LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico State men's basketball team is set to host UMKC on Saturday at the Pan American Center. Tipoff time is 4 p.m.
The Aggies (11-6, 2-0 WAC) are fresh off a 93-54 win over Chicago State, while the Kangaroos (9-8, 2-1 WAC) are quickly rising up the conference hierarchy and are gunning an upset.
Here's a full breakdown of the matchup.
How to follow
There are a number of ways to follow the action on Saturday.
For television, the game will be broadcasted on ESPN + as one of this week's WAC Spotlight Games. Adam Young and Rus Bradburd get the call.
For radio, 99.5 FM KXPZ has you covered. Jack Nixon will provide play-by-play commentary for this one.
For social media, I will be providing coverage on Twitter (@JTheSportsDude). That includes a live stream preview at 3:30 p.m., video updates throughout the game and live-streamed interviews with the team afterwards.
One player continuing to show progress is Terrell Brown, who has been dealing with a strained groin all season.
After recording a season-high 11 points in 29 minutes against Cal Baptist on Saturday, the senior tallied another eight points in 20 minutes against Chicago State.
For the first time this season, Brown practiced for consecutive days following the Cal Baptist game in preparation for the contest against the Cougars. It's an encouraging sign for a player that led the Aggies in scoring last season.
"(Brown) is healthier," New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans said. "He just looks more like himself out there... Hopefully he won't have anything other than game soreness tomorrow and we can just move on from this and he can start really helping his team like he wants to."
New Mexico State didn't miss a step on Thursday in the aftermath of AJ Harris and Clayton Henry's season-ending injuries due to a number of players rising to the occasion.
Trevelin Queen led the way with a game-high 17 points to go along with six boards. The senior continues to be one of the elite players in the WAC, and his team-high 30.8 minutes per contest should hold up the rest of the way without a true backup on the roster.
Ivan Aurrecoechea also continued his stretch of strong play by tallying 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds. The senior forward has surpassed double-digit points in five of the Aggies' last seven contests.
Shunn Buchanan orchestrated it all. The senior saw his minutes take a hit during Harris' three appearances, but he made his presence known against the Cougars and finished with nine assists in 17 minutes.
Although the loss of Harris and Henry takes away two key weapons for the Aggies, the learning curve of playing without them shouldn't be nearly as harsh this time around after not having either senior for most of non-conference play.
"I think, when they first got hurt earlier in the season, we didn't really know how to play without them," Buchanan said. "It's not better without them, but we're still going in the right direction without them because we have a lot of momentum and we know how to play with each other now."
Unlike the earlier part of the season, Buchanan did not start against the Cougars. Jans opted to start Evan Gilyard II, who recorded six points and five assists in 18 minutes.
The UTEP transfer continues to be one of the team's best scoring options in the backcourt, and he should easily surpass 20 minutes of playing time in more contested games from here on out.
"I thought he looked good," Jans said. "But we're still getting used to him as well... Certainly, having Evan now with the situation we're in is a big shot in the arm for us going forward."
UMKC kicked off conference play with wins over Seattle and Utah Valley, but it suffered a road loss to UTRGV on Thursday, 76-64.
Despite this, the Roos have still shown signs of being a dangerous squad in the WAC. Leading the charge is BYU transfer Jahshire Hardnett, who is on a one-man rampage as of late.
The 5-foot-11 senior entered conference play averaging 7.7 points per game, but that number has skyrocketed to 20.7 points per game in conference play.
Hardnett is shooting 48.8 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from deep and 92.9 percent from the free throw line during that stretch.
Take a look at these clips.
On this play, Hardnett is giving up four inches on Utah Valley's Trey Woodbury with time winding down. But the 5-foot-11 guard shows off some great elevation and ice in his veins for the pull-up triple.
On the second play, Hardnett comes up clutch once again against Seattle. This time, the BYU transfer creates separation by keeping a low dribble and stepping back for a tough mid-range jumper. It's plays like these that show just how dangerous the guard is despite being undersized.
Expect Buchanan to get the assignment after keeping lead Chicago State scorer Xavier Johnson to 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
Also in the mix is Javan White, a 6-foot-10 senior averaging team highs of 11.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest.
The big man thrives on snagging offensive boards. White already has 43 this season, which is almost as much as the next three best offensive rebounders on the team combined (44).
White did take a hard fell toward the end of Thursday's loss to UTRGV, though, so his status for Saturday's contest is unclear.
Finally, Brandon McKissic is the third and final Roo averaging double-digit points per game (10). The 6-foot-3 junior is shooting 36.4 percent from deep this season.
UMKC certainly isn't short on options, and Saturday's game is going to be far from a walk in the park for New Mexico State.
Keys to success
Similar to the Chicago State game, the key for the Aggies on offense is to capitalize at the free throw line.
An insane 26.6 percent of points scored against UMKC have come from the charity stripe. That's the fifth-highest percentage in the country, according to KenPom.
Chicago State is 52nd in that department (21.9 percent), and New Mexico State exploited that weakness en route to a 19-for-25 showing from the free throw line. Look for the Aggies to try to repeat that success on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the key to success for New Mexico State on defense is to chase UMKC off the 3-point line.
The Roos are shooting 35.4 percent from deep this season, which ranks second only to Cal Baptist in the WAC and 79th in the country.
In its two conference wins, UMKC shot 10-for-20 (50 percent) from behind the arc against Seattle and 7-for-17 (41.2 percent) against Utah Valley. But, in its one conference loss to UTRGV, the Roos went just 3-for-15 (20 percent) from deep.
Containing sharpshooters such as Hardnett and McKissic could be the deciding factor in this one.
Who will win?
UMKC is looking like one of the top teams in the conference with home wins over Seattle and Utah Valley, but Thursday's road loss to UTRGV proves that playing on the road is a different beast.
Meanwhile, the Pan American Center is the toughest place to earn a road win in the WAC. The Aggies are on an 18-game home win streak against conference opponents with their last loss coming to Utah Valley on Feb. 23, 2017.
UMKC deserves New Mexico State's full attention, but look for the Aggies to still come out on top and remain unbeaten in WAC play.
Prediction:New Mexico State 72, UMKC 62