Right when the Rams appeared to be gaining some momentum, they hit yet another rough patch, dropping three consecutive conference games. CSU has a chance to get back on track at home against New Mexico.
The Lobos have been a pleasant surprise amongst a mediocre crop of Mountain West teams, and currently sit in a tie for second place in the conference. They will be looking to bounce back after blowing a 9-point lead in the second half at Air Force.
Here are some areas CSU will need to focus on in order to win Tuesday:
Stop Elijah Brown, make Cullen Neal beat you
Josh Adams became the latest guard to torch CSU in Moby Arena when the Cowboys smoked the Rams Saturday. Tuesday, CSU will welcome Adams’ only competition for MW Player of the Year in Elijah Brown. The sophomore guard is averaging 21.3 points per game while shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range. Against Air Force, Brown launched an astounding 17 threes during his 32-point performance. After watching Adams go off for 37, including nine made 3-pointers, the Rams should not even take their chances with another electric scorer in Brown. Force Cullen Neal, a viable second or third scoring option, to become the primary threat. Deny the ball to Brown when possible and dare a less efficient scorer in Neal (shooting 35.2 percent from the field) to do the bulk of the work.
The Lobos rank dead last in the Mountain West in turnover margin (minus-2.19), and actually have more total turnovers on the season (408) than assists (400). CSU should look to pressure the turnover-prone backcourt of Neal and Brown, and take advantage in transition where point guard John Gillon thrives. UNM turned the ball over 17 times Saturday in the loss to Air Force.
Control the glass
The lone bright spot in CSU’s loss to Wyoming was the determined play of forwards Emmanuel Omogbo and Tiel Daniels. The Rams are out-rebounding opponents by a margin of plus-5.4 and have pulled down a third of their own misses. If CSU can get Obij Aget in foul trouble, which has been a problem for Aget in most games this season, then the Lobos will not have enough bodies to keep the Rams off of the glass.
Use experience in close games
To say the Rams have had their fair share of nail biters this season would be an understatement. Prior to its last two contests, every game CSU has played in conference, win or loss, has been decided by single digits. Prior to a dramatic comeback win over Boise State, UNM had not gotten many breaks in close games. On the road in their last game, the Lobos let the Falcons gain momentum in the second half and never got it back. The Rams have more experience with games coming down to the wire, and will also have the home crowd on their side, so they should know how to take advantage if the game is still up for grabs in the final minutes.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.