The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team will look to break their two-game skid and split the season series against Utah State on Wednesday night at DreamStyle arena.
The Aggies defeated the Lobos 89-80 when the two teams faced off in Logan, Utah on January 31st, with Koby McEwen setting career highs with 31 points and 13 rebounds. Utah State split their next two games against Wyoming and Boise State, while the Lobos lost two of their following three games, including a disappointing 73-71 collapse to Boise State at the Pit.
A lapse in defense killed the Lobos in their most recent loss against the Air Force Falcons, a team that New Mexico dismantled 87-58 at home in late December. The Lobos allowed 50 points in a half for the third time this season, with the Falcons reaching the century mark for the first time in MWC play.
Paul Weir’s team will need to sure up their defensive gaps if they plan on beating a streaky-shooting Aggies team that ranks fifth in the conference in three-point shooting percentage. When on, the Aggies can keep pace with nearly every team in the conference. Especially a team like UNM that has played poor second-half team defense multiple times this season.
The Aggies are led by a pair of guards, Sam Merrill and Koby McEwen, who combine to average 30.5 points per game. Merrill has been somewhat quiet offensively for head coach Tim Duryea, scoring twelve points or less in three of his last four games.
McEwen has been a feast or famine player as of late, with three games of 20 or more points sandwiched between two single-digit duds. The 6-4, 200-pound sophomore from Toronto, Ontario followed up his career 31-point game against the Lobos with a seven-point showing in a lopsided loss on the road against Wyoming. McEwen then responded with 23 points against Boise State, including five of nine from behind the arc.
The outcome of this game will be determined by which McEwen shows up at the Pit on Wednesday night. If the hot shooting guard is on his game, the Lobos will be hard pressed to slow down the Utah State offense. If McEwen is off, the Aggies will have a tough time leaving Albuquerque with a win.
Look for a near-full strength UNM team to take advantage of their press defense and a wild Pit crowd to force Utah State into making costly turnovers. The Lobos rank first in the Mountain West Conference and 12th in the nation in forced turnovers and total steals.
Tipoff is set for 7:00 pm, with television coverage provided by The Mountain West Network.