UMKC coach Kareem Richardson downplays the significance of the Kangaroos’ next game, Saturday against New Mexico State.
“They’re all big at this point,” Richardson said. “That’s how we prepare.”
Richardson, whose last game before becoming UMKC’s coach was as a Louisville assistant on the night the Cardinals won the 2013 national championship, has experience with contending teams and knows plenty of season remains.
But this is new territory for UMKC, which, in second place in the WAC, hasn’t been this high in a league standing in a decade.
The Kangaroos, 5-2, will be tied with New Mexico State, 6-1, with a victory.
“Hopefully we can get Municipal (Auditorium) packed and have a great atmosphere,” Richardson said.
New Mexico State has represented the WAC for the past three years in the NCAA Tournament after winning the WAC tournament. The Aggies are the league’s kingpin.
UMKC, in its second year in the conference, is bidding to finish with a better than even league record for the first time since 2006, when it was a member of the Summit.
Point guard Martez Harrison leads UMKC with an 18.0 scoring average. He’s the only player to start every game for the Kangaroos, who have battled injuries this season. Most notably, Shayok Shayok, who was averaging a team-leading seven rebounds through eight games, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Richardson has mixed and matched. Eleven different players have started and 11 average double-figure minutes.
The Kangaroos are one of the WAC’s top defensive teams. In Thursday’s 70-45 victory over Texas-Pan American, UMKC forced 28 turnovers. They’re holding opponents to 32 percent three-point shooting and 60.1 points per game.
New Mexico State at UMKC
▪ WHEN/WHERE: 6:05 p.m. Saturday at Municipal Auditorium
▪ TV/RADIO: KSMO (Ch. 62); WHB (810 AM)
▪ OUTLOOK: New Mexico State is coming off a 69-61 overtime victory at Chicago State. The Aggies led by 15 with nine minutes remaining. New Mexico State’s athletic director is Mario Moccia, who spent the previous nine years at Southern Illinois and served as senior associate athletic director at Missouri from 1998-2006. UMKC lost to the Aggies 63-45 to open league play on Jan. 10. The Roos scored 14 points in the first half and were never part of the game.