UW at New Mexico men’s hoops: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

My three keys for Wyoming’s regular-season finale today at New Mexico. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. MT at WisePies Arena, aka, the Pit in Albuquerque.

Hugh Greenwood

Hugh Greenwood

1. Defend Greenwood: New Mexico senior guard Hugh Greenwood leads the Mountain West with 66 made 3-pointers, and he made five in UW’s 63-62 overtime win in Laramie in January. Perimeter defense has been an issue for the Cowboys, but they were better in Wednesday’s 76-53 win over Utah State as the Aggies shot just 6 of 18 from behind the arc. No one else on the Lobos roster that will play today has made more than 16 3s. UW needs to defend well against everyone on the perimeter, but especially on Greenwood.

“We can’t let New Mexico’s crowd and emotion take over because that will be tough to overcome,” senior forward Larry Nance Jr. said.

If Greenwood gets hot — or any of New Mexico’s players — that can easily happen.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

2. Lobos have some size: New Mexico’s starting lineup will go 6-foot-3, 6-4, 6-5, 6-7 and 7-1. It also will bring a 6-10 center off the bench. Bigger teams, especially in the backcourt has given UW fits this season. UW  needs defend 6-5 senior guard Deshawn Delaney well. He leads the team with 12.1 points per game. Look for senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. and redshirt sophomore Jason McManamen to see a lot of time on Delaney when UW plays man-to-man defense. The Cowboys will need to do a good job of getting out in transition and attacking the basket when they can, and also moving the ball around well in their half-court offense. And obviously, UW will have to hold its own on the boards and not allow a lot of second and third-chance opportunities from the Lobos.

One player that has played better for New Mexico inside is 7-1 sophomore center Obij Aget, who over his last four games has averaged 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocked shots and has shot 50 percent from the field.

Here is my video preview of the game:


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UW-New Mexico men’s basketball Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Geoff Grammer, who covers New Mexico men’s basketball for the Albuquerque Journal, on Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tipoff is at 6 p.m. at WisePies Arena, or the Pit, in Albuquerque.

Follow on Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

Geoff Grammer

Geoff Grammer

Even in a worse-case scenario, could you see the Lobos struggle like they have this season with a 14-15 record and 6-11 mark in the conference?

No. I knew their selection of No. 3 in the preseason poll was generous, but was based as much on the home court advantage the Pit has been through the years as it was on question marks with other league teams. The fact that New Mexico’s two best offensive players, at least projected heading into the season (sophomore guard Cullen Neal and junior college All-American forward Jordan Goodman) never panned out due to injury was a huge blow to the team. Still, the Lobos went into Laramie in January and had every chance to win and be sitting at 7-2 at the midway point of the Mountain West season. Instead, the Wyoming loss really set them down the downward spiral they’ve been on since, which included an 0-for February eight game losing streak. The fact that they’re playing a walk-on (Tim Jacobs) 25-plus minutes per game is about as telling as anything in terms of how razor thin this team’s margin of error was this season, and injuries took that away.

Injuries to Cullen Neal and Jordan Goodman have led to those struggles, but where else has this team had significant shortcomings?

Craig Neal

Craig Neal

Coach Craig Neal’s offense has been predicated on having at least some sort of post offense, be it from the four or five spot. This year, there has been none, though Obij Aget has played probably four of his best five college games in the past few weeks. Couple that with there being only one plus-perimeter shooter on the roster (Hugh Greenwood, who has trouble creating his own shot but is great in catch and shoot situations) and the Lobos offense has just been dreadful at times. More specific to trends in the losing streak are five minute stretches of mental lapses and offensive hesitancy when players seem afraid to shoot or break down on defensive assignments. In five of the last six games, it’s been in the first half when they had that bad stretch. They’ve fallen behind by double figures in five of their last six first halves and it was 30-8 just 14 minutes into last Saturday’s loss at Fresno State before they rallied to make it a 2-point game late. Sometimes those lapses have been in the final four minutes of games (Air Force loss, Boise State loss, Nevada loss, Wyoming loss in Laramie). Regardless of when, the team has still mostly been good for about 35 minutes per game, just not 40.

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UW-New Mexico men’s basketball: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

Three keys for Wyoming in its game today against New Mexico, which tips off at 2 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

1. No 3s for Greenwood: New Mexico senior guard Hugh Greenwood shoots 30.1 percent from 3-point range. But he made six 3s in each of the Lobos’ last two road games — both wins. A lot of different New Mexico players can hurt UW today, but the Cowboys can’t let Greenwood go off from the perimeter or it could be a long afternoon.

2. Make perimeter shots: New Mexico will play 11 guys, and there is no shortage of post players it can turn to. UW needs its offense to feed off of senior forward Larry Nance Jr. inside, but the Cowboys probably won’t get New Mexico into foul trouble. The Lobos and a long and athletic squad, so to loosen things up inside, the Cowboys need to make some perimeter shots.

3. Feed off the atmosphere: UW’s largest crowd in 10 years is expected to be there today (10,000-plus). The players need to feed off that energy, especially early. They can’t be too amped up and make silly mistakes, but if they can grab some early momentum and go with it, it could be a fun afternoon at the A-A.

Here is my video preview of today’s game:


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