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NCAA Basketball Mountain West BasketballNew Mexico LobosWyoming Cowboys

New Mexico at Wyoming Features Two Teams Headed in Opposite Directions

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Had this game been played earlier in 2013, it might have been a nationally televised game and an even bigger game within the Mountain West Conference. The New Mexico Lobos were 20th in the country with a 13-2 record while Wyoming was an eye-opening 12-0. The new year has not been kind to the Cowboys.

While New Mexico is still 20th in the nation, Wyoming has fallen on some tough times following the suspension of guard Luke Martinez for a bar fight on December 30th. Since then, Wyoming is 3-4 following their 13-0 start.

The Lobos come in leading the Mountain West Conference with a 4-1 mark while the Cowboys have seen their slide drop them to 2-4 in conference.

Wyoming has cracked the 60-point mark only once since Martinez’ suspension kicked in which is a far cry from the team that failed to score 60 only once in their first 13 games. Martinez was the heart and soul of this team and not having him has taken a toll on the Cowboys’ chances at a run deep into March.

They simply lack the firepower that Martinez provided and his 14.5 points per game are sorely missed. Last time out, a loss against Air Force, saw Wyoming hoist up 28 three-pointers. They made only five and lost 57-48. In their previous game at UNLV they were only 3-of-16 from deep and lost 62-50. To say their offense is reliant on the three-ball of late is an understatement.

New Mexico, meanwhile, is coming off a loss at a then-unranked San Diego State in which they scored only 34 points. This has to be corrected and I’m sure coach Steve Alford will find an answer. Prior to that loss, they’d won four straight.

The Lobos have done a decent job of defending the perimeter in MWC games, holding opponents to 31.3% from beyond the arc. This percentage would be a vast improvement for the Cowboys. New Mexico isn’t the type of team that blows you away when you look at their stats–they’re in the middle of the conference in most offensive categories. Defensively they’re another story–they lead the MWC in steals (7.8) and forced turnovers (16) per game.

In order for the Lobos to walk out of the Arena-Auditorium with a win and maintain their top-25 ranking, they’ll need to limit the turnovers and play their typical defense. Playing Wyoming at this point of the season isn’t nearly as daunting as it was three weeks ago. Expect a solid road win for the Lobos.