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It’s a quarterfinal matchup of the Mountain West Tournament coming to you live from Sin City. The seventh-seeded New Mexico Lobos battle the second-seeded Utah State Aggies Thursday night with the winner advancing to the semifinals. New Mexico downed Wyoming 78-68 in their first-round matchup Wednesday afternoon to advance. Utah State dropped Colorado State 100-96 in overtime in their regular season finale last Tuesday. The Aggies own a 25-11 edge in the all-time series and took both matchups this season, including a 71-55 home win in the last matchup on February 20.
New Mexico Lobos Look to Pull Upset
New Mexico bounced back from losing to Wyoming in the regular season finale by eliminating the 10th seeded Cowboys in the first round of the conference tournament. The Lobos improved to 14-17 overall on the season with the victory. New Mexico trailed by as many as 14 in the first half and by 11 at halftime. The Lobos trailed 47-34 with 14:49 to play before ripping off a 20-2 run to go up 54-49 with 8:51 to go. New Mexico never trailed again as they went on to the victory. The Lobos shot 35.9 percent from the field, including seven of 28 from three-point range, and drained 25 of 35 free throw attempts in the victory. Vance Jackson led New Mexico with 26 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals in the win.
— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) March 13, 2019
The Lobos put up an average of 76.1 points a night this season. New Mexico collects 37.7 rebounds a night while dishing out 13.8 assists per contest. The Lobos have been dreadful on the defensive end, ranking 296th in the nation by giving up 76.5 points a game. Anthony Mathis leads the team with 14.7 points per contest. Vance Jackson chips in 12.3 points plus 7.1 boards a game while the addition of Kansas transfer Carlton Bragg (10.9 points, 9.3 rebounds) after he became eligible is a boost to the rotation. Makuach Maluach (10 points), Corey Manigault, Dane Kuiper, Keith McGee and Vladimir Pinchuk each put up at least 3.1 points a game. New Mexico is hitting 42.6 percent from the field as a team on the year. The Lobos knock down 9.2 triples a night while shooting 34.9 percent from beyond the arc this season. New Mexico is mediocre at the charity stripe as they cash in 69.8 percent of their chances as a team this season.
Utah State Aggies Seek Eighth Straight Win
Utah State finished the regular season with seven straight wins and a share of the Mountain West regular season crown as they edged Colorado State in overtime. The Aggies enter their first conference tournament action with a 25-6 mark overall and 15-3 in the conference. Utah State led by five at the half before being pushed to overtime. In the extra session, the Aggies had a 7-0 run to take a 95-88 edge with 45 seconds to play and that was enough to get the win. Utah State shot a blistering 60 percent from the field, including six of 16 from three-point range, and held a 35-30 edge on the glass. Sam Merrill led the Aggies with a career-high 38 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists in the win.
— Deuce☔️ (@DwaynebrownJr2) March 12, 2019
The Aggies are putting up an average of 79.1 points per game on the season. Utah State puts up an average of 40 rebounds per contest and dishes out 17.2 assists a night. The Aggies are 58th in scoring defense as they give up just 66.8 points a night. Sam Merrill leads the team with 21 points and 4.2 assists a game. Neemias Queta is the only other player in double figures as he averages 11.6 points plus 8.9 rebounds a night. Brock Miller, Dwayne Brown Jr., John Knight III, Quinn Taylor, Tauriwan Knight and Diogo Brito are solid role players for the Aggies this season. Utah State is shooting 47.4 percent from the floor as a team. The Aggies hit 7.8 treys a night but are hitting 35.3 percent on their shooting from beyond the arc. Utah State is very good at the line as they’re sinking 74.7 percent of their chances on the year.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
New Mexico showed a lot of grit and tenacity by rallying from 13 down in the second half to down Wyoming but you can’t expect that kind of performance here. Utah State has a lot of capable role players, a great big man in Queta and a do-everything guy in Merrill who can carry the team on his back. The Lobos were fortunate to prevail in a game where Mathis was one of 13 from the floor and were fortunate that Jackson carried them. That won’t be the case here: Utah State is too tough and, perhaps more importantly, too motivated to fall here. The Aggies advance to the semifinals once they knock the rust off.
Prediction: Utah State Aggies -11.5
Full-Game Total Pick
New Mexico has been prolific offensively despite an inability to shoot the ball with any consistency. The Lobos are 88th in scoring offense despite coming in 273rd in field goal percentage and 151st in three-point percentage on the season. New Mexico has to face a Utah State defense that is 12th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (39.3 percent) this season. The Aggies are 14th in the nation in rebounding and boast a hefty +12.2 rebound per game advantage this season. Utah State is 42nd in scoring offense, 40th in field goal percentage defense and 39th in free throw percentage this season. Can the Lobos find a way to hang in against the Aggies or does their season end here?
The under is 4-0 in the Lobos’ last 4 vs. a team with a winning straight up record, 8-1 in their last 9 neutral site games and 7-3 in their last 10 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600. Utah State has seen the under go 5-2 in their last 7 games after allowing more than 90 points in their previous game and 14-6 in their last 20 games following an ATS loss. The under is 4-0 in their last four meetings: the Aggies shut down the Lobos’ offense and that helps keep this one under the total.
Prediction: Under 149