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Howling With The Lobos: UNLV Preview

Lobos face tough task in Vegas

Air Force v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

What: New Mexico Lobos vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

When: Saturday January 18th, 2020 at 4 p.m. Mountain

Where: Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV

Coverage: CBS Sports Network will have the TV side. The UNM Sports Radio Network will carry the radio side (770 AM/96.3 FM KKOB in Albuquerque).

Series: This is the 61st meeting between the two. UNLV holds the series lead at 35-25. UNLV won the last meeting, a 74-58 decision in Vegas last January.

Breakdown:

The New Mexico Lobos will face a huge test when they pay a visit to the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Saturday. The Lobos are coming off a 105-72 loss to Colorado State on Wednesday night, a loss that dropped them to 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the Mountain West Conference.

UNLV, meanwhile, beat San Jose State 98-87 on Wednesday night to move to 10-9 overall and 5-1 in the MWC. The win is the Rebels’ sixth in their last seven contests, and it also moved them into sole possession of second place in the Mountain West.

Perfect Storm:

Surely the 105-72 score looks bad for the Lobos in their loss to Colorado State, but if one looked closer they would see that it was a perfect storm. Obviously, the Lobos were reeling from losing senior Carlton Bragg Jr., who had been removed from the team following an arrest.

To compound matters Vance Jackson was injured early in the contest. Jackson had caught fire offensively in the previous games, scoring in double-figures in five of the previous six contests, including 25 in one and 29 in another.

And to further complicate matters the Rams drained a team record 19 three pointers in the win. Something that the Lobos have been susceptible to this season, but by far the most they have given up in a game.

Things may not look better in this one:

Things will remain difficult for UNM in this contest as Jackson will be out while he rehabilitates his knee injury. An MRI revealed no major damage, but coach Paul Weir is going to err on the side of caution with Jackson’s timetable to return.

This means that JaQuan Lyle and Corey Manigault will have to carry the Lobos offensively. Manigault must stay out of foul trouble to help out, something he could not do in the first half against Colorado State.

To make matters worse, the Rebels are on fire of late and are getting scoring from everywhere. The Rebels had six different players in double-figures against San Jose State on Wednesday. On top of that UNLV has won five consecutive home games, a place the Lobos have only won nine times ever.

Who poses a threat for UNLV:

Like we talked about above, UNLV likes to spread the ball around and will get scoring from a number of players. Their leading scorer is junior Amauri Hardy, who is averaging 14.7 points per game. Hardy had 16 points against San Jose State on Wednesday. Another player to keep an eye on is Bryce Hamilton, who averages just 11.7 points per game, but don’t let that fool you. Hamilton is averaging 18.7 points per game in conference play. He scored 16 points last contest and is on a streak of six consecutive games of scoring 13 points or more. If the Lobos hope to contend, the need to slow Hamilton down.

Lobos X-Factor:

With the loss of Bragg, and now Jackson, the front court for UNM is extremely thin. This means major minutes in this game as a smaller, guard oriented, lineup. Vante Hendrix will see major time in this game and the Lobos desperately need another offensive weapon outside of Lyle and Manigault. Zane Martin did have 17 against CSU but seeing as how the Rebels staff will likely key on him, it’ll be time for Hendrix to step up.

Prediction:

To be honest, I really don’t know what to expect in this game from UNM. Every time I think they’re down and out, they surprise everyone with a huge win. The odds are stacked against them in this one, however. The team is still adjusting to life after Bragg, and now that Jackson is out that task grows taller. UNLV is on a tear, and the Lobos have not played well at Vegas. I had this same feeling heading into the Wisconsin game earlier this season and the Lobos pulled off a stunner, I just don’t know if they can this time around. I like UNLV-74 Lobos-67.