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Howling With The Lobos: Fresno State Preview

Lobos look to push aside distractions

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

What: New Mexico Lobos vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

When: Saturday February 1st, 2020 at 3 p.m. Mountain

Where: Save Mart Center in Fresno, CA

Coverage: The game will be telecast on AT&T SportsNet. Radio coverage provided by the UNM Sports Radio Network (770 AM/96.3 FM KKOB in Albuquerque).

Series: This will be the 30th meeting between the two. Last time out the Lobos won 78-64 in The Pit earlier this season. The last time these two teams played in Fresno, last season, the Bulldogs won 82-70.

Breakdown:

The New Mexico Lobos will try to end a two-game skid when they visit the Fresno State Bulldogs in Fresno on Saturday evening. The Lobos are coming off an 85-57 loss to San Diego State on Wednesday night. That loss dropped the Lobos to 16-7 overall and 5-5 in the Mountain West Conference.

Fresno State, meanwhile, picked up a win in their last game. The Bulldogs topped Air Force 79-68 in Colorado Springs. That win gives the Bulldogs a 7-14 record overall and 3-7 in the MWC.

Another One Without Jackson:

Vance Jackson tweeted out earlier in the week that he began to run and felt good. Jackson is hoping to return soon from a knee injury that has kept him out the last four games, and Saturday’s game will make it number five.

The Lobos have lost three of the four games that Jackson has missed. His absence, along with that of suspended teammate JaQuan Lyle has had a huge impact on the Lobos both offensively, and depth wise. Lyle is expected to return from his suspension against Wyoming next Saturday.

Things Need To Change Defensively:

Whatever the idea is to allow so many three-point shots from the opposition and hoping for misses just isn’t working for the Lobos. We sit 23 games into the season and Paul Weir, and his staff, simply won’t guard the three-point line. The Lobos are slow at rotating to cover open players and the flood gates are always open.

Against UNM, San Diego State buried 15 threes. Earlier this season Colorado State made a program record 19 threes. Nevada knocked down 17. The Lobos must slow down the three-point shooting if they expect to contend in this game and in March.

Key Players For Fresno State:

Fresno State’s top player, New Williams, won’t have to deal with Lyle or Jackson in this game, as he had to in the contest in Albuquerque. Williams was held to 10 points in the matchup earlier this season when both Lyle and Jackson played. Their absence should allow Williams more opportunities like he had against Air Force, a game in which he scored 25 points.

The Lobos should still keep an eye on Nate Grimes. He had just seven points in the game earlier this season but is capable of being a huge threat just as Williams is. Air Force found that out first-hand as he dropped 21 points on them in the Bulldogs’ last game out.

X-Factor For the Lobos:

With the aforementioned Jackson and Lyle being out yet another game, the onus to slow down New Williams falls on Zane Martin. Martin has had some great showing since Lyle and Jackson began missing games, most notably his 20 points and four assists in the win over San Jose State.

Martin will need to be quick defensively to prevent open looks by Williams, and then he needs to play just as well offensively as he has in the previous four contests. If he does those things the Lobos have a shot at the season sweep.

Prediction:

It goes without saying that the Lobos are in turmoil right now. Plenty of distractions off the court, and struggling play on the court, have left both players and fans restless. This is a game that the Lobos matchup well in, even without Jackson or Lyle. The Lobos must start quick to help their confidence and work like they were earlier in the season; get to the free throw line.

If they’re able to do that, and guard the perimeter better, then the Lobos should sneak out of Fresno with a win. I got Lobos-72 Bulldogs-70.