What: Nevada vs. New Mexico
When: Saturday, Feb. 15 3:05 p.m. PT
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
TV: CBS Sports Network
New Mexico and Nevada are two teams limping into their first matchup of the season. The Lobos are coming off a loss to the Boise State Broncos, while the Wolf Pack, losers of three straight, come off a loss to the Fresno State Bulldogs. Both teams would like to get back on track with a win and gain momentum in the latter part of their schedule.
Two Keys For the Lobos:
Establish Inside Scoring: With Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow, the Lobos will have a huge advantage over the Wolf Pack down low. Kirk will initially matchup against Nevada's AJ West who has been one of the better shot blockers in the conference but often times is out of position in simple defensive rotations. Bairstow, who is having a career year averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds a game, will be guarded by a much smaller power forward in Nevada's Cole Huff. Both New Mexico bigs will have the upper hand in the paint so scoring and efficiency down low will be key.
Bench Scoring: Outside of Cullen Neal (7.7ppg) the Lobos do not get much bench scoring. And when Neal struggles so do the Lobos. If the Kirk and Bairstow cant score that puts a lot of pressure on starting point guard Kendall Williams and Cullen. Nevada has talented enough starters to stay close the entire game but if New Mexico gets a surprise performance from a player like Cleveland Thomas off the bench it will be nearly impossible for the Pack to pull the upset.
Two Keys for Nevada
Rebound: Asking Nevada to outrebound the Lobos is too much to ask. The Lobos are the 41st best rebounding team in the nation and the Wolf Pack are 182nd. It's not going to happen. But Nevada needs to keep it close. Players like West, Huff, and Ronnie Stevens need to limit New Mexico's second chance points and get some second chance points on their own. Extra possessions on the road give the underdog a chance. Rebounding like they did against Fresno State on Wednesday will not cut it for the Wolf Pack.
Star Power: Deonte Burton. Deonte Burton. Deonte Burton. In the last "big" game for Nevada against San Diego State, he struggled mightily scoring only 11 points. He cant keep disappearing in games the team needs him most. This matchup against New Mexico point guard Kendall Williams provides the chance for Burton to again establish himself as a top point guard and player in the Mountain West. For Nevada to win, he must be aggressive in getting to the hole and not settling for deep three pointers.