Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu

Redshirt sophomore guard Elijah Brown drives to the net at WisePies Arena Dec. 12. The Lobos will play NMSU this Wednesday at 7 p.m..

Men's basketball: Rio Grande Rivalry, Round 2 happens Wednesday

Sometimes it can be tougher to win the second Rio Grande Rivalry game against New Mexico State, especially after taking the first meeting.

The challenge, UNM coach Neal said, stems from some over-analysis and second-guessing on what to do differently in game two. But Neal continued with a common refrain he’s used all season long. He just wants his team to get better.

The Lobos (6-2) have made strides in that direction, he said Monday, two days before the rivalry resumes Wednesday at WisePies Arena.

“The biggest thing is for us to go forward,” he said. “We've got a lot to learn and we've got of growing to do, but I've just got to continue to make them better and get better. and I think we've done that.”

For a rivalry game, New Mexico has controlled the series over the last several years. The Lobos prevailed in 14 of the last 17 men’s basketball meetings, including that 83-74 victory over opening weekend.

The teams have split the rivalry six times since 2003. Three times UNM won that second contest (2011, 2007 and 2003) while NMSU took the other three rematches (2013, 2006 and 2005). Otherwise, the Lobos have swept those other series while the Aggies last won both in 2002.

Don’t let that one-sided nature detract from the fact this game remains a rivalry game between Albuquerque’s Lobos and Las Cruces’ Aggies (5-4). What continues to make the rivalry, Neal said, is proximity. New Mexico and NMSU are the state’s only two Division I institutions, with only three hours stretch along I-25 separating them.

“You're always going to have that in-state deal,” Neal said Monday. “I think it's that way in football. I think it's that way in anything we do in any sport. I think it is because you're in-state schools, two Division I schools in the state. I think that's important.”

Last time in the Rio Grande Rivalry, UNM guard Elijah Brown scored a new career high with 31 points. The Mountain West recognized the feat, giving Brown the first conference player of the week award for UNM this season.

While Brown left Las Cruces with the weekly award, he enters the rematch with another. His 25 points against Northern Iowa on Saturday secured another MW player of the week honor. He became the first Lobo to garner two in the first five weeks since Roman Martinez in 2009.

The Aggie staff had recognized Brown’s ability to shoot the ball, but Aggie coach Marvin Menzies said after the first game they realized Brown brings more to the game than just his shot. Brown showed the Aggies he has “different facets to the game since high school,” Menzies said at the time.

Even with the rivalry component, Brown said he and the team will prepare for the Lobos like every other opponent on the schedule. He did mention it being a big game, one more step in UNM’s goal to stay undefeated through the home nonconference schedule. The home games before MW play begins: Wednesday versus NMSU and Saturday against Rice.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

“It's any other game for me, honestly. I'll let the game come to me,” Brown said during Saturday’s postgame press conference. “…It's a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities that I have when they're given to me.”

Neal said he’s not exactly sure what NMSU will throw at his team this time around, but he does think the Aggies will give Brown more attention than they did before.

Like Brown did for UNM, forward Pascal Siakam had a breakout game during the last game. He finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Since then, Siakham has averaged double-doubles through nine games (23.7 points, 13-3 rebounds).

“I don't know his exact height, but he's so long and he's physical,” Neal said of Siakam, who’s listed at 6-foot-9. “He's got good legs. He plays above the rim. He can make some plays.”

In addition to Siakham, NMSU boasts substantial size with 7-3 Tavneer Bhullar. Bhullar’s 7-5 brother Sim also played for the Aggies. NMSU’s other double-figure scorer, guard Ian Baker, averages 15.2 points. As a team the Aggies have scored 72.89 points per game.

The Aggies will also look to snap a two-game losing skid, having lost to Long Beach State and another MW team, Wyoming.

UNM will need to force NMSU to shoot jump shots and limit shots down low with the Aggies’ size, Neal said. The Lobos forced NMSU outside in the last game, as the Aggies took 25 3-pointers. They’ll need to win the rebound battle as well, Neal said., since NMSU pulls down nearly 46 a game.

Forward Tim Williams said UNM also must stay out of foul trouble. He had four fouls against the Aggies while Lobo center Obij Aget fouled out. New Mexico also found itself in foul trouble against Purdue, the other team with size UNM has played this season.

“I remember I got in foul trouble,” Williams said. “They have a great 4 man in Pascal, and it's a rivalry game so that's going to be another big game. They're a great team and they've got great players. We've just to come out ready.”

J.R. Oppenheim is the assistant sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s basketball and women’s soccer. Contact him at or on Twitter @JROppenheim.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Lobo