Tonight, the two in-state rivals will meet for the 191st time in a series that will celebrate its 99th anniversary on Dec. 22. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m. in the Pan American Center. New Mexico leads the series 100-90, while NMSU leads 54-38 in Las Cruces.
The Lobos fell 77-71 to Portland on Monday night in Albuquerque, a game in which the visitors from Oregon went on a 20-6 run the second half and held UNM without a basket for 7:27.
"We're disappointed with that loss," UNM senior guard Javin Tindall said. "But we have to move on to the next game. We have to come out against New Mexico State and responded with a good effort."
Tindall and sophomore post David Chiotti have been keys for the Lobos in their first three games. Chiotti is averaging 20 points and 5.3 rebounds, while Tindall is averaging 19.3 points and has made 11 of 22 three-pointers. Chiotti had 19 points in Monday's loss, while fellow post player Alfred Neale, a 6-5 forward, had 22. Tindall scored 13.
"New Mexico has a very good starting five," NMSU coach Lou Henson said. "They have some veteran guys that played last year and know the system. Javin Tindall is an improved player that can really shoot and David Chiotti is solid inside. We're going to have our hands full.
We're going to have make them work for everything they get." The Lobos have wins against San Francisco State and New Mexico Highlands in the regular season. They also went on a four-game tour in Canada, where they went 4-0 in preseason action.
"New Mexico is more athletic and deeper than last year," said NMSU assistant coach Chris Crutchfield, who handled the scouting for tonight's game. "New Mexico has some very good guard play and they have improved play inside. We're going to have rebound well and defend well. They have some guys that shoot the three-pointer really well."
The Lobos have made 35 of 73 treys in three games so far and shot 53.2 percent overall from the field. But Chiotti said the key for the Lobos will be defensively.
"We have to become tougher defensively," he said. "We have to make New Mexico State work hard on offense for shots and we have to be tough on the boards. We can't allow second shots and we can't give them good looks at the basket." The Aggies are 3-0 with wins against Eastern New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands and the University of Texas-Arlington.
"We still have a lot to prove and a lot to work on," Henson said. "We have so much to work on offensively and defensively. We're still trying to get better and we are still not at full strength."
The Aggies are slowly but surely getting everyone back on the team. Freshman wing Robert Frazier returned from a knee injury against Eastern New Mexico on Saturday and played 15 minutes, and sophomore wing Duane John is back tonight after serving a three-game NCAA suspension.
"We need everyone back and we need everyone to contribute," Henson said. "We're still trying to find consistency and the New Mexico game will be a big test for us. We're going to be challenged and we have to focus and played solid, fundamental basketball."
The Aggies have five players scoring in double digits, led by senior forward James Moore at 17.0 points per game. Moore is followed by senior wing/forward Kelsey Crooks (13.0) and junior guard Allen Haynes (12.0).
NMSU has shot 46.6 percent in its first three games, limited opponents to 40.5 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle 41.7 to 34.0.
"We have to keep playing hard on defense," Crooks said. "We have to keep New Mexico off the boards and try to get some easy baskets. It's a big game. It's a rivalry game and both teams will be geared to playing hard."
Notes: Henson is 14-18 lifetime against New Mexico. ... NMSU has three players on its roster from New Mexico in Haynes, Crooks and Gary Jackson. The three are averaging 35 points per game in the team's first three games and are shooting 50 percent from the field. ... Sixty of the 190 games in the in-state rivalry have been decided by less than five points