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Sophomore guard/forward Sam Logwood leaps in the air after having the ball stolen from him Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at WisePies Arena. The Lobos will play San Jose State this Saturday at 3 p.m..
Sophomore guard/forward Sam Logwood leaps in the air after having the ball stolen from him Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at WisePies Arena. The Lobos will play San Jose State this Saturday at 3 p.m..

Men's basketball: Lobos play a SJSU squad that has struggled in MW play

San Jose State hasn’t exactly had the easiest time in its first two years and a half years Mountain West Conference.

Since joining the league in 2013-14, the Spartans won just two MW games, one in that first season, then a 62-55 victory over Wyoming this year. Coincidentally, San Jose State’s lone conference win happened against a Wyoming team that seven days ago defeated New Mexico by two points at WisePies Arena.

With that, UNM and SJSU will square off Saturday afternoon with the Lobos looking to get off a two-game losing streak and the Spartans out to get signature conference win.

“Our guys have to realize they've got to grow and mature,” Lobo coach Craig Neal said Thursday. “It doesn't matter who you play. It doesn't matter the level. It doesn't matter the team you play. You have to play up to your capabilities and you've got to play.

The Dave Wojcik-led Spartans (6-13, 1-6 MW) have just seven Division I victories since he took the coaching reigns in San Jose. The 62-55 Wyoming on Jan. 13 win did snap a 27-game conference losing skid, but since lost to Fresno State last week and second-place Boise State this past Wednesday.

Even with those struggles in recent years, Lobo coach Craig Neal called the Spartans a young yet capable squad whose talent is improving. SJSU played four true freshmen – forward Ryan Welage, guard Brandon Clarke, forward Cody Schwartz and guard Jaycee Hillman – roughly 21 minutes per game.

“They won seven games in three years, seven D-1 games in three years. That's tough,” Neal said. “He took on a big challenge. … He's a good coach and they're just learning but their talent level is better.”

The Lobos (10-8, 3-2 MW) enter Saturday’s game following a full week to prepare. Last time UNM had that much time between contests, it captured a 77-59 win over Utah State in a contest where the Lobos looked like they could beat anybody.

No midweek game allowed coach Craig Neal to practice his team Sunday and Monday with a rest day on Tuesday – the first day of class for the spring semester – then back to work Wednesday and today to prep for the Spartans.

The team departed for California on Friday for Saturday’s 3 p.m. MT tipoff. The Lobos will have two games a week for the remaining six weeks of the season.

A sharp disparity has emerged in New Mexico’s margin of victory versus its margin of loss. In wins the Lobos prevail by roughly 17 points per game but fall by about 11.6 points in losses. UNM’s only games decided by five points or less are all losses to Rice, Auburn and Wyoming.

Missed free throws contributed to those close losses. UNM made less than 69 percent from the line against the Owls, Tigers and Cowboys.

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“We haven't made free throws down the stretch to seal games,” Neal said. “Now that's concerning to me and I think that's one thing they're going to have to learn from and hopefully they will.”

San Jose State ranks at or near the bottom in several team statistical categories, including last in scoring offense at 66.2 points per game and 10th in scoring defense at 74.6. The Lobos counter with 76.7 points offensively per game and 75.6 defensively.

The Spartans do have two players among the conference’s top 20 scorers and rebounders in Welage with 12.9 points and 6.3 boards per game, and forward Frank Rogers with 12.7 points and 6.9 per game.

The Lobos have never lost to the Spartans in nine meetings. The teams played only once last year, a 67-41 UNM victory. After Saturday, SJSU will make a return trip to Albuquerque on Feb. 13.

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.

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