On Wednesday night, the Colorado Buffaloes (6-1) play host to the New Mexico Lobos (3-5). Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm MST at the Coors Event Center.
UNM enters the matchup having lost five of their last six games. Here are some keys to a Colorado win against yet another Mountain West team…
Run them off the 3pt line
Heading into Wednesday, UNM is tied for 14th in the NCAA in total three-pointers made, having already poured in 94 on the season. They are averaging 11.4 makes from beyond the arc per game through their first eight, which is tied for eighth in the country. By contrast, the Buffs have made just 45 threes through their first seven games, averaging 6.4 per contest.
The good news for Colorado? When a team shoots a lot of threes, there are more long rebounds, which can help to even out a height disadvantage. Now, that is of course, if they are missing those shots. UNM isn’t missing all that many right now though. Capitalizing on opportunities is key.
One of Colorado’s biggest keys is going to be running the Lobos off the three point line. It is something they did not do very well in the first half against CSU, who shot five of 11 from downtown in the first 20 minutes. They did however clean things up in the second half, holding the Rams to just 2 of 7 from deep. Make no mistake, this is not the same team. UNM boasts much better shooters than CSU did.
The other critical area for the Buffs will be taking care of the basketball. That is something they did very well in Fort Collins. Finishing far under their season average of 14.3 turnovers per game, they amassed just 10 against the Rams. Why is this so essential? The Lobos rank sixth in the country in turnovers forced and 10th in turnover margin with 20.3 per game and +6.1 respectively.
UNM likes to get out and run in transition, they force opponents into mistakes with a pressing defense and won’t take a second-look at an open three if they get one. They pose yet another good test for the Buffs on Wednesday night.
Bring the Windex
Where the Buffs catch a bit of break against the Lobos is the matchup on the glass. New Mexico boasts a minus-four rebounding margin.
For a Buffs team that is in the early stages of learning how to play without Tory Miller-Stewart, out the rest of the season with a broken foot, it’s nice that New Mexico’s size is not the first thing on the scouting report. Yet after the way the Rams’ bigs gave Colorado problems, we may see more of the same for a young teams figuring things out.
Bottomline, Colorado has to find a way to compete on the glass or they could get buried early if UNM makes the shots they normally do. A complete and total team effort on the glass is mission critical.
So essentially…defense, rebounding and taking care of the basketball. Who would have thought?