South Dakota State (9-4) at (16) New Mexico (12-0)
Saturday, December 22, 2:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Pit/Bob King Court (15,411) -- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Television: Local. Home Record: SDSU 6-0, UNM 7-0. Away Record: SDSU 1-4, UNM 2-0. Neutral Record: SDSU 2-0, UNM 3-0. Conference Record: SDSU 1-0, UNM 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The first-ever meeting between the South Dakota State Jackrabbits and the undefeated and 16th-ranked New Mexico Lobos is set to take place in The Pit on Saturday.
One of only eight undefeated teams remaining in Division I, the Lobos are one of two teams in such a position in their own Mountain West Conference, the other being Wyoming which is also 12-0 entering the weekend. New Mexico has had a couple of close calls thus far, such as the overtime win against Indiana State on the road earlier this month, but still the perfect record remains intact.
Three nights ago UNM completed a home-and-home series with in-state rival New Mexico State, picking up a 68-63 win in Las Cruces after claiming a more comfortable 73-58 triumph at home in Albuquerque last weekend.
As for the Jackrabbits, their schedule in the early going has had some less recognizable opponents, such as Southwest Minnesota and District of Columbia, but still the team is one win away from 10 on the season. The team could have notched that victory on Wednesday in a meeting with Belmont, but it was crushed on the road in a 76-49 final. The setback snapped a three-game win streak for an SDSU program that is just 1-4 in true road dates here in 2012-13.
The 'Jacks went from shooting just 2-of-9 behind the 3-point line in the first half against Belmont earlier this week, to converting a mere 1-of-12 on the perimeter after the break, preventing them from making a serious push towards ant sort of comeback bid. Nate Wolters scored a team-best 13 points, adding eight rebounds, while Brayden Carlson accounted for 12 points, but between the two they made just 2-of-10 out on the perimeter and 8-of-26 shots from the floor as the team finished at a dismal 27.0 percent from the field through 40 minutes. Playing more than 37 minutes per contest, Wolters is the sort of player who can and will do anything in order to help his team win, from his 19.3 ppg, to 6.5 rpg and team highs with 63 assists and 19 steals over his 11 appearances. Jordan Dykstra accounts for another 13.2 ppg and is first on the glass with 6.7 rpg, yet he is also an impressive 24-of-47 (.511) beyond the arc at the moment as well.
The margin of victory wasn't quite as comfortable for the Lobos on the road as it was at home against New Mexico State earlier this week, but a win is a win no matter how many points a team scores. Kendall Williams led all scorers with 24 points, connecting on all eight of his free-throw attempts, followed by Tony Snell and Hugh Greenwood with 11 and 10 points, respectively, which means the backcourt again ruled the floor for the Lobos. Williams has taken full advantage of his 77 trips to the free-throw line this season, hitting on 65 (.844) of those chances in order to settle in as the top scorer on the team with 14.3 ppg. But more than just putting the ball in the basket himself, Williams is also the one responsible for getting his teammates involved, to the tune of 61 assists in 12 games. Snell (11.5 ppg) is similar to Williams in that he has handed out 41 assists and is shooting 87.2 percent at the charity stripe where the team has outscored the competition by a massive 258-130 margin.
With Williams and Snell directing traffic, as long as their teammates can convert the many passes that the duo set them up with, there's little chance that the Lobos will be taken down in their own building on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico 72, South Dakota State 60
12/22 10:39:50 ET