After starting the season 2-0 with wins over Northern New Mexico and Omaha, the University of New Mexico Lobos are looking for answers after losing their last four games, including a blowout loss to Maryland in the consolation game of the Emerald Coast Classic on Saturday.
A vertically challenged team that focuses on putting pressure on the opposition with full-court presses and high octane offense, the Lobos were built to be a quick team skilled at shooting from the perimeter. But six games into the 2017-18 season, the Lobos rank 215th in the nation in field goal percentage at 43.8% (119th in three-point field goal percentage).
Chris McNeal continues to lead the Lobos in scoring with 17.2 points per game, with senior Sam Logwood adding 16.0 points on .457 shooting from the floor. After the two top scorers, the Lobs have not received much help on the new season from newcomers Antino Jackson and Troy Simons, both of whom are shooting below .375 from the floor.
Jackson, a 6-0 senior transfer Akron started off his UNM career strong with 19 points against Omaha on November 14th, but has struggled mightily as of late, including a 0-10 night against the Terrapins.
Former Juco scoring champion Troy Simons has found scoring buckets a bit more challenging at the division 1 level, with 13 combined points in his last four games after posting 24 against Omaha.
Both Jackson and Simons are skilled offensive players, and they will be considerable assets to the team this season, but their current struggles from the floor have hurt the Lobos over the past week and a half.
The Lobos will look to get back on track this Wednesday at DreamStyle Arena against the Evansville Purple Aces, a small division 1 school in the Missouri Valley Conference. Although The University of Evansville is a small school – roughly a tenth of the size of UNM at 2,500 students, the basketball program has some talented players, including former Ohio University transfer Ryan Taylor.
Taylor leads the Purple Aces in scoring at 21.0 points per game, including a 21-point performance in a 59-57 win over Fresno State. Sophomore guard Dru Smith is second on the team in scoring at just over 11 points a game while leading the Purple Aces in assists with six per game.
Like UNM, the Purple Aces lack true scoring center and force in the paint. However, 6-9 center Dainius Chatkevicius and 6-9 Dalen Traore combine for 10 rebounds per game and are solid defensively in the post.
The Lobos will rely on their depth and high tempo style of play to force turnovers from an Evansville that ranks 150th in the nation in turnovers at 13.3 per game. Forcing turnovers, improved shooting, and continuing to excel at the free throw line (Lobos rank 4th in the nation in FT%) will lead to a much-needed win for UNM.