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Men face Memphis in The Pyramid

The UNM men's basketball team is in Memphis, Tenn., today as one of eight teams remaining in the NIT, for a quarterfinal game against the University of Memphis. The winner travels to the Big Apple for the NIT final-four next week.

And what began as 32 teams not worthy of an NCAA bid pitted against each other has turned into an exciting week of games for the Lobos (21-12).

First came an opening-round victory over the Dave Bliss-led Baylor University that was not short on drama. Tuesday's win over Pepperdine University also had its share of excitement - the Lobos needed a strong second-half effort to erase two double-digit leads and beat the Waves. Now comes a trip east. Tuesday's come-from-behind win had UNM head coach Fran Fraschilla beaming.

"I think the people in the arena would have been happy with the fact that we came back, and made a good effort and kept it close - Pepperdine's a good team," Fraschilla said. "But to come back and win the game took a lot of guts."

Though The Pit housed more than 16,000 fans for Tuesday night's game, NIT officials annouced the UNM-Memphis contest would send the Lobos packing to The Pyramid, the 20,142-capacity arena the Tigers call home. Memphis had more than 14,000 fans in the stands for its 90-65 blowout win over the University of Texas at El Paso Tuesday.

Despite that, at least one member of the Lobo team seemed content with going to Tennessee.

"Memphis is like my home town, I used to live about an hour away from there," UNM forward Wayland White said. "I'll probably have 35-45 people there in the stands."

Fraschilla said he didn't mind having to go on the road, especially for a marquee matchup against the Tigers, and its high-profile coach, John Calipari.

"John's a great coach," Fraschilla said. "He's got the program - especially in the second half of the year - up and running."

The Tigers (19-14) competed in the Conference-USA this year against teams such as the University of Cincinnati and Louisville.

Memphis went 10-6 in conference play after beginning its pre-conference slate with a 2-6 record. Prior to beating UTEP, the team had to get by the University of Utah in a first-round NIT game, which may have been its most high-profile win of the year.

Junior Kelly Wise, a 6-foot, 10-inch tall forward, leads the team both in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.1 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. Six-foot-5 freshman guard Scooter McFadgen follows, with a 9.8 points per game average and senior guard Shyrone Chatman adds 9.7 points a game.

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In UNM's two NIT wins, guard Eric Chatfield has emerged to give the Lobos' backcourt a boost. While point guard Marlon Parmer and guard Ruben Douglas have been their consistent-selves, Chatfield is putting to rest a mid-season shooting slump, and his 14 assists in the Lobos' last two games, his presence diversifies UNM's scoring threat.

"I'm just trying not to force shots, and teams know that I can go to the hole," Chatfield said. "So their defense is going to collapse, and I'm going to find the open man."

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