UAB will take on New Mexico in the opener fo the Las Vegas Invitational at 7pmET on Thursday night. Both teams are 4-1 SU this season.
UAB is coming off an 86-41 win over Alabama A&M on Sunday. The Lobos defeated Division II Western New Mexico on Monday 88-63 at home.
Dominant performanceUAB had just 30 points in the first half against Alabama A&M on Sunday and led by just 10. They exploded for 56 points in the second half and allowed 21 in the 45 points win (-25.5). Jamal Johnson led five players in double digits with 15 points in 19 minutes. The Blazers shot 48% from the field and 13-of-26 from beyond the arc. Defensively, they held the Bulldogs to just 25% shooting overall and forced 21 turnovers.
“It was great second half for the Green and Gold,” UAB head coach Andy Kennedy said in AL.com. “We settled in in the second half, knocked down some shots and did what we needed to do.”
Jordan Walker leads the team with 17 points per game and 5.3 assists. The 5-11 points guard, who started his career at Seton Hall and transferred to Tulane, averaged 13 points per game and 4.3 assists last season so he's an accomplished player. UAB's only loss came against South Carolina (66-63) on Nov. 18. They have a nice win over Rhode Island (98-61), but have not faced a non-mid major team yet.
The Blazers average 86.8 points per game and 48.7% shooting (36.9%3pt). They allow just 63.2 points per game on 41.2% shooting (40% 3pt). The three-point defense has to be a concern for Kennedy against a pretty good three-point shooting team in the Lobos.
Pitino off to a solid startRichard Pitino struggled to compete with the top teams in the Big 10 at Minnesota, so he was let go and took a job at New Mexico, who went 6-16 last season and 2-15 in the MWC under Paul Weir. The Lobos are on a three-game winning streak having defeated Montana State and Grambling before beating Western New Mexico. Their lone loss came against Colorado (87-76) on Nov. 13.
Look, @SportsCenter we'd like it if both of these posterizations could wind up on #SCtop10 but we understand if there's not room for both. @Kingmcclure22 and @ChuckieKempf, take it away! #AggieUp— NM State MBB (@NMStateMBB) November 22, 2021
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One of the key players on this team is a player who Pitino had at Minnesota and that's Jamal Mashburn Jr. (8.2ppg last year). The 6-2 guard is now averaging 18.4 points per game on 51.4% shooting (31.6% 3pt). Arizona State transfer Jalen House leads the Lobos with 19.5 points per game on 47.4% shooting and 4.5 assists. The 6-1 sophomore averaged 5.3 points on 39% 3-point shooting last season with the Sun Devils.
On the season, New Mexico averages 86 points per game on 49.4% shooting (40% 3pt). They allow 76.2 points per game on 43.6% shooting (36.7% 3pt).
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The key here for New Mexico is UAB's inability to defend the three-point shot. There's enough sample size against average team that shows that this becoming a problem for Andy Kennedy's team and New Mexico has four key players who are shooting over 52% from beyond the arc and that's not even counting House, who is shot 39% from beyond the arc at Arizona State last season. New Mexico will also take advantage of the fact that UAB has not really played anybody yet.
Full-Game Total Pick
New Mexico ranks 14th in pace of play according to TeamRankings.com. They've put up 81 or more points in all four wins, while UAB ranks 81st in pace of play. The three-point shooting defense is going to be an issue for the Blazers until they can get that fixed. It won't get fixed on Thursday night. New Mexico just has too many talented offensive players who can fill it up from outside. Take the over.