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New Mexico vs. UNLV game preview: Lobos looking for revenge against the Rebels

One of the MWC's best basketball rivalries resume tonight at the Pit in Albuquerque. Can New Mexico (13-8, 6-2) avenge its January loss to UNLV (13-9, 4-5)?

The Lobos and Runnin' Rebels continue their rivalry tonight in Albuquerque
The Lobos and Runnin' Rebels continue their rivalry tonight in Albuquerque
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The University of New Mexico is riding a three-game winning streak going into tonight's game against UNLV. Two of these three wins, against San Jose State and Air Force, have been in convincing fashion. The third victory came this past weekend against Boise State in Boise, another quality win.

The Lobos are closing the regular season in full stride and have looked better than they have all year. How are they doing it? They are killing opponents on the boards; balancing their offense between Tim Williams down low and blistering shooting from three; and importantly, they are getting significant contributions from a variety of players.

But prior to this win streak, the Lobos had a two-game losing streak, the first of which was a 74-86 loss to UNLV in Las Vegas on January 12th. In that game, a motivated UNLV team, under the leadership of interim head coach Todd Simon, used pace and depth to defeat UNM. Simon has led the Rebels to a 4-2 record.

One of the key players that sparked UNLV's bench was none other than Ben Carter, who had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. However, Carter won't be a factor in this game as he tore his ACL in UNLV's recent loss to San Diego State. Guys like Patrick McCaw, Stephen Zimmerman, Jr. and Derrick Jones, Jr. will have to raise their game to another level in his absence.

The match up that I'm most interested in might not be the most glamorous, but I'll be watching Obij Aget and Stephen Zimmerman Jr. Zimmerman is nearly averaging a double-double at 11 ppg and 9 rbg. He has great size at 7' and 250 lbs. Can Aget, a giant in his own right, keep Zimmerman off the glass and disrupt his offense? Another match up that I hope plays out is Elijah Brown and Patrick McCaw. McCaw has a distinct size advantage, but both players can fill it up in a hurry.

When these two teams meet, we can almost always count on a competitive and close game. I expect tonight to be no different. The Pit will be loud as fans always get up for the Runnin' Rebels. If you're not going to the Pit, the game can be watched on CBS Sports Network at 6 pm MST.

My prediction: the Lobos avenge their January loss with a close victory tonight.