NEW MEXICO VS UTAH STATE PREVIEW
February 25, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
NEW MEXICO SPORTS RELEASE
New Mexico Lobos Mountain West Basketball – In The Pit
Utah State (5-12, 5-10 MW) at New Mexico (21-5, 12-2 MW)
When/Where: 7:05 p.m. (MT), Tuesday – University Arena
On TV: CBS Sports Network (DirecTV 221, Comcast 274, DISH 158)
On The Radio:770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network with Robert Portnoy & Scott Didrickson
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Statistics, Quotes, LoboTV, Post-Game Interviews
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
One theme at Coach Craig Neal’s pre-Utah State press conference revolved around the possibility that his Lobos might have an emotional letdown after coming off one of the biggest wins in Pit history – 58-44 over San Diego State.
Here’s one statement to throw at the Lobos that might help avoid that letdown.
Lose to Utah State. Lobos, and the Aztecs team you beat Saturday in The Pit will wear the 2014 Mountain West title.
Of course, that’s not a certainly. But it’s a strong possibility. You don’t fight your way into a tie with San Diego State and then throw it away by losing to a Utah State team you beat by 13 on their court.
You don’t throw away a shot at the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MW Tournament by dropping a game in The Pit. You just don’t.
“They are going to be focused. I’ll make sure they are focused,” said Neal. “It’s my job to keep them focused. I keep talking about step by step and each step becomes bigger. Tuesday night is going to be a bigger step to where we want to get to than Saturday.”
It could be difficult to convince the Lobos that a win over Utah State is just as big as a win over SDSU. Of course, it’s not, Of course, it is. A loss to Utah State adds exactly the same amount of losses to the loss column as a loss to SDSU.
OK, that’s behind us now. Utah State is a big game. It could be a step to a UNM title – or a stumble to a SDSU title.
“They have a veteran group back,” said Neal of the Aggies. “They’re good. They are good enough to come in here and win. We have to keep doing what we do.”
What the Lobos do is make it tough for teams to score while hitting them hard with a dynamic inside-outside punch keyed inside by the Twin Tower combo of Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk -- and outside by Kendall Williams.
“I think both of them (Williams and Bairstow) are Players of the Year,” said Neal. “I’ll put both of them up. I have to.”
The Lobos have a trio of Lobos who probably are the best in the Mountain West in their positions. Can you name a guard, power forward or center better than Williams, Bairstow or Kirk?
Utah State has to change things up from their 78-65 loss to UNM in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah. In some ways, there isn’t much the Aggies can change because they still have to stop a Lobo team that has more height and more talent than the Aggies.
Bairstow scored 22 points in that win which was one of the more complete team wins UNM has thrown out this season. Williams had 16 points.
Still, the Aggies have to try something.
“They could play a lot more zone and they could trap our post,” said Neal. “I’m sure he’ll (Coach Stew Morrill) come up with a great game plan. You don’t have the success he’s had in college basketball without knowing what you’re doing.”
Morrill didn’t really try to trap the Lobo post – 7-foot- Kirk – in Logan for an obvious reason. Kirk was on the bench with a soft cast on his left leg. UNM beat the Aggies by 13 without Kirk.
Now, he’s back. Now, the game is in The Pit. “You have to guard both of those guys,” said Neal. “It’s a blessing to have one, but it’s even more of a blessing to have two.”
If the Aggies want to put a scare into the Lobos on Saturday night it will be with tooth-and-nail defense and great shooting. They also need to rebound, take care of the basketball – and everything else.
The Aggies shot 52.7 percent from the field earlier in the season vs. San Diego State. You tell Morrill his Aggies are going to shoot 52 percent Tuesday in The Pit and Morrill would fall to his knee in thanks.
And then he’d start figuring out some way not to let the Lobos shoot 53 percent.
The Lobos are a load for any team to stop. They simply have too many weapons and the most consistent weapon is Bairstow who averages 20.5 points a game shooting 56 percent from the floor. He has shot 57.5 percent in MW games.
“He’s been a monster for us for a long time, but I think the most important thing about Cam is he’s been so consistent,” said Neal. “I don’t know if you’ll find anyone (power forward) more complete than him.”
The Aggies need to counter with outstanding 3-point shooting. They can’t match the Lobos inside, but they get good work inside from 6-10 Jarred Shaw. Their key to a stunning Pit upset is how well they shoot the rock from the edge.
Utah State is No. 1 in the Mountain West in 3-point field goal percentage (.407) and No. 2 in field goal percentage (.463). The Aggies need to control the tempo, maybe keep the score down some, be in the game at the end – and hit a whole lot of shots.
Something they couldn’t do in Logan.