Utah vs New Mexico- Game Preview

The Utes return to the Hunstman Center for a battle with talented New Mexico looking to push their winning streak to two...

Facts and Factors

The Utah men's basketball team (8-10, 1-3 MWC) hosts New Mexico (13-5, 1-2 MWC) Wednesday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. MT and the game will be televised live on The Mtn.

Utah is coming off its first Mountain West Conference victory of the year after capturing a 68-51 road win at Wyoming on Saturday. The win also snapped a seven-game losing streak. Utah was led by junior wing Will Clyburn, who logged his sixth double-double, with game-highs of 24 points, 12 rebounds, five 3-pointers and two steals. Junior center David Foster had one of his best games of the year, pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking five shots.

Clyburn remains Utah's leading scorer and rebounder at 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, ranking No. 2 in the MWC in each category. Junior guard Josh Watkins is leading the Utes in assists with 3.5 per game, while Foster leads the team and the MWC in blocks, with 2.9 per contest.

New Mexico is coming off an 87-77 home loss to San Diego State, which followed a 68-61 home victory against Colorado State. The Lobos' other conference loss came at Wyoming, 67-66.

The Lobos are led offensively by senior guard Dairese Gary, who averages 13.7 points per game. Junior forward Drew Gordon is their leading rebounder at 8.8 boards per contest, while Gary is also their top assist man at 5.3 helpers per game.

The Utes hold an all-time record of 78-48 (.619) against the Lobos, including a 52-7 (.881) mark at home. New Mexico has won three straight meetings however, including a sweep of both games last year. In their last clash in Salt Lake City, the Lobos took a three-point win in Salt Lake City, 68-65, in overtime.

The Utes are 6-3 at home this year, while the Lobos are 3-3 in road games.

Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year at the helm for the Utes, owns a 64-52 (.552) record. New Mexico is coached by Steve Alford, also in his fourth season, who owns an 89-31 (.742) record as the Lobos' head coach.

The Game

Will the Utes pick up their first conference home win of the season? They're going to have to do it against one of the big four in the conference.

New Mexico comes in with a team with as much as talent as any in the conference. Putting all of those pieces together hasn't gone as smoothly as they'd like, but this could end up being the best team in the Mountain West by the end of the season.

Despite all of the talent on the roster, New Mexico has been a fairly inconsistent team. The Lobos are coming off of a home loss to top 10 San Diego State and have started out their conference play with a 1-2 record. The other loss came via a buzzer beat at Wyoming, a place where the Utes manhandled the Cowboys just this past weekend.

True freshman Kendall Williams has been very impressive. Williams was once committed to UCLA, showing just how highly regarded his talents were coming out of high school. He's shooting 50% on the year from three, scoring more than 11 points per game, while dishing out nearly 5 assists and 3 rebounds.

Transfer Drew Gordon, who wasn't available until midway through December, is showing why he was considered one of the top 50 players in the country coming out of high school. The power forward left UCLA in late 2009 after not seeing eye to eye with coach Ben Howland. He's a fiery guy who attacks the rim and can rebound. He's very athletic and can guard multiple positions. He's coming off two tremendous performances in which he put up 15 point and 16 rebounds, followed by a 23 point and 14 rebound game.

Even with the likes of Williams, Gordon, and even Phillip McDonald, Dairese Gary may be the best player on team. The do everything guard is averaging a team leading 15+ points to go along with 5.3 assists and 3 rebounds per game. The offensive gameplan for New Mexico is often dictated by Gary.

Play like you did against Wyoming. That's what Utah needs to do. It was easily their most complete game of the season. Despite not knocking down a ton of shots, Utah domintated the Cowboys. Especially in the rebounding department with a +15 advantage.

We know what we're getting out of Will Clyburn. New Mexico isn't going to stop him so he'll get his 18-25 points. If Clyburn can get those points in an efficient matter (free throws, and less than 15 field goal attempts), the Utes will have a much better chance to pull off the upset.

Jiggy Watkins has been unstoppable in the past few games, and was a big reason for the blowout win over Wyoming. While he wasn't great from the field, Watkins did put in 16 points and ran the team to perfection. He's also getting to the line averaging over 8 attempts per game in the last three contests. The Utes will need huge games out of their two stars.>/ Prediction

If the Utes play like they did against Wyoming, they'll have a very good opportunity to beat the Lobos, and one of these days I'll pick the Utes to win again. This isn't going to be that game. New Mexico isn't as good right now as they were last year, but are still an NCAA tournament quality team. Utah is not. Clyburn will again get his, but the athleticism inside of Gordon, combined with the backcourt scoring of Williams and Gary will be too much as Steve Alford's team gets the win in a game that isn't as close as the final score would indicate. New Mexico 76 Utah 68


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