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Howling With The Lobos: Nevada Preview

A match with familiar faces

San Jose State v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

What: New Mexico Lobos vs. Nevada Wolfpack

When: Saturday January 25th, 2020 at 6 p.m. Mountain

Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, NV

Coverage: The game will be televised on CBS Sport Network, while the UNM Sports Radio Network will have the call over the airwaves (770 AM/96.3 FM KKOB in Albuquerque).

Series: This is the 14th meeting between the two schools. They split the series last season with the home team coming away with a win in each contest.

Breakdown:

The New Mexico Lobos will look to make it a two-game winning streak when they visit their former coaches and the Nevada Wolfpack in Reno on Saturday night at 6 p.m. Mountain time.

Former Lobo head coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal are the head coach and an assistant coach on the Wolfpack respectively. Alford was UNM’s coach between 2007 and 2013, racking up a 155-52 record. Craig Neal was an assistant on Alford’s staff at New Mexico and then succeeded him as the head coach in 2013. Neal went 76-52 at UNM as the head coach, before being fired in 2017.

The Lobos got back to their winning ways on Tuesday night with an 86-59 win over San Jose State. The win lifted New Mexico’s record to 16-5 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference. Good enough for third place entering Saturday. Nevada, meanwhile, are also coming off of a win, beating UNLV on Wednesday night by a final of 86-72. That win gives the Wolfpack a 12-8 record overall and also a 5-3 record in the MWC.

Things might look bleak:

New Mexico has struggled on the road this season, going 3-5 this season in road/neutral games. Nevada, on the other hand, has gone 11-3 at home this season, including 4-0 against MWC foes.

UNM’s last two games on the road have been lopsided losses, a 33-point loss to Colorado State, and a 21-point loss at UNLV. The last time the Lobos won on the road was on December 7th, when they beat the Wyoming Cowboys.

Who to watch for from Nevada:

The Wolfpack tout three players that score in double-figures in points per game this season. Their top player is guard Jalen Harris. He is averaging 18.9 points per game this season and has gone for 20 or more points in four out of Nevada’s last five games, and in the other game that he did not score over 20 he scored 19. Against UNLV he did it all, scoring 28 points on 8-of-17 shooting, he was 3-for-5 behind the arc and went 9-for-11 at the charity stripe. He is an all-around solid player and the Lobos will need to guard him everywhere he goes, even if he decides to go to the bathroom during the game, the Lobos better cover him.

Jazz Johnson adds another element for the Wolfpack. He averages 17 points per game on the season, with most of those coming from three-point territory. Johnson had 19 points against UNLV, all three of his field goals were three-point baskets and he went 10-for-11 from the free throw line. Johnson has attempted at least five three-point shots in each game this season and is usually averaging around eight to 10 shots from long range per game.

The other player that scores in double figures for the Wolfpack is Lindsey Drew, who averages 11.8 points per game. Drew had 15 points against UNLV, but the previous three contests before that had seen Drew be held to single digits in the points category.

X-Factor for the Lobos:

With both JaQuan Lyle and Vance Jackson expected to sit out this game again, the onus will be on Zane Martin to once again deliver. The 6-foot-4 guard had 20 points in 31 minutes against San Jose State on Tuesday night. He only had four assists, but he made the most to force San Jose State to collapse on his driving, leaving other players open for shots.

Martin will not only need to have a big offensive performance, but he will need to be all over Jalen Harris and Jazz Johnson tonight. The Lobos are known for giving up three pointers like they’re going out of style, and the Wolfpack like to shoot the three, so it will be critical to get out and contest those shooters.

Prediction:

Lobo fans were definitely pleasantly surprised that the Lobos were able to dominate San Jose State without Lyle or Jackson in the lineup. This is a different contest, though. The Lobos have struggled on the road, even with their best players in the lineup. Martin, Vante Hendrix, Makuach Maluach, Keith McGee, and Corey Manigault all worked well together in the game against San Jose State. Hopefully, they will bring that chemistry to Reno. Nevada has some shooters, but I think New Mexico will sneak away with a win here. I got Lobos-76 Nevada-70.