By Blake Penfield, Sports Writer
The ACU men’s basketball team will finish its preseason on Friday against the University of New Mexico Lobos. This will be the Wildcats’ second Division I opponent this preseason after losing to the University of Texas-San Antonio Nov. 2.
The game will kick off New Mexico’s regular season and is the 40th anniversary of the inaugural game in the university’s historic Bob King Court Ð better known as “the Pit”. ACU was the first team to challenge the Lobos in “the Pit” when it first opened its doors on Dec. 1, 1966.
The Pit is perhaps best known for hosting the 1983 NCAA basketball championship when North Carolina State University upset the University of Houston with one of the most famous buzzer beaters in NCAA history.
The University of New Mexico, according to the NCAA, plays better at home than most teams in the division.
After coming off a crushing 98-42 victory against Western New Mexico, UNM is ranked fifth in the Mountain West Conference. They are also projected to make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.
“They’ve got a lot of athleticism,” Wildcat head coach Jason Copeland said. “They have an all-American point guard returning, a wing player that transferred from Kansas and a post player that led the Big 8 in rebounds. They have a lot of talent.”
J.R. Giddens was Kansas’ starting point guard last year. However, after caught stealing, he was forced to leave the team, making him available for UNM to snatch. He has since led the Lobos offensively.
As Copeland looks at his team’s difficult preseason, all games so far against Division I competition, the Wildcats have faced these games as a good way to gain experience and practice playing together, Copeland said.
With ten new players added to the roster this year, he said the more playing time the athletes can get with each other, the better off the team will be.
The Wildcat players feel up to the challenge.
“It’s good that we’ll be able to play against good competition,” said forward Brooks Norman.
Norman said competing against players at a higher level and stacking the Wildcats’ talent against a Division I school will help the team.
The Wildcats are 0-1 this season and their first home game will be against Hillsdale Baptist on Nov. 17.