NEW MEXICO STATE (22-8, 9-3 WAC) AT NEVADA (23-5, 11-1 WAC)
Time: 11 p.m. (8 p.m. Pacific)
Location: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.
New Mexico State 74 (No. 2 WAC)
Nevada 61 (No. 1 WAC)
Line: Nevada -3½ (O/U 144)
New Mexico State Players to Watch: F Wendell McKines, 6-6 Sr. (18.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 46% FG); C Hamidu Rahman, 6-11 Sr. (10.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 63.6% FG); G Daniel Mullings, 6-2 Fr. (9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 50.5% FG). Mullings had a triple-double with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in last Thursday’s 115-73 win over Hawaii and followed that performance with a solid 10-point, 5-rebound, 4-assist, 2-steal outing in Saturday’s 79-68 triumph over San Jose State on Saturday.
Nevada Players to Watch: G Deonte Burton, 6-1 So. (15.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 38.6% 3s); F Olek Czyz, 6-7 Sr. (13.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 55.5% FG); F Dario Hunt, 6-8 Sr. (10.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.2 bpg). Hunt is one of the toughest power forward in the country with 12 double-doubles this season. He has a double-double in four straight games and has had at least 11 rebounds in his last six outings. He’s also blocked 15 shots in the Packs’ last five games.
Storylines: Nevada has won 20 of its last 22 to clinch at least a share of the WAC. The Aggies, who have won five straight and 8-of-9, can stay in the race with a road upset on Thursday.
Keys: The Wolfpack held New Mexico State to 17-of-52 from the field in a 68-60 win at Las Cruces on Jan. 26. Burton scored 17 points and Hunt had 15 points and eight boards as Nevada shot 57 percent to improve win its 14th-straight game. After their 115-point explosion against defenseless Hawaii, the Aggies are up to 14th in the nation in scoring at 78.8 points per game. They also lead the WAC in field goal percentage at 47.7. Nevada is third in scoring (71.1) and second in scoring defense (64.8) in the WAC. The Wolfpack lead the conference in field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 41.1 percent. NMSU and Nevada are two of the worst free throw shooting teams in the WAC. The Aggies shoot 66.3 from the line, while Nevada’s percentage stands at 64.3. New Mexico State ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding margin at plus-8.1 Nevada has out-rebounded its opponents by 3.2 per game this season. The Aggies are 6-4 in true road games this season, but they haven’t played away from home since Feb. 11 when they beat Utah State, 80-69. The Wolfpack are 13-2 at the Lawlor Center this season, including an 11-game winning streak that ended Feb. 4 in a loss to Idaho, 72-68. The loss also snapped the Packs’ 16-game winning streak overall. They are just 4-2 since that loss and needed three overtimes to beat Fresno State on Saturday.
The Bottom Line: It’s tough not to go with Nevada in a close game in Reno, but the way the Aggies are playing, they seem poised to steal the Wolfpacks’ presumed NCAA Tourney bid next week.
The Pick: Nevada 73, New Mexico State 71
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 89-59