Coming off of an impressive 101-79 win over Northern Arizona on Wednesday, the Wildcats will need to come out confident and controlled to make it two wins in a row when New Mexico State comes to Tucson.
Coach Reggie Theus and his Aggies stand at 1-1 so far this season, with a 76-74 victory over Pacific and a 71-69 loss to Loyola Marymount.
NMSU's strong frontcourt is spearheaded by forward Justin Hawkins who leads the team in scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg). He is accompanied by forward David Fisher and center Martin Iti in the frontcourt for the Aggies.
Fisher and Northern Colorado transfer Trei Steward will share minutes in an attempt to fill in for injured All-WAC power forward Tyrone Nelson, NMSU's leading scorer (17.8 ppg) and rebounder (8.7 rpg) a season ago.
The Aggies have another impact player injured in Hatila Pasos, the 2006 National Junior College Athletic Association MVP. Iti will get the majority of the minutes at center while Pasos recovers.
The two best returning starters for Coach Theus anchor the backcourt in point guard Elijah Ingram and shooting guard Ted Knauber. Each averages 11 points per game and can knock down the three.
Fred Peete gets an equal share of time in the backcourt and is averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Peete transferred to NMSU from Kansas State before last season and averaged 13 points as a starter for the Wildcats before transferring.
The telling matchups for the Wildcats will be down in the post with Kirk Walters out with mononucleosis.
That said, Jordan Hill will be relied upon to be successful and should be able to be effective as he is improving every time he steps on the court. The Aggies have a lot of big, strong bodies to put down low and it is imperative that he manages to stay out of foul trouble.
Ivan Radenovic may also have to spend much more time under the basket than he usually does due to the absence of Walters, and in turn will have to log more minutes on the floor than his average.
Arizona's wings should be able to provide more than enough points against an average NMSU defense as long as the bad shots and selfish play are kept to a minimum.
One thing to keep an eye on, like every game so far this season, is the play of Mustafa Shakur. This team hits peaks and valleys according to how he plays as evidenced by the second half against Virginia and the first half against NAU.
Shakur will need to be able to deliver a full game of consistently good play for Arizona to reach its' full potential, especially against the upper-echelon teams filling up the rest of the season.
The Wildcats will be looking to win its second in a row Sunday afternoon.
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