(12) New Mexico (26-4) at Air Force (16-12)
Saturday, March 9, 6 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Clune Arena (5,843) -- USAFA, Colorado. Television: Altitude. Home Record: UNM 15-1, AF 12-2. Away Record: UNM 8-3, AF 3-9. Neutral Record: UNM 3-0, AF 1-1. Conference Record: UNM 13-2, AF 7-8. Series Record: New Mexico leads, 53-18.
GAME NOTES: Hoping to strengthen their resume' for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, the 12th-ranked New Mexico Lobos close out the regular season on Saturday with a meeting against the Air Force Falcons at Clune Arena.
Already the regular-season champion in the Mountain West Conference, the Lobos posted their sixth straight win and the ninth in the last 10 outings on Wednesday night with a 75-62 triumph over Nevada in Reno. Aside from top- ranked Gonzaga, UNM is the highest-ranked program from outside the so-called Power Six conferences.
Air Force, which enters the weekend sixth in the conference standings with a record of 7-8, has dropped two straight and four of the last five contests overall. Also in action three nights ago, the Falcons were handed a 58-51 setback by San Diego State on the road.
In terms of the all-time series, a lopsided 81-58 victory by the Lobos at home last month boosted the team's advantage versus the Academy to a whopping 53-18.
Except for Hugh Greenwood who made just one of his four field goal attempts and finished with a mere two points, every starter for UNM landed in double figures against Nevada earlier this week. Doing the most damage was Tony Snell who tied for the game-high with 25 points, followed by Cameron Bairstow who logged 15 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out. Alex Kirk registered a double-double as well with 11 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Kendall Williams with 10 points and five assists.
As someone who is capable of doing a little bit of everything on the hardwood, Williams not only leads the Lobos in scoring with 13.8 ppg, he is also first with 139 assists and is close to four rebounds per outing as well. Kirk (12.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg) accounts for 55 of the program's 118 blocked shots so far this season, while Snell (11.8 ppg) has used his extensive experience with the team to become one of the more productive perimeter shooters this season.
Getting beaten on the glass yet again was just one of the reasons why Air Force came up short in the meeting against San Diego State earlier this week at Viejas Arena. In addition to a 45-32 rebounding deficit, the Falcons also shot just 33.3 percent from the field and turned the ball over 14 times. Michael Lyons was the lone double-digit scorer for the visitors with his 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting before fouling out.
On the season, Lyons is the only player netting double figures with his 17.9 ppg, although his average dips to 16.7 ppg in league play and there he is joined by Mike Fitzgerald who is accounting for 11.9 ppg versus league foes. Not far behind is Todd Fletcher (9.1 ppg) who combines with the pair to account for 67 3-pointers, more than half the team's total (113) as it tries to keep up with the rest of the MWC.
Even though the Lobos already have the top spot in the Mountain West Tournament wrapped up, they still need to go hard until the NCAA Tournament seeds are announced, so Air Force had better be ready for the attack this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico 71, Air Force 58
03/09 10:36:22 ET