Eight games into Mountain West Conference play New Mexico has scored 579 points and allowed 579 points, 72.4 per game, a bit of an anomaly given its 3-5 record and one that might suggest the Lobos are equally good, or bad, at both ends of the floor.
But that really isn’t the case.
Since pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the season, an 85-58 victory over then-No. 6 Nevada on Jan. 5, the Lobos have been much worse at the defensive end, which makes this a good time for Fresno State to be running into the Lobos on Saturday night at the Save Mart Center.
The Bulldogs bounced back from their worst offensive game in conference play with a 75-62 victory Wednesday at Wyoming, hitting 47.2 percent of its shots including 48.0 from three.
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But they had an anomaly of their own with Braxton Huggins and Deshon Taylor, first and second on the team in shots and points per game, going a combined 2 of 12 and 1 of 7 at the 3-point line against the Cowboys’ zone with each scoring just six points.
Huggins is averaging 17.5 points per game, Taylor 15.9.
“They struggled,” coach Justin Hutson said. “Against a zone they have to slow down and see it. We want to keep them aggressive, really two good players, but against zone they have to slow down and see it.”
The Bulldogs could see some zone from New Mexico, as well, giving them a chance to get all of their pieces working together headed into a stretch of three games where they will play teams above the .500 mark in conference play.
Who to start …
Noah Blackwell played 20 minutes in the Bulldogs’ victory at Wyoming in his first game back from a hamstring injury.
“This elevation, man, my chest was burning,” he said, “but it’s all good.”
Blackwell could be back in the starting lineup against New Mexico, though Hutson has several factors in play in a backcourt where Taylor, Huggins and Blackwell have been in the same starting lineup only four times in 20 games.
Then there’s New Williams, coming off a career-high 24 points in the Bulldogs’ win at Wyoming, who has proven he can provide an instant spark off the bench: The first two games this season, 9 of 16 and 7 of 12 from three, 15 and 17 points. But he also has hit shots at a much higher percentage when in the starting lineup than coming off the bench.
In 14 starts …
▪ Minutes: 29.6
▪ FG-FGA: 50 of 115, 43.5
▪ 3FG-FGA: 31 of 82, 37.8
▪ Rebounds: 3.3
▪ Assists: 1.4
▪ Points: 11.2
In six games off the bench …
▪ Minutes: 21.0
▪ FG-FGA: 14 of 37, 37.8
▪ 3FG-FGA: 10 of 28, 35.7
▪ Rebounds: 3.3
▪ Assists: 0.5
▪ Points: 7.5
“He’s going to play similar minutes so I don’t think it really matters much whether he starts or not,” Hutson said.
Rested, but ....
New Mexico comes in off a bye, with a few extra days to figure a few things out, try this or that. But over its past six games it has had trouble defending every spot on the floor, with the exception of a blowout of injury-depleted Wyoming.
The Lobos have allowed 77.2 points per game in that six-game stretch, and only winless San Jose State has allowed more. They have allowed opponents to hit 48.6 percent of their shots, and only Colorado State has allowed a higher percentage. They have allowed opponents to knock down 44.8 percent of their shots from the 3-point line, and no one in the Mountain West has allowed a higher percentage. They have put opponents on the foul line an average of 18.3 points a game, fifth most in the conference.
That includes that 83-53 rout of Wyoming when the Cowboys hit just 35.2 percent of their shots including 27.3 from the 3-point line.
Layup line …
▪ After playing New Mexico the Bulldogs’ next three games are against Utah State, at UNLV and against Boise State, three of the other four teams in the Mountain West that going into the weekend were above .500 in conference play.
Utah State is tied with the Bulldogs in second at 6-2 and on Saturday plays UNLV. The Rebels and Broncos are tied in fourth place at 5-3 and Boise State plays at No. 8 Nevada.
▪ New Mexico guard Anthony Mathis is leading the Mountain West with 3.5 3-pointers per game in conference play. The Bulldogs have three in the Top 10 with Huggins fourth with 2.9, Blackwell eighth with 2.2 and Taylor tied for 10th with 2.1
▪ Taylor was held to nine points in the Bulldogs’ Jan. 22 victory over San Diego State and came back four days later and hit 7 of 15 shots including 5 of 9 at the 3-point line in dropping 24 on Colorado State.
Taylor, Huggins and Williams all were on the floor getting shots up on their own on Friday long after the end of practice.