GAME NOTES: Boise State tries to put an end to a three-game slide tonight, as the Broncos host the New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference play at Taco Bell Arena.
Since winning back-to-back decisions versus San Jose State and Air Force, the two teams at the bottom of the MWC standings coming into the week, the Broncos have bowed in three straight league bouts which has dropped the group to 5-6 in the standings. After suffering a heart-breaking setback to fifth-ranked San Diego State a week ago, BSU lost momentum with a 76-70 defeat at Utah State over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Lobos have found their stride since losing their annual in- state rivalry game with New Mexico State (67-61) in the middle of December. Since then the program has ripped off 11 wins in 12 opportunities, the lone setback coming against UNLV by just three points at home on Jan. 15.
Last week, UNM played to overtime for the third time this season and again came out on top with a 66-61 decision versus Wyoming at home, the team's sixth win in a row.
New Mexico has won all five of the previous meetings in the series, including an 84-75 affair in the first matchup of the season in The Pit last month.
Cameron Bairstow scored 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as he helped to guide the New Mexico Lobos to the five-point overtime victory against the Wyoming Cowboys in The Pit. Also recording a double-double for the Lobos was Alex Kirk with 15 points and 10 boards, followed by Kendall Williams with 13 points, shooting 9-of-12 at the free-throw line but just 2-of-13 from the floor as the Lobos swept the season series with Wyoming.
In conference games, Bairstow is settling in as a huge influence in the paint for the Lobos, hitting his field goals at a 57.9 percent clip as he generates 20.3 ppg, accounting for 7.0 rpg as well. Even though he may not be leading his own team in scoring during MWC outings, that should not diminish the efforts of Williams who is not only posting 16.0 ppg, but also clearing 4.1 rpg and handing out 5.0 apg. Kirk (12.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) has missed a couple of games lately, but he still paces the group with 21 blocked shots.
Boise State bolted out to a nine-point lead just over four minutes into the meeting with Utah State on Saturday, but the teams were tied at the break and after that the Broncos allowed the hosts to convert 62.5 percent from the floor. Anthony Drmic accounted for 26 points, on 5-of-10 shooting behind the 3-point line, followed by Derrick Marks and Mikey Thompson with 21 and 13 points, respectively.
Ryan Watkins, who produced seven points and nine rebounds before fouling out against the Cowboys, has proven himself to be one of the better rebounders in the conference with 13.0 rpg in those 11 league bouts, registering 12.5 ppg as well, but he has limited his own productivity due to consistent foul trouble. Marks (15.6 ppg) and Drmic (14.6 ppg) are both playing more than 32 minutes per game in conference, but all that time allows Marks to shoot only 8-of-30 (.267) behind the 3-point line.
With 10 wins in 13 chances at home this season, clearly the Broncos enjoy having the support of the fans in Idaho, but when BSU relies too much on perimeter shooting it tends to work against it. The battle in the paint between Watkins and Kirk should be an interesting one, but with Bairstow also on their side, this is a battle that should favor the Lobos.
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