The Lobos appear to be hitting their stride at the right time after two impressive conference wins over UNLV and San Diego State, highlighted by an impressive 79-75 win over the Aztecs last Saturday.
UNM will look to continue their winning streak tonight against the visiting Colorado State Rams, a team that enters the contest in the midst of a three-game losing streak, including a 97-78 loss on Wednesday against the same Aztec team that UNM beat last weekend.
Although both teams mirror each other in overall record, the two squads appear to be heading in opposite directions. Paul Weir’s Lobos have won four of their last five games, averaging nearly 80 points per game while limiting two of their opponents to less than 66 points.
Larry Eustachy’s Rams have not fared so well in conference play, losing five of their last seven games, including a heartbreaking 82-79 overtime loss at home to Fresno State.
Injuries to key players are a primary reason why the Rams have struggled over the past three games, as top scorer Prentiss Nixon missed the last two games with an ankle sprain that he suffered on January 17th against Air Force. The junior guard from Bolingbrook, Illinois who leads the team with just under 19 points per game is doubtful to play tonight against the Lobos.
Fellow guard J.D. Paige suffered a broken hand and will be out for a month, leaving the Rams with very few scoring threats to compete against a New Mexico team ranks 60th in the nation in points per game (79.4) and 63rd in assists (15.8).
The emergence of guards Makuach Maluach and Anthony Mathis have been critical to the success of the Lobos during conference play, with Maluach averaging 17.4 points over his last five games, including a career-high 21 points against Fresno State on January 13th. Mathis is averaging just under 16 points per game in the month of January, highlighted by a 21-point performance against the Aztecs last weekend.
Reigning Mountain West Conference player of the Week Antino Jackson has also been pivotal for Weir’s squad, scoring 17 and 24 points against UNLV and SDSU respectively.
Vegas oddsmakers appear convinced that the riddled injury Rams will not fair well against the surging Lobos, with UNM currently favored by 10 points at home.
Tipoff is set for 7:00 pm, with television coverage provided by ESPN3.