ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Aggies enter The Pit tonight to take on New Mexico in their second game of conference play. Utah State will play for the first time in the new year after two home games were postponed due to COVID-19.
“It will be another good challenge for us on the road and I know our guys are excited to get back out there,” Odom said.
The postponements have given the Aggies a chance to heal up and practice according to Odom. He mentioned that forward Justin Bean has especially been able to rehab the ankle injury he sustained at Weber State.
“It’s been good for us,” Odom said. “Not necessarily the way that you would hope that you would get it, with two home games canceled, but it is what it is.”
The contest tonight will be the Aggies’ first game at The Pit since Feb. 29, 2020.
“Obviously some historic games have happened there,” Odom said. “We know it’s a tremendous homecourt advantage and one that we’re excited to be able to play in front of.”
New Mexico has also seen a shortage of games as of late due to their Dec. 28 matchup against Colorado State being postponed. Both teams have only played one game since Dec. 22. During their last time out, the Lobos fell on the road at Nevada, 79 to 70.
The contest is being billed as a matchup between first-year head coaches that are the sons of long-time collegiate basketball coaches. Odom is the son of Dave Odom, who won three NIT championships in his 22-year career. Richard Pitino is the son of Rick Pitino, who won an NCAA Championship in 1996 at Kentucky and currently coaches Iona.
“I’m sure Richard and I will be fine within the guts of the game, but the two dads will be a nervous wreck, that’s usually how it works. We have a ton of respect for their family and we’ve known their family for a long time. Our fathers are good friends and they spent a lot of time together in the summers working camps,” Ryan Odom said. “We’re always pulling for one another when we’re not playing one another.”
New Mexico is led by two dynamic guards. Both Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House average over 15 points per game. House transferred from Arizona State during the offseason. He has ramped up his production level significantly since becoming a Lobo. He averaged 5.9 points per game last season as a Sun Devil but has since put up 16.7 points per game so far this season. House also averages 4.5 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game.
“He’s the prototypical point guard. He’s really attacking aggressively in transition. He’s attacking you in pick-and-roll. He delivers the ball to other guys and makes winning passes for his teammates. He’s an aggressive shooter and is not afraid to take the big shot. He gets to the line a ton so another key to the game for us is going to be not fouling him,” Odom said.
Mashburn Jr. followed Richard Pitino from Minnesota this season. He set his career-high in points with 26 earlier this season against UAB and has tied it two more times this year. Mashburn Jr. averages 18.3 points, two assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.
“Mashburn has a wicked pull-up game. He certainly can make threes from behind the arc and tough shots there, but he works really, really well in the mid-range,” Odom said. “He’s another guy that can get fouled as well and really get it going.”
The Lobos are excellent at drawing fouls and getting to the line. They are fourth in the nation in free-throw attempts and second in the nation in free throws made.
Guards Javonte Johnson, KJ Jenkins and Mashburn Jr. lead New Mexico in 3-point percentage, minimum 20 attempts. The Aggies will need to guard the perimeter well, but especially when Johnson and Jenkins come off the bench.
“We just got to pay attention to (them,) no doubt,” Odom said. “You gotta be ready to rotate to (Jenkins) if we’re in a scrambled situation and get him off of that line because he can really shoot. They’ll run plays to get him shots from three as well so we’ve got to make sure that we’re attentive to him.”
The Aggies struggled against Air Force’s tough defense last time out. They will need to find an answer as they face another strong defense tonight, according to Odom.
“They play a really aggressive defense in the halfcourt, sometimes (they) extend it up in the fullcourt,” Odom said.
The game tips off at 6 p.m. MST and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.