Valparaiso-New Mexico Preview

The Associated Press

New Mexico hasn't lost a December home game in eight years.

That doesn't bode well for a Valparaiso team that's dropped 35 in a row to ranked opponents.

The 18th-ranked Lobos will go for the program's sixth 10-0 start as these teams meet for the first time in 53 years Saturday night at The Pit.

Since falling 81-64 to then-No. 5 Wake Forest and Chris Paul on Dec. 22, 2004, New Mexico is 33-0 at home in the final month of the year. The Lobos kept that streak in tact by shooting a season-best 51.9 percent in Wednesday's 75-67 victory over Southern California.

"Every game is big for us, especially holding down The Pit," said junior guard Kendall Williams, the team leader with 14.1 points and 5.1 assists per game. "We are 9-0 and haven't lost a game yet and we want to keep that going."

Coach Steve Alford has to like New Mexico's chances of extending its home winning streak to 12 if it can continue to find the bottom of the net and rebound the ball.

Sophomore guard Hugh Greenwood hit a career high-tying five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points on Wednesday, while teammate Alex Kirk's 13 boards helped the Lobos finish with a 31-23 rebounding edge.

"It was good to see some guys make some shots," said Alford, whose team made 38.6 percent of its field-goal attempts in a 77-68 overtime victory at Indiana State last Saturday. "They've been working awfully hard on things. Plus eight on the glass again playing the biggest team we've played all year. A lot of positives out of this one."

Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew, who like Alford is a former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, also feels good about his team's last result, a 63-52 victory over IPFW on Wednesday.

Senior forward Ryan Broekhoff, the reigning Horizon League player of the year, scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help the Crusaders improve to 6-2 for the third consecutive season.

Broekhoff, a former teammate of Greenwood and Lobos forward Cameron Bairstow at the Australian Institute of Sport, was diagnosed with mono last week.

"Ryan was unbelievable," Drew told the team's official website. "He's been battling illness for the last month and has never complained."

The Crusaders might need another big effort from Broekhoff, as well as senior forward and second leading scorer Kevin Van Wijk, if they're going to snap their lengthy skid to Top 25 opponents. Valparaiso's last victory against a ranked team was 70-69 over then-No. 13 Mississippi on March 13, 1998, when Drew's 3-pointer at the buzzer helped the 13th-seeded Crusaders advance in the NCAA tournament.

In the only previous game between these teams, New Mexico won 80-76 on Dec. 29, 1959, at the Motor City tournament.

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