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Howling With The Lobos: Utah State Preview

Looking for one more night

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

What: New Mexico Lobos vs. Utah State Aggies

When: Thursday March 5th, 2020 at 7 p.m. Mountain

Where: Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV

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

Series: This will be the 39th meeting between the two schools. Utah State leads the series at 26-12. New Mexico beat Utah State the past Saturday night in Albuquerque, a 66-64 win. This is also a rematch of last season’s MWC Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup in which Utah State won 91-83.

Breakdown:

The New Mexico Lobos will attempt to extend their season one more time when the face the Utah State Aggies in the quarterfinals of the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas. The Lobos got through the first round by beating San Jose State on Wednesday night by a final of 79-66.

Utah State got a bye in the first round by being the two seed in the tournament. Their loss to the Lobos in the last game of the regular season was huge in effecting their NCAA Tournament bid. Many “bracketologists” have Utah State getting in still, but another loss would almost prevent Utah State from making the field of 68.

The Confidence Is Building:

During the stretch of losses down the stretch of the season for New Mexico, losing 10 out of 12 prior to the win over Utah State, one thing was lacking and that was confidence. The Lobos seem to be losing both mentally and physically on the floor, and that led to some blowout losses. That started to change in the Utah State game and has carried over into the MWC Tournament and into this contest because of the win over San Jose State on Wednesday night.

The key will again be a fast start for the Lobos to make sure that they can stay in the game mentally with Utah State. They showed in their previous matchup that the Lobos have the talent to contend with the Aggies, it will be a matter of keeping their heads in the contest as well.

Top Players For Utah State:

Just as in Saturday’s matchup, the Lobos will have to key on Sam Merrill from Utah State. UNM did a good job in the first half of slowing down Merrill, but in the second half he exploded and ended up with 18 points.

Neemias Queta will also be another player that will pose a threat to UNM. He scored 18 points, along with Merrill, and also grabbed 14 rebounds in the contest. He struggled down the stretch in the game, though, scoring just four points over the final 12 minutes of the game.

Justin Bean also will draw some attention. He only had six points and six rebounds in the game on Saturday, but is a double-double machine, having registered 15 of them this season and was extremely close to many more in other games.

X-Factor For The Lobos:

Yesterday, I thought Vance Jackson would’ve needed a big game to carry the Lobos. He did just that. Today, though, I’m going with someone that earlier in the season was the spark and was the spark this past Saturday against Utah State, that is JaQuan Lyle.

Lyle had just seven points in the win over San Jose State, but thanks to big games from Jackson, Makuach Maluach and Corey Manigault, Lyle was more of a decoy than a threat. He dished out 10 assists against Utah State on Saturday, which was critical. His driving and passing played a critical part in the Lobos shot selection and he’ll need to do the same in this game if the Lobos want to replicate that kind of magic.

Prediction:

I felt that the regular season finale against Utah State that the Lobos were going to be successful because they were going to leave it all on the floor one last time for their home crowd. They did just that and in the process, something seemed to click again that had been missing with this team. They used that to their advantage against San Jose State in the first round and got another win. We learned that the Lobos have the talent to hang with Utah State on Saturday. What we also know is that this Lobo team carries a lot more with them mentally considering what the players on this team have been through in the past, as well as with themselves. If the Lobos are in it in the first half, and JaQuan Lyle is involved, this could be déjà vu for everyone as the Lobos could pull another win out. I expect this game to be close, and just like Saturday, I think the Lobos find a way. I got Lobos-70 Utah State-66.