The New Mexico men's basketball team will get a big test on Saturday when it hosts No. 23 Arizona for the first time in almost 19 years.
New Mexico (3-7, 0-0 MW) has lost three straight games and seven of its last eight—the lone victory coming against Evansville in a 78-59 home win. In its last game, UNM let a nine-point lead slip away and fell to New Mexico State 65-62.
UNM senior Sam Logwood missed that game against the Aggies after taking a leave of absence from the team, which was a surprise to many. He has since announced he is ready to return to action, but his status is uncertain for Saturday's game—though head coach Paul Weir indicated it was unlikely Logwood would play.
Logwood has led the Lobos in scoring and rebounds, putting up 14.9 points per game and collecting 5.1 boards per contest. If he doesn't play, it could make an already difficult task that much harder.
The Wildcats (7-3) have been trending in the opposite direction. After a lackluster start to the season, Arizona has rebounded to win four straight and back in the AP top 25 rankings.
Arizona recently picked up a big win over Texas A&M, a top-10 program at the time, and followed it up with an 88-82 victory over Alabama on Dec. 9.
The Lobos have picked up some solid play from junior guard Chris McNeal and Anthony Mathis, who have averaged 13.3 and 10.6 points per game, respectively. And the team is in the top 10 nationally at creating turnovers, creating 20.6 of them on average.
But UNM has an undersized front court and could have its hands full trying to handle the seven-foot-one-inch frame of Arizona forward Deandre Ayton. He has averaged 20.5 points so far and also leads the team in rebounding at 11.9 boards per game, though junior guard Allonzo Trier has led the team with a 22.3 point average.
Arizona has another seven-footer on the team with center Dusan Ristic patrolling the paint. He has chipped in 9.4 points per game and is second on the squad in rebounding, hauling in 5.5 per contest.
The battle on the boards could be a key factor in the contest. UNM has secured 34.6 rebounds on average, but been outworked by nearly seven boards per game, while Arizona has been effective at keeping its opponent off the glass and averaged 37.1 as a team.
Offensively, the Wildcats have shot 51.4 percentage from the field, while the Lobos have struggled at times and have gone 41.8 percent from the field so far.
Both teams have shown a propensity for hitting the 3-point point shot, which could be a major factor in the game as well.
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Saturday's game will be the 127th time the teams have met in a series that dates back over 100 years, with Arizona holding an 84-42 edge in the head-to-head record. But the teams have split the last two meetings.
The Wildcats enjoyed a 77-46 rout of the Lobos last season at home, while New Mexico took a 79-78 victory over Arizona back in 1999. The Lobos have a 14-5 advantage when playing at home.
The teams will tip things up at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16 at Dreamstyle Arena. The game will be aired on CBS Sports Net and broadcast 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.