Cougars looking to reverse Lobo trend

With an outright MWC championship in sight, as well as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Cougars will take on an old foe on Wednesday for the last time as members of the same conference (barring a matchup in the MWC Tournament). The New Mexico Lobos, more than any other team, have been a thorn in BYU's side lately, and the Cougars are looking to end that.

At 13-1 in the Mountain West Conference with only two more games – both at home – to go during the regular season, BYU is on the verge of finishing with the best MWC record ever (previous best was a 14-2 record achieved first by BYU in 2007-08 and then again last season by New Mexico).

The only loss in that stretch? One would think it would have come at UNLV or SDSU, but instead, it came at the hands of the New Mexico Lobos in The Pit.

While the Cougars finally swept UNLV – a team that has had their number more than anyone else during the Dave Rose era – this season, they have now lost three consecutive games to UNM. The Lobos swept the series last year, including a key game at the Marriot Center late in the season with first place in the league on the line. Cougar star Jimmer Fredette only played 16 minutes in that game – well off his season average of 31.1 minutes – due to illness.

Coach Dave Rose said that he thinks the Lobos match up well with BYU.

"I think they've got the pieces at every position," he said. "They've got great shooters, they've got a really good point guard [and] great senior leader [in Dairese Gary], and a good inside game, so that's a challenge."

While the Lobos are only 18-11 overall this season and 6-8 in the conference, Rose noted that they've been competitive in many of their losses.

"If you added up the last-possession losses they've had this year, [they've had] maybe as many as anyone in the country. They fight you right ‘til the end, and that's what we expect on Wednesday."

The Lobos didn't have to worry about losing in the final seconds to BYU when the two last met. UNM won 86-77 after storming back from a 13-point deficit early in the second half.

"I thought we played them really well at their place, in a pretty hostile environment, and then they were really good the last 10 minutes of the game," said Rose. "But that's winning time, and that's when the Lobos usually are really good."

"Sometimes games go like that," said Fredette, who scored 32 points in that game. "They're a tough team in their place, they were very up to play us. We were a top-10 team going in there, and they wanted to beat us more than we wanted to win."

Although the Lobos have underperformed according to expectations (the media picked them to finish third, behind SDSU and BYU), they nevertheless pose a number of problems.

"New Mexico's a very good team," said Charles Abouo. "They're really tough. They do a lot of different things well. They're really versatile. They can shoot with you, they can run with you, they can slow it down. They're big, they're athletic, they're very skilled, and they have a great coach, so they're a tough matchup."

Dairese Gary, UNM's senior leader, has been one matchup problem for BYU as of late. In the last three games against the Cougars, he's averaged 20.6 points and 6.6 assists.

"He's a very good player and he really penetrates well," said Fredette about Gary. "We've had trouble in the past getting him stopped, and he really gets up for a game against us."

The Cougars are well aware of the Lobos' success against them, but Abouo said they don't see the recent losing streak to UNM as a proverbial monkey on their back. Instead, he noted that Wednesday will be a new game and a new challenge in a different setting than last time.

"It's a different game and it's gonna be totally different than down there [at The Pit]."


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