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Howling With The Lobos: Air Force Preview

Fresno State v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

What: New Mexico Lobos vs. Air Force Falcons

When: Saturday January 11th, 2020 at 4 p.m. Mountain

Where: DreamStyle Arena a.k.a. The Pit in Albuquerque, NM

Coverage: The game will be streamed on Facebook on Stadium. The UNM Sports Radio Network will have the radio call. You can find the UNM Sports Radio Network on the TuneIn app (search KKOB), or in Albuquerque at 770 AM/94.5 FM KKOB on your radio dial.

Series: This is the 84th meeting between the two on the hardwood. New Mexico owns a 60-23 lead in the series and is 34-4 against the Falcons in Albuquerque. Last time these two met was a Lobo 65-58 win at the Air Force Academy last season.

Breakdown:

The New Mexico Lobos will attempt to extend their home winning streak to 14-games, dating back to last season, when they host the sneaky Air Force Falcons Saturday evening at DreamStyle Arena in Albuquerque. Both teams are coming off victories last Tuesday.

The Lobos went to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in the Mountain West Conference with a 78-64 win over Fresno State. The win was big considering the Lobos previous game was a heartbreaking loss to San Jose State.

The Falcons have been an interesting team this season to say the least. They are coming off of a stunning 79-60 win over Utah State in Colorado Springs. The same Utah State team that was picked to win the conference this season. The win pushed Air Force’s record to 8-8 overall and 2-2 in conference.

What makes the Falcons interesting is that they have been defeated by double digits in both of their MWC defeats yet were able to beat UC-Riverside by 49 and Utah State by 19. They also lost all three games at the Junkanoo Jam earlier this season and suffered an 85-80 home loss to Drake. As Utah State found out, though, the Falcons should not be taken lightly.

Vance Jackson is on fire:

Against San Jose State Vance Jackson came to life offensively, scoring 25 points in the loss. He outdid himself against Fresno State last Tuesday with a 29-point effort. Jackson had struggled most of the season to get going offensively, but that all changed on December 17th. Since then Jackson has scored in double figures in points for five consecutive games, compared to just twice during the season’s first 12 games.

The offensive explosion by Jackson couldn’t have come at a better time with Mountain West play kicking into high gear. If the Lobos continue their winning ways, we should expect Jackson to be a force with the ball in his hands.

Who to watch for from Air Force:

The Falcons boast three players that average in double figures in points. Led by senior center Ryan Swan who averages 14.6 points per game. Swan is a force on the inside and is someone who can shoot from the outside if needed. He poured in 31 points against Utah State and added 11 rebounds to boot. Lavelle Scottie averages 14.1 points per game for the Falcons. He only went for seven points in the Utah State game but did have 19 against UNLV in the previous tilt. The third player that averages in double figures is A.J. Walker with 12.1 points per game. Walker is one of the Falcons’ threat from three-point range and with have a duel with JaQuan Lyle in the backcourt.

X-factor for the Lobos:

Given the fact that the Air Force’s most dominate player is the 6-foot-8 center Ryan Swan, our x-factor for this game is going to be Carlton Bragg Jr. Bragg was a little sluggish against Fresno State with it being his first game back after serving a three-game suspension, but he should look a little better in this game, and that will be needed. The Falcons outrebounded Utah State 50-29, that was one of the keys in the big win for them. In this game, though, the Lobos boast a ton of height and no one is more aggressive on the glass than Bragg. If he can contain Swan the Lobos should grab the win.

Prediction:

This game is scheduled perfectly for the Lobos; it’s at home, it’s on a Saturday, and the tipoff is at a great time for fans to attend and get home before it turns late. Something that slowed the attendance against Fresno State was the 9 p.m. tip on a Tuesday. Only 10,010 were there for that one. I fully expect there to be a big and vocal crowd at the game. I also expect Bragg to have a big game and contain Swan. This might be a statement game for the Lobos. I like them getting the win in this. Lobos-82 Air Force-65.