GAME NOTES: Coming off their first Mountain West Conference loss of the season, the New Mexico Lobos try to regroup as they pay a visit to the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Save Mart Center.
Now third in the MWC standings behind San Diego State and a surprising Nevada squad, the Lobos not only lost in conference play on Wednesday night, they did so at home in a 76-73 final versus UNLV. The defeat snapped what had been a five-game win streak for New Mexico.
As for the Bulldogs, they played a tight game against the aforementioned Aztecs, the 10th-ranked team in the nation, but in the end it was SDSU that pulled out the 68-60 win at home three nights ago. With just one win in five tries in league action, the Bulldogs are next-to-last in the standings now that they've dropped four of their last five decisions.
In a relationship that began just after the end of World War II, the Lobos own a 10-7 advantage over Fresno State. Returning to action for the first time since 1999, the teams played a pair last season, with both games going to UNM which means the Lobos have now won three straight and five of the last six encounters.
Cullen Neal, the son of UNM head coach Craig Neal, was inserted into the game against UNLV with just 0.8 seconds remaining on Wednesday night and was the one who let fly with the deep 3-point attempt from the corner at the buzzer, but it glanced off the rim and left the Lobos with the 3-point setback in The Pit. Neal ended up missing all three of his 3-point tries on the night and finished with just three points, while Cameron Bairstow led the charge for the hosts with 27 points. Kendall Williams accounted for 15 points and nine assists, Alex Kirk 12 points and 11 boards, followed by Deshawn Delaney with 10 points.
A 55.4 percent shooter from the field this season, Bairstow has been at the top of the scoring list for the Lobos with his 20.4 ppg for quite some time now. Williams, who was voted the preseason player of the year in the conference, checks in with 18.1 ppg and supplements his scoring prowess with 87 assists, against just 36 turnovers. Alex Kirk (14.1 ppg) handles a lot of the action in the paint at both ends of the floor with his 9.4 rpg and 45 blocked shots, although there are times that he gets caught up in trying to be a threat on the perimeter offensively, but he has made only eight of his 40 tries behind the 3-point line.
Tyler Johnson became the 30th player in Fresno State history to record his 1,000th point, but it all went for naught as the Bulldogs missed a golden opportunity at a huge upset against San Diego State on Wednesday night. Johnson finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs in both categories, adding four assists for good measure in the hard-luck loss. The only other player to score in double figures for Fresno State was Marvelle Harris, who tallied 11 points on a mere 3-of-12 shooting from the floor, including 1-of-7 behind the 3-point line.
The top scorer for the Bulldogs in four straight outings, Johnson is putting up 15.2 ppg at the moment, although that's still fractions of a point behind Harris with his 15.4 ppg. Cezar Guerrero drops in another 14.0 ppg for the program and is first with both 74 assists and 28 steals, showing off his quick hands at both ends of the floor. While Johnson may pace the program with 7.0 rpg, the fact remains that the Bulldogs are being beaten on the glass by an average of 3.5 rpg on average.
Fresno State gave it everything it had on Wednesday night and nearly landed a major upset, but getting so close and then failing to achieve their goal may have a lingering effect for the Bulldogs, even as they perform in front of their own fans this weekend.
Game Date and Time