Sam Merrill, a dual-threat junior guard for Utah State, is the leading scorer for the Aggies—boasting an average of 15.6 points per game. He leads his team in 3-point makes and has shot an impressive 51 percent from the floor so far this season.
Neither team has been dominant rebounding the basketball and the team that wins that battle could have an inside track. Utah State has averaged 34.4 boards per game compared to 32.9 for New Mexico, but both teams have yielded more rebounds to opponents overall.
Similarly, the two squads have been proficient at protecting the ball. UNM has committed about 12.1 turnovers per contest, while the Aggies turn the ball over at a rate of 12.9, but the Lobos have been significantly better at forcing other teams to make mistakes.
The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. It will be broadcast on the Mountain West Network and can be heard on 770 KKOB-AM Lobo Radio Network.
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.