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Back to full strength, Lobos looking to slow McEwen in Utah State rematch

Sometimes, the defense isn’t the problem.

Based on recent performances, fans of the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team might have a hard time believing that was the case when Utah State’s star sophomore guard, Koby McEwen, went off for 31 points in the Aggies’ 89-80 win over a short-handed UNM squad in Logan, Utah, on Jan. 31.

But the reality is, the 6-foot-4 combo guard who hit six 3-pointers that night wasn’t exactly doing it against a bad defensive effort, even if the Lobos played somewhat uncharacteristic defense. UNM utilized more possessions of zone than the rest of the season combined due to having only six scholarship players at the game.

“He’s dangerous,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said of McEwen. Weir is very familiar with the fellow Toronto native he once tried to recruit to New Mexico State. “Reminds me a lot of Jovan Mooring at UNLV because they’re guys that can make bad shots.

“There are guys that, if you take them away from what you would consider a high percentage shot … we’ve done a pretty good job containing them. But when you run into those guys who can just make hard shots that aren’t high percentages, they’re hard to guard.”

The Lobos (12-14, 7-6 Mountain West), losers of two straight, host Utah State (14-12, 7-6) in the rematch tonight in Dreamstyle Arena at 7 p.m.

And UNM hopes to counter some of McEwen’s shot-making with some of its own.

In that Jan. 31 game, junior Anthony Mathis scored a career-high 25 points and also drained six 3-pointers. This past Saturday, it was freshman Makuach Maluach who scored a career-high 26 points in a 100-92 loss at Air Force.

Now that UNM is back to being full strength for the first time since Jan. 3 with all 10 available scholarship players on hand, some wonder if it might not be wise to stick with a shorter rotation, instead.

Weir says he’s excited to use the depth of a 10-man rotation again and points out had he not played a deep rotation all season, he might not have players like Mathis and Maluach playing as well now as they are.

“Guys that maybe at the beginning of the year, if we only played eight, they wouldn’t have played at all,” Weir said. “They would have never had this opportunity to grow and get into this role that they’re in now.”

LOBOS LOVE PINK: The Lobos and the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center are teaming up for “Lobos Love Pink Week,” which includes the team wearing pink-accented jerseys for the Utah State game.

The UNM women team did so for this past Saturday’s Air Force game.

There will be promotions and events throughout the game aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection. A representative from the UNMCCC will be available on the concourse during the game to speak with fans.

SCHEDULE: UNM is off this weekend, but hits the road Tuesday night in Laramie against Wyoming.

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