San Diego State vs. 15/14 New Mexico
Time: 6:00 p.m. PST
Location: Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV
15/14 New Mexico (27-5, 13-3)
Head Coach: Steve Alford
UNM Record: 152-51 / 6th season
Projected Starting Lineup
G – Kendall Williams (Jr.) 6'4, 185
"He does everything for them. He creates, gets in the lane, shoots, plays good defense, he's an all around player," Xavier Thames said of the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.
G – Hugh Greenwood (So.) 6'3, 205
F – Tony Snell (Jr.) 6'7, 200
"I figured I'd try to be aggressive, you know, from the start," Snell said after the victory over Wyoming. "Try to be a threat out there, you know, 'cause if they held me, I could drive and kick to find other players, they would be able to score. Just try my best to do good both sides of the ends."
F – Chad Adams (Sr.) 6'6, 190
F – Alex Kirk (So.) 7'0, 250
"He didn't play last year because of a back injury," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. "Two years ago, he was viewed more as a `pick and pop' player. A guy who spaced the floor and shot the ball well. Now he's a guy who can punish you inside with is size and skill, and he still has the ability to shoot the ball."
The Lobos have a strong unit coming off the bench led by 6-foot-9 big man Cameron Bairstow who is averaging 9.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. The junior has the ability to play alongside Kirk that has created a huge problem inside for SDSU. Senior's Chad Adams and Jamal Fenton are experienced backcourt players who produce about 9 points a contest.
San Diego State (22-9, 9-7)
Head Coach: Steve Fisher
SDSU Record: 273-164 / 14th season
Projected Starting Lineup
G – Xavier Thames (Jr.) 6'3, 190
"When you take one of your best players out, when you take a guy out that has the ball in his hands so often, it affects you," Fisher said of Thames. "When he didn't play, somebody else needs to step up. I thought they did. We're better when Xavier plays, and when he plays healthy.?He's getting closer to where he was at his best both early this year and last year. So it's obvious if we want to be as good as we can, we need Xavier Thames leading, pushing. He's our best defender. He's the guy that initiates all the offense, too. We're so much better when X plays."
G – Chase Tapley (Sr.) 6'5, 205
"We're going to have to come out and match their intensity, two of the best defensive teams in the conference," Tapley said of the upcoming matchup. "We just got to keep making shots. We do that, it's going to be hard to beat us. We got to keep attacking the defensive glass. We really boarded tonight. I'm proud of all our players for that."
F – Jamaal Franklin (Jr.) 6'5, 205
"My teammates make me comfortable," Franklin said when asked having success in the MW tournament. "When I'm having a bad game, they always there to pick me up. X and James are always there to pick me up. If you worry about making a turnover, aren't playing good, they're able to pick up the slack and give you confidence. Everything works out smoothly."
F – J.J. O'Brien (So.) 6'7, 225
"They got a lot of inches and pounds on me," O'Brien said of going against Kirk and Bairstow. "He's a good player. They are all good players. Just have to bring your best effort. I definitely am giving up a lot of pounds and inches."
F – Deshawn Stephens (Sr.) 6'8, 225
Fifth-year guard James Rahon has scored 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting in the two games against New Mexico. He has 7 points on 3-of-17 in the Aztecs last three games. He must step up vs. the Lobos. Winston Shepard looked so disinterested and a lack of focus in the previous game against BSU. Not a good sign. He'll eventually get his shot at Williams and/or Snell on Friday night. Skylar Spencer will have his hands full with Kirk and Baristow down on the low block.
Keys to the Game
1) Defense. It's been the main ingredient for wins all season long. The team allowed 34 points to New Mexico in the first go around and 70 in the past one. Thames being near full strength should slow down the head of the snake, also known as Williams.
2) Win inside. The Lobos have multiple big men beginning with Kirk who have created problems for SDSU. Will Fisher have his team double or stunt the post or leave Stephens, Spencer, etc. on an island. Once the Aztecs get a stop secure the board and go!
3) Play under control. San Diego State beat Boise State on Wednesday night despite turning the ball over 19 times, yes, 19. New Mexico is a whole different animal. Aztecs must play within themselves and limit the careless mistakes if they plan to advance to the MW championship.
What to Watch
"They're going to come at us and they're going to want to smack us around like they did at their place," Fisher added. They had 34 all over their locker room. We held them to 34 the first game. Some way, somehow, somebody incorrectly said that I said that the Pit was our second home. They responded after they beat us, sometimes the second homes aren't as good as you think they are. They were anxious to play us. I'm sure they'll be anxious to play us again. So will we."
San Diego State
"Last year a lot of people didn't think a lot of us," Franklin said when asked about no one has picked them to win the conference tournament. "We all play with a chip on our shoulder every day. We want to win. We take it one day at a time. Like coach said many times before, we've been in that championship going on four years. We want to make it the fifth year and try to make this happen."
"It's going to be a hard fought game. If you haven't watched our games lately, they're all hard fought games. We had a big lead on them at our house. ?We're just ready to play. It's going to be a competitive game. Can't wait for Friday."
-San Diego State forward Jamaal Franklin on playing New Mexico
The Aztecs are locked in for the tournament after taking down Boise State but this team is looking to go into next weekend on a winning streak and the only way of doing so is being MW tourney champs. SDSU has more to play for with them staring down a 7-10 seed at the moment. Lobos look primed to be a No. 2 seed, unsure if wins against SDSU and possibly UNLV would boost them to a No. 1. San Diego State has the look and feel to them that they are leaving Vegas as conference champs. I'm on the bandwagon.
San Diego State 64 New Mexico 62
Game Day Breakdown: SDSU vs. New Mexico
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