New Mexico Lobos vs. San Diego St. Aztecs Pick & Prediction JANUARY 13th 2024

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No. 19 San Diego State faces a tough task on Saturday when it visits New Mexico for a Mountain West Conference game in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Aztecs (14-2, 3-0 MWC) have won seven in a row, however they know the Lobos (13-3, 1-2) are a dangerous opponent.

Last season, San Diego State was ranked 23rd in the nation when it dropped a 76-67 decision to the visiting Lobos to end a six-game winning streak and a 4-0 start in conference play.

They met again in Albuquerque on Feb. 25 and the Aztecs escaped with a 73-71 win on Lamont Butler’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Butler would go on to hit an even more clutch buzzer-beater to beat Florida Atlantic in the NCAA Final Four.

The Lobos also return the two players who did the most damage against San Diego State last season.

Jaelen House scored 29 points in last season’s win in San Diego and Jamal Mashburn Jr. had 22. They combined for 35 points in the loss to the visiting Aztecs as well.

Mashburn and House are averaging 16.2 and 14.7 points per game, respectively, this season.

San Diego State’s cupboards hardly were left bare following its runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs returned four of their top six scorers from last season and added a couple of talented transfers as well.

Jay Pal, a senior transfer from Campbell, delivered his best performance in an 81-78 win at San Jose State on Tuesday. The 6-foot-9 forward had 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks off the bench.

Pal’s biggest contribution came when he blocked a driving layup attempt by Trey Anderson with two seconds left to overcome a defensive breakdown on the play and preserve the two-point lead.

“We’re going to make mistakes so don’t quit on a play,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “Don’t look at each other and say, ‘You should have been there, you should have done this.’ Just keep playing.”

Pal said Dutcher allows him to play freely.

“He understands (mistakes) come with the game,” Pal said. “He just wants me to keep my confidence and just keep trying to make plays. He knows I’m a playmaker. He just keeps my confidence level where it’s at.”

Dutcher said it’s important that his team plays with confidence and isn’t constantly worried about making a turnover or bad decision with the basketball.

“I learned a long time ago that if you take their confidence, you can’t ever give it back,” Dutcher said. “I want them confident, even to the point where we have to teach through some mistakes.”

New Mexico has lost two of its past three games following a 12-1 run through non-conference play.

The Lobos most recently fell to UNLV 83-73 on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

“It was really the third game in a row that, coming out of halftime, we just didn’t have the pop we had in the first half,” New Mexico coach Richard Pitino said. “For whatever reason, we aren’t coming out ready in those first four minutes. It starts with me and our coaching staff to get them ready.”

–Field Level Media

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