Winners of three straight and five of their last eight games, the surging University of New Mexico Lobos head to Logan, Utah on Wednesday night to take on the 12-11 (5-5) Utah State Aggies at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
After a lopsided 80-65 win at home against an injury-depleted Rams team on Saturday night, the Lobos find themselves at 6-3 in Mountain West Conference play, just 1.5 games behind league-leading Nevada.
The Aggies struggled with four straight conference losses to CSU, Nevada, Boise State, and Wyoming, before winning their last two games against the Air Force Falcons and Fresno State Bulldogs.
Guards Sam Merrill and Koby McEwen lead a potent backcourt for head coach Tim Duryea. Merrill, a 6-5, 210 pound native of Bountiful, Utah, leads the Aggies with 15.6 points and 3.3 assists per game. McEwen is second in scoring with just over 14 points per game, including a career-high tying 28 points against Fresno State on January 3rd.
The Aggies rank eighth out of 11 MWC teams in points per game at 73.3 and seventh in points per possession. Defensively, Utah State allows the 5th fewest points per game in the conference, and their ability to defend a New Mexico team that ranks 8th in the nation in three-point field goals made will be a critical aspect of the game.
A vertically challenged Lobo team that ranks dead last in the conference in rebound differential (-3.5) will likely find it much easier to work the glass against the Aggies, a unit that also does not have a dominant big man in the paint.
New Mexico’s significant advantage in free throw shooting could end up being the difference in the game tonight, as the Lobos are the top shooting team in the conference (24th in the nation) and the Aggies are dead last.
Utah State owns a 22-9 advantage in the all-time series standings between the two schools dating back to the early 1950’s. The Aggies have won three of the last five games and 12 of the 14 games played at home in Logan.
Tipoff is set for 7:00 pm, with television coverage provided by the Mountain West Network.
According to Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal, starting guard Antino Jackson did not make the team flight and will not play tonight against the Aggies. The team has not said why Jackson did not join the team for the trip to Logan.