A week away from a showdown that could decide the Mountain West regular-season champion, New Mexico is tuning up against the league’s worst teams.
Following some close calls earlier this month, the Lobos look for a second straight easy victory and sixth in a row over Air Force on Saturday in a matchup between teams at opposite ends of the conference standings.
The 12th-ranked Lobos (24-3, 10-2) lead the Mountain West by a half-game over No. 16 BYU, and those teams will square off in Provo next Saturday.
New Mexico comes into this game having won 10 in a row, the first time it has done that in conference play since 1977-78.
After two of their previous three games went into overtime, the Lobos had a much easier time against Wyoming on Wednesday, winning 83-61 at home. They took a 17-point lead into halftime against a Cowboys team which is eighth in the conference, ahead of only Air Force (9-15, 1-10).
“They’re really good,” Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said of the Lobos. “They’re playing as good as any team in the country. Anytime you can win 10 games in a row in January and February, you’re playing really well. They’re playing with a lot of confidence, and in this building, it’s good luck.”
Darington Hobson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double and third in four games. Roman Martinez scored in double figures for a seventh straight game and Steve Alford posted his 300th win as a Division I coach as the Lobos improved to 15-1 at home.
“We’re still trying to get better,” Hobson said. “We’re 24-3 and we know we still have a lot to prove. We haven’t won anything yet.”
Hobson is among the top three in the conference in scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg), including 49 points and 22 boards in his last two home games. The junior scored a season-low four points at Air Force on Jan. 20, but the Lobos won 73-50 behind 25 points from Phillip McDonald.
New Mexico has won five in a row over the Falcons by an average of 18.0 points - each of those games was decided by double digits. Air Force has lost its last two visits to Albuquerque by a combined 40 points.
The Lobos figure to have another high-scoring game Saturday. They are second in the conference behind BYU in scoring with 77.7 points per game and are averaging 82.3 in the last four home contests. They went 13 of 27 from 3-point range against the Falcons in January.
Scoring, meanwhile, has been a big problem for Air Force, which has dropped four in a row since recording its only conference victory - 70-63 over Wyoming on Jan. 30. The Falcons haven’t played since a 91-48 loss at BYU last Saturday - the third time in four games they failed to reach 50 points.
The Cougars are the nation’s lowest-scoring team on the road, averaging 51.2 points. They’ve lost 17 consecutive road games in conference play.
Grant Parker and Evan Washington both have double-figure scoring averages for Air Force, but they combined for seven points on 3-of-11 shooting against BYU.