Utah at New Mexico: Game Preview

The Utes travel to the Pit, where road teams rarely escape with a win...

Facts and Factors

The Utah men's basketball team (11-15, 4-8 MWC) looks to carry the momentum of Wednesday's win into ‘The Pit' Saturday as the Runnin' Utes take on New Mexico (17-9). The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. MT and will be televised live on The Mtn.

Utah enters the game coming off an 80-70 victory over Wyoming which snapped a five-game losing streak. Junior guard Chris Kupets scored a game-high 20 points to go with a career-high six rebounds in the game. Junior wing Will Clyburn scored 19 points before leaving with a foot injury. His status for Saturday's game is questionable. Junior center David Foster was the team's leading rebounder with a career-high 13 boards as well.

Clyburn remains Utah's leading scorer and rebounder at 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, ranking No. 2 in the Mountain West Conference in each category. Junior guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins is leading the Utes in assists with 3.2 per game, while Foster leads the team and the MWC in blocks, with 3.0 per contest.

New Mexico has lost two straight games, falling on the road at Colorado State and at San Diego State by identical scores, 68-62. Dairese Gary is the Lobos' top scorer at 13.1 points per game, while also leading the team in assists at 5.4 per contest. Drew Gordon leads New Mexico is rebounds with 9.3 per game.

In this season's first matchup between the Utes and Lobos, Utah was victorious at the Huntsman Center, 82-72. The win halted UNM's three-game win streak in the series. Josh Watkins scored a game-high 22 points in the win, while freshman forward J.J. O'Brien logged a double-double with a career-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds. Kendall Williams was New Mexico's leading scorer with 18 points. Gary recorded game-highs of five assists and three steals.

The Utes lead the all-time series with New Mexico, 79-48, but hold a 23-39 record in The Pit. Utah has not won in Albuquerque since Jan. 21, 2002, when the Utes captured an 81-51 win.

Utah is 3-8 on the road this season, while New Mexico is 12-1 at home.

Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year at the helm for the Utes, owns a 67-57 (.540) record. New Mexico head coach Steve Alford, also in his fourth year, holds a 93-35 (.727) record.

The Game

The Utes are coming off their first win in weeks against Wyoming and did it without Will Clyburn for part of the second half without star Will Clyburn.

If Will Clyburn can't play, this could get really ugly. Clyburn had his worst game of the season statistically when these two teams hooked up back in January, but helped opened things up from his teammates despite foul trouble.

Jiggy Watkins had been mired in a three game slump before breaking out for 19 against Wyoming. He'll need to put up comparable numbers to the 22 he scored in the first meeting for Utah to have any sort of a chance.

Freshman J.J. O'Brien had 18 points and 10 boards in the first matchup between the two schools, but has been unable to duplicate a game of that magnitude since. With the unknown that is Clyburn, O'Brien is going to be looked at to shoulder much of the scoring burden.

Outside of the loss at the Huntsman Center and the home win against BYU, the Lobos are beating the bad teams and losing to the good teams. There is as much talent on their roster as any in the conference, but getting it to all come together on a consistent basis has been an issue. They're probably going to need to run the table in the remainder of regular season and get to at least the conference tournament semifinals to have a shot for an at large bid. It may take winning the MWC tournament though to get the Lobos into the big dance.

Prediction

There's just too much athleticism at New Mexico for a Utah team with a hobbled Will Clyburn to be able to go into the toughest place to play in the conference and expect a victory. Drew Gordon will impose his will inside putting up 20 and 10 while the Utes struggle to hang with a team that never loses at home.

New Mexico 78 Utah 65

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