UNM Basketball: Road trip continues as Lobos face UNLV Rebels

Often in sports, when something bad happens, the broadcasters say that the player(s) affected by it need to have a short memory. Forget about the negative and move on. Others suggest that the players should use those moments to draw from and improve on the performance.

For the Lobos (15-4, 4-2), now is probably the time to develop amnesia.

Anyone who has paid any attention to the news surrounding the team this week knows that it’s been a rough week. That’s probably a generous statement too. Between the dismissal of Carlton Bragg Jr. and being on the receiving end of a drubbing from Colorado State, things haven’t gone their way.

To be fair, the Lobos had to quickly make adjustments to their game plan and fell victim to an early injury to Vance Jackson as well. The adjustments that were made left the perimeter as a veritable shooting gallery for the Rams as they hit 19 threes against the zone defense. No matter how this game is viewed, the loss of three starters has had a significant impact on the makeup of this team.

Unfortunately for the Lobos, there isn’t much time to work on adjustments.

Saturday night, the road trip continues when the Lobos travel to Las Vegas to take on the UNLV Rebels (10-9, 5-1). Having survived a difficult non-conference schedule (117th in the nation according to TeamRankings) the Rebels have been on a tear during the conference portion of their schedule. Their run so far has surprised many, outplaying the preseason prediction that they would finish in the bottom half of the conference.

Much like Colorado State, the Rebels should have an advantage in the paint over the current Lobo roster. Cheikh Mbacke Diong, the Rebels 6’11” forward, is averaging just shy of a double-double this season (9.2 points/9.1 rebounds). The option of going inside to the junior will allow UNLV to spread the floor.

Junior guard Amauri Hardy could greatly benefit from the inside play. The Rebels leading scorer, 14.9 points per game, is shooting 34.4% from beyond the arc. If UNM is forced to play zone again, Hardy could be in for a big night.

It’s not all bad news for the Lobos, however. While the injury to Vance Jackson was determined not to be anything the team considers a long-term issue, he will still sit out the game in Las Vegas to allow time for the swelling to subside. Without Jackson, the Lobos will likely turn to walk-on Jordan Arroyo and freshman forward Emmanuel Kuac to fill in during his absence.

The leadership of JaQuan Lyle and Corey Manigault will need to be at its peak going forward. Both seniors, the duo have led the Lobos in statistical categories all season long. One area that will need to be greatly improved upon from the loss on Wednesday will be the Lobos’s ability to get to the line. Before that game, the Lobos were leading the nation in attempts and makes, but only had 11 attempts on the night.

With difficult opponents coming up in Nevada and San Diego State, the next two games will help determine the future of this season.

Saturday’s game is slated for a 4 p.m. (Mountain) tip-off from the Thomas & Mack Center. Fans can catch the game live on CBS Sports Network.