GAME NOTES: Still searching for their first Mountain West Conference win of the season, the San Jose State Spartans try to make it happen tonight as they host the New Mexico Lobos at The Event Center.
The Spartans began the season with an even split of their first 12 games, even mounting a four-game win streak during the month of December. However, the squad started off the new calendar year with a 62-50 setback to Nevada in the conference opener, continued with a loss to Utah State, and carried on with a narrow 66-64 defeat at the hands of Colorado State three nights ago.
In starting the league slate at 0-3, the Spartans enter the weekend all alone at the bottom of the standings. In addition, SJSU is also the only team in the MWC that is playing below .500 overall.
Meanwhile, the Lobos seemed to have bounced back from their back-to-back defeats to Kansas and New Mexico State in the middle of last month, putting together a four-game win streak heading into the weekend. The squad went to overtime for the second time this season on Wednesday night and pulled out a victory against host Wyoming.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, they are in a difficult situation tonight as they go up against an opponent that they are winless against in six previous encounters. However, the teams have not played each other since the 1999 campaign when UNM slipped by the Spartans in San Jose in overtime, 82-81, in January of that year, and then blew the doors off SJSU in The Pit barely a month later, 82-46.
Cameron Bairstow scored 15 points, leading four players in double figures, as the New Mexico Lobos captured a thrilling three-point win in overtime against the Cowboys in conference action at Arena Auditorium. Alex Kirk and Cleveland Thomas both tallied 12 points for the Lobos, followed by Kendall Williams with 10 points, although the latter shot just 4-of-16 from the floor on the night. One of the missed shots for Williams came from 3-point range at the end of regulation as he tried to win the game for the visitors. On the glass, UNM owned a 37-31 rebounding margin and limited the hosts to just five offensive boards.
A 55.8 percent shooter from the field who knows better than to try an make himself into a perimeter threat, Bairstow leads the Lobos in scoring with 20.4 ppg and is also second on the unit with 7.4 rpg. Alex Kirk (14.6 ppg), the man who is tops on the glass with 9.5 rpg, for some reason believes he can stretch defenses out to the perimeter, even though he has knocked down only 22.2 percent of his 3-point tries. Far more trustworthy on the outside is Williams (18.2 ppg) who, despite having a rough go of it three nights ago, has a team- best 24 triples.
The Spartans were led by Rashad Muhammad who tallied a game-high 28 points, while Chris Cunningham responded with 13 points and Jaleel Williams 11 in the squad's third straight setback on Wednesday when they bowed to visiting Colorado State. In a game that featured 10 ties and 16 lead changes, SJSU came up short despite converting 9-of-19 shots behind the 3-point line.
Playing slightly more than 30 minutes per game and coming off the bench in all but one of the 15 outings for the Spartans this season, Muhammad leads the team in scoring with 17.4 ppg. Shooting just 44.2 percent from the floor overall, Muhammad has proven himself a top prospect out on the perimeter where he has made good on 47.6 percent of his tries for a team that is averaging 10 triples per contest. Opponents have converted 53 fewer 3-pointers, yet they are still outscoring the Spartans by close to two points per outing.
New Mexico is playing just its fourth true road game of the season tonight, but being in enemy territory hasn't shaken the squad up all that much and the history for the Lobos in this series is certainly favorable.
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