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Howling With The Lobos: UC-Davis Preview

Final out of conference game for UNM

Houston Baptist v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

What: New Mexico Lobos vs. UC-Davis Aggies

When: Sunday December 29th, 2019 at 2 p.m. Mountain

Where: DreamStyle Arena a.k.a. The Pit

Coverage: The Mountain West Network will have television coverage (themw.com/watch), and the UNM Sports Radio Network will have the radio call (770 AM/94.5 FM KKOB in Albuquerque, or the TuneIn App search KKOB).

Series: This is the third time that these two schools have met on the hardwood. The Lobos own a 2-0 series advantage. The last game between the two was back in December 1978 when the Lobos won 86-74.

Breakdown:

The New Mexico Lobos will look to extend a pair of streaks when they entertain the UC-Davis Aggies at The Pit on Sunday afternoon. New Mexico is riding a seven-game winning streak on the season, dating back to their 82-59 loss to Auburn on November 25th. The Lobos are also looking to extend their home winning streak, which sits at 11 straight dating back to last season.

New Mexico will again be without two of their starters in J.J. Caldwell and Carlton Bragg Jr. Both are suspended indefinitely for separate incidents. Caldwell has been accused of battery by an ex-girlfriend, while Bragg’s suspension is also a police matter according to the Albuquerque Journal.

UC-Davis comes into Sunday’s contest with a 5-9 record. Last game out they were defeated by San Francisco by a final of 93-84. Prior to that the Aggies had won three of their previous four contests.

The Aggies like to play it close:

If there is one thing that sticks out looking at UC-Davis’s 14 games to date, it is that they like to play close games. Ten of their 14 games this season have been decided by 10 points or less. Six of those games have been decided by six points or less.

Needless to say, the Aggies will attempt to keep this one within striking distance. To do that they will need to knock down some key three pointers, and not get too frustrated by the Lobos press, which was the key to UNM’s win over Houston Baptist.

UC-Davis key players:

Lobo fans will get to know Joe Mooney, if they don’t know him already. The 6-foot-3 senior guard is averaging 16 points per game. The Aggies seem to go as he goes. He was held to single digits in three games this season, all of them double-digit losses by the Aggies. If Mooney is on a roll, expect UC-Davis to be in the contest.

The Aggies also sport two other players in double-figures in scoring. Ezra Manjon is averaging 10.7 points per game. He had 17 against San Francisco, which actually broke a four-game streak in which he failed to break the double-digit point barrier. Center Matt Neufeld is also averaging in double-figures with 10.6 points per game. However, his production has fallen off with just once in his last seven games seeing him go over 10 points. Also expect Stefan Gonzalez to put in some solid minutes off the bench.

Lobos X-Factor:

Zane Martin got a start last game out against Houston Baptist due to the Caldwell suspension. He’s expected to start once again in this game. Martin did score a season high 19 points in the win over HBU, but what the Lobos really need from him is to try to replace the 5.7 assists per game that Caldwell was averaging prior to his suspension.

With a return to Mountain West play on the horizon, the Lobos really need a big-time ball handler to step up in Caldwell’s place. With JaQuan Lyle being a leading scorer, Martin needs to be that guy. He’ll get a great opportunity to do so against the Aggies on Sunday.

Prediction:

UC-Davis has capable shooters if the Lobos employ their usual game plan in letting the opposition take outside shots to prevent their big men from getting into foul trouble. Houston Baptist kept the game close until the final 14 minutes of the game because of their ability to knock down perimeter shots. UC-Davis will be able to do the same, which might frustrate some Lobo fans, but expect the Lobos to make enough plays down the stretch to pull it out. I got the Lobos-93 UC-Davis-86.