As the New Mexico Lobos meet their in-state rival the New Mexico State Aggies Tuesday night for the 213th time, the Lobos have a lot of question marks as a team. They are 3-3 and are coming off disappointing losses to Texas A&M and USC. Games which the Lobos should have won and needed for resume building if the team wants to make a run at another NCAA tournament appearance. Leading scorer Cullen Neal is hurt and now there are rumblings around the program that he might redshirt. Arthur Edwards will miss another 2-3 weeks with a broken hand and top new comer Jordan Goodman will miss a second consecutive game due to a concussion.
Coach Craig Neal now has to rely on youth, players that were supposed to be role players and not contributors. Freshman Xavier Adams has been inserted into the starting lineup and played a season high 21 minutes against USC. Freshman Sam Logwood and Joe Furstinger have been asked to play extended minutes along with preferred walk-on Tim Jacobs.
The problem the Lobos have, despite the extended minutes for the young player, they have not stepped up offensively with each player scoring less than five points a game.
Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delany were supposed to be the Lobos cornerstones this year and both are averaging around 11 points a game. Since Neal was injured, Greenwood is averaging 7.6 points a game and Delany is averaging 14 points a game. The bright spot has been sophomore Devon Williams who posted a double double in his last game scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Lobos must find a three point threat to replace Neal for the rest of the season. As a team the Lobos are shooting 26.4 percent from beyond the arc and that includes Neal's .500%. When Goodman is healthy he will be one of the prime candidates along with Sam Logwood and Hugh Greenwood. So far the problem has been confidence there are plenty of open shots but they are often passed up. The Lobos must find the confidence to shoot, even if they are having an off night, as many teams will pack the paint to negate the Lobos athletic ability. So made three pointers will be the only way they can extend the defense to open up driving lanes.
Tonight's task will be a pesky Aggies team that has played better than their 3-4 record. They have a three point loss on the road to a 6-0 Wyoming team and losses on the road to St Mary's, UTEP and No. 8 Wichita State. The Aggies are led by seniors Daniel Mullings and Remi Barry with each player averaging 13.9 points per game.
To win the game the Lobos must keep the Aggies below 65 points and must do a better job shooting the ball. Like the USC and Texas A&M the Lobos will have to play physical and must show they can respond when they are knocked down. Playing a team like to Aggies will require the young Lobos to play for 40 minutes, something they did not do in the two previous losses. Senior Hugh Greenwood will have to set the tone he cannot go 0-11 if the Lobos expect to go to 4-3 on the season.
Despite the slow start this year the Lobos still have a chance to salvage the season, but it starts tonight and they must continue Saturday at Valparaiso. Both are tough games but are winnable and might be just what the team needs to spark a long winning streak.