New Mexico seems to be at its best when facing some of the top teams in the country.
The 19th-ranked Lobos look to maintain that high level of play as they host surging Dayton to open the new year Friday night.
New Mexico (13-1) will try to improve 4-0 against teams that are currently, or were once, ranked in the Top 25 this season. The Lobos bounced back from a 75-66 loss at Oral Roberts by beating No. 20 Texas Tech 90-75 on Tuesday. They also won 86-78 over a California team that opened the season ranked 13th and beat then-No. 16 Texas A&M 84-81.
“Obviously, it’s a really big for our program to beat three ranked teams in the non-league with this basketball team,” Lobos coach Steve Alford said of his team that has one senior on its roster.
Though the Lobos have won 18 straight games on their home floor at The Pit, they certainly face a challenge against Dayton (10-2). Ranked as high as 18th at the season’s outset, the Flyers have won eight in a row since losing consecutive games to then-No. 5 Villanova and Kansas State at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
“We are starting to get our swag,” senior guard Rob Lowery told the school’s official Web site.
A victory in this contest could vault Dayton back into the Top 25, but that won’t be easy against a New Mexico squad that held Texas Tech to a season-low 41.0 percent shooting while forcing 18 turnovers.
“That was probably our best defensive effort in a long time,” Alford said. “That’s encouraging.”
Darington Hobson had 23 points with 12 rebounds Tuesday and Roman Martinez added 10 and 11, respectively, for the Lobos, who scored at least 90 points for the third time this season.
“If Steve keeps his team hungry, and doesn’t let them get satisfied, they are going to have a hell of a year.” Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said of the Lobos, who are averaging 81.5 points.
A junior college transfer, the 6-foot-7 Hobson is averaging a team-leading 16.9 points and 8.1 rebounds while posting five double-doubles in his first season with the Lobos.
Hobson and the Lobos, however, face a stiff test against Dayton, which has held five straight opponents under 40 percent shooting. The Flyers limited Boston University to 38.9 percent in a 74-60 win Tuesday.
Lowery scored a career-high 23 points off the bench and Chris Wright added 19 as the Flyers recorded the school’s 500th victory at historic Dayton Arena.
The 6-8 Wright is averaging a team-best 14.8 points, while Lowery broke out after scoring 31 total points in his previous five games.
“We have different threats,” Lowery said. “Anybody can have a big night against anybody.”
The preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10, Dayton is 1-1 against Top 25 opponents. The Flyers beat then-No. 21 Georgia Tech in Puerto Rico on Nov. 19, one day before losing to Villanova.
Dayton evened the all-time series at one game apiece with a 70-57 win at New Mexico in the CoSIDA Classic in 1999.