CU men's basketball preview: New Mexico
TIPOFF: Tuesday, 7 p.m. MT, The Pit, Albuquerque, N.M.
BROADCAST: TV — ESPN2; Radio — 850 AM.
RECORDS: Colorado 7-1; New Mexico 4-3.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (173-111, 229-177 overall); New Mexico — Paul Weir, 2nd season (23-18, 51-24 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 15.1 ppg, 6.4 apg, 5.4 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 12.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 12.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg. New Mexico — G Anthony Mathis, Sr., 14.0 ppg, .471 3-point percentage; F Corey Manigault, Jr., 12.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg; F Vance Jackson, So., 12.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg.
NOTES: The status of New Mexico's Manigault remains uncertain. Coach Paul Weir handed Manigault an indefinite suspension for his role in a pregame brawl last week against New Mexico State, and the junior forward missed Friday's loss against St. Mary's...Mathis scored 15 points off the bench in New Mexico's 75-57 loss at CU last year. The Buffs went 9-for-15 in that game from 3-point range...New Mexico is averaging 80.7 points per game but is coming off losses against New Mexico State and St. Mary's in which the Lobos failed to reach 70...The Lobos are surrendering 86.1 points per game, with the opposition shooting .487 from the floor...CU last played at The Pit in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 2012, defeating UNLV before losing to Baylor.
Before the Colorado men's basketball team visited San Diego three weeks ago, sparkplug point guard McKinley Wright said the Buffaloes were going to approach the challenging road test as if it was an NCAA Tournament game.
If it had been, the Buffs' season would have come to a disappointing end, as CU struggled offensively against a dogged San Diego defense.
Of course, it wasn't actually an NCAA tourney game, merely the first road game of the season. And while the Buffs picked up an elusive road win in rather easy fashion at Air Force four days after visiting San Diego, fully conquering the road woes that have thwarted the Buffs in recent seasons remains a critical priority for a club that begins a stretch of nine games out of the next 11 away from home on Tuesday at New Mexico.
"We have to not be satisfied with competing. We have to finish the game and come out with a victory," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "At the end of the day, that's what we're judged on. The San Diego opportunity is in our rearview mirror. We can't do anything about it. We lost to a good San Diego team, a solid team. But again, we had the game won...and didn't get a stop.
"Every game is important for this team in nonconference play."
If the Buffs expect to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, getting results away from Boulder over the next month will be imperative.
Since losing to UConn in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the Buffs have gone just 6-20 in true road games. That mark includes a pair of wins at Air Force and one at Portland, with only three occurring in the Pac-12 — Stanford and Oregon State in 2016-17, and UCLA last year.
On Tuesday, the Buffs will face a foe and an atmosphere that likely will be the polar opposite of the venue in which they struggled last month in San Diego. While only 1,880 people showed up to cheer the defensive-oriented Toreros to victory against CU — a figure that included a solid representation of Buffs fans — New Mexico has drawn over 10,000 to each of its three previous home games and averages nearly 12,000 fans per game.
Moreover, the pressing, high-paced play of the Lobos will put even more pressure on CU to correct an ongoing turnover issue that has the Buffs averaging 13.5 giveaways per game. The Buffs have posted just one single-digit turnover performance all season, and New Mexico is a club particularly adept at turning those sorts of miscues into points. While the Lobos have gone 2-2 away from home while averaging 74.2 points, they are 2-1 in the comforts of The Pit while averaging 89.3 points.
"Hopefully this will get us off on the right start," CU senior guard Namon Wright said. "This is one of the best road atmospheres there is, and hopefully it gets us ready for the next stretch. This is a new year, a new team. We expect to go over .500 on the road and hopefully do even better than that. We've lost one (road) game and won one. We're ready for the road games. It should be fun."