New Mexico State hoops

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Just a guess

Does anyone here remember the RPI rankings of Ohio and NMSU the last time the Aggies got a TV BracketBuster game? From what I hear, it carries a lot of weight when making the pairings so here are four possibilities in no particular order with RPI rankings in parenthesis according to RealTimeRPI.com

NMSU moved up to an 82 with a 97 Strength of Schedule.

Pacific (95) SOS Rank 198 (14-6, 7-1 Big West)
Record against NMSU: Aggies 29-8 (NMSU won last meeting 76-74 in 2006)
Key Games: 11/25 a 71-63 home loss to San Diego State (36); 12/8 a 61-58 win at home vs. Nevada (65); 12/8 a 80-65 loss at St. Mary's (35); 1/10 a 68-67 loss at UC Santa Barbara (175)

Katz thinks this game makes sense and regionally it's closer than other games if that is a factor for ESPN. I'm not a big fan of the Big West though this year while the WAC is having a good year in terms of RPI rankings. (NMSU (82), Utah State (53) La. Tech. (76), Nevada (65), San Jose State (128). Pacific is the only team in the Big West in the top 100. Long Beach State is at 125 and UCSB is 175 and then the rest of the league is 208 and higher.

Missouri St. (83) SOS Rank 132 (15-7, 5-6 Missouri Valley)
Record against NMSU: 1-0 Missouri St. (64-54 in 1950)
Key Games: 11/28 a 83-75 win vs. Tulsa (58); 1/3 a 84-76 loss to Northern Iowa (18); 1/6 a 65-62 loss vs. Wichita State (49); 1/19 a 99-92 win vs. Indiana State (87)/ a 55-54 loss vs. Northern Iowa (18)

Wouldn't it be cool to return to the MVC? The MVC's RPI rank is 9 while the WAC is ranked 10th

Iona (85) SOS Rank 167 (16-6, 8-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic)
Key Games: 11/29 a 63-55 win vs. Creighton (111); 12/7 a 73-60 loss vs. Siena (42); 12/12 a 82-73 win at Providence (98); 1/4 a 77-65 loss at Canisius (189)

Iona has won its last seven games but the MAAC is ranked 15th

Murray State (90) SOS Rank 313 (18-3, 11-0 Ohio Valley)
Record against NMSU: 1-7 (Murray won 72-69 in 1964)
Key Games: 11/9 a 75-70 loss at Cal (21); 12/15 a 87-81 loss at La. Tech (76); 12/22 a 83-72 loss at West. Kentucky (153)

Could Murray be the best team on this list?
Murray State is blowing people out. They are ranked sixth nationally with an 18.4 margin of victory. They are second in field goal percentage at 51.2 percent and 23rd in FG defense (39 percent) and second behind Missouri with 11.3 steals per game.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bracketbuster rankings/La. Tech

Well the RPI will certainly continue to improve after Saturday's win. La Tech had a RPI ranking of 57 entering this week while the Aggies were at 110. Let's see what happens when Bracket Buster pairings are announced on Monday but I would be shocked to see the Aggies fail to get a TV game after Saturday's win.



I read Katz's blog where he would like to see NMSU travel to Pacific, which is certainly a possibility since they are so similar in RPI. Here are the top 11 designated home teams and the top 11 designated road teams based on the RPI rankings as of Monday on the NCAA's website

HOME TEAMS
Butler (24)
VCU (49)
Northeastern (53)
Utah State (61)
Kent State (69)
Iona (72)
Missouri State (76)
Murray State (78)
Bradley (85)
Pacific (101)
George Mason (105)
Green Bay (109)
Creighton (115)

VISITING TEAMS
Siena (34)
Old Dominion (36)
William and Mary (45)
Louisiana Tech (57)
Nevada (71)
W. Carolina (74)
College of Charleston (83)
Buffalo (91)
Western Michigan (106)
NMSU (110)
Wright State (116)
Drexel, Moorehead (117)

So what do you think? It would be interesting to see if they pair the Aggies with a Bradley or Murray State, but I'm not sure if they will climb that high with the La. Tech win.

No Gillenwater this weekend

I called Braun Cartwright late Friday afternoon. He said that they expect a decision next week, probably early in the week. I know we have heard that before, but he seemed fairly confident that we would hear something next week. I hope so as well

Monday, January 25, 2010

Boston comment on Gillenwater appeal

This comment is from McKinley Boston on Friday. I've been hounding folks on Troy's status before each game.

At this point, we're waiting to hear. I've worked with the NCAA long enough and in various capacities to know you're better off waiting. It's a bureaucracy all in its own. Every time they make a decision that favors student athletes, they set a precedent and they're reluctant to set that. They're extremely careful as to how they manage that appeal process.

There was one point on Friday where I heard Gillenwater's return looked promising which is why I wanted to talk to Boston. My understanding is that the NCAA keeps requesting information from NMSU, which I guess is reason for hope

JY

A previous poster said they don't care about individual accomplishments. OK. I thought maybe this was the week that the Aggies had a player in Jahmar Young who would be named the league's Player of the Week. Ultimately it isn't about individual accomplishments, which was proven with the selection of San Jose State's Adrian Oliver whose team won big home games against Louisiana Tech and NMSU over the weekend.


On the week, Oliver averaged 30.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. He shot 54.3 percent (19-of-35) from the field, 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from three-point range and was 19-of-20 from the free throw line.

Young and the Aggies went 1-1 on the road, hitting the game-winner against Hawaii and posting a career best 34 at San Jose. Young averaged 30 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and shot 24 of 47 (51 percent)

Perhaps it the Aggies would have held on, they would have their first weekly award, but with the way that Gibson and Young share scoring honors so often, who knows when either one will have such an explosive weekend.

Friday, January 22, 2010

WAC individuals lighting it up

The WAC has proven to have its fair share of offensive weapons this year.
Four players in the WAC are ranked in the top 20 scoring in the country thus far in the season.
San Jose State guard Adrian Oliver is eighth nationally at 21.9 points per game after scoring a career-high 39 against La. Tech on Thursday. La. Tech’s Kyle Gibson is 10th (21.7), Nevada’s Luke Babbitt is 15th (21.1 points per game) and JY is 19th at 20.6 per game. Aggies senior Jonathan Gibson is 33rd at 19.3 per game.

From a team standpoint, Nevada is the top scoring club at 82 per game, 14th in the country. La. Tech is 24th at 79.9 per game.The Aggies are 52nd with 76.7 per game.

How important is McKines

Say what you will about the off court stuff, it's realistic that without Wendell McKines, the Aggies would be a very average or below average team. We saw it in the first half when Wendell had three fouls. Then with McKines back in the game, the Aggies open the second half on a 17-2 run. He sits for a couple minutes, Hawaii steals the lead back briefly and after Gibson puts them up one, McKines converts a three-point play when he returns.

The Aggies press was also the difference. They shot 44.4 percent in the second half after a 31 percent first half. When the shots were falling and NMSU was able to set up its press, the Warriors turned the ball over eight times in the second half and 17 for the game.


I thought the San Jose State game would be an easy win. Not so. Adrian Oliver now has two of the top three scoring performances of the WAC season with 39 points in a win over La. Tech.

San Jose State 87, Louisiana Tech 76

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)-- Adrian Oliver scored a career-high 39 points,
lifting San Jose State to an 87-76 victory over Louisiana Tech on Thursday
night.

The Spartans (10-8, 3-3) snapped the Bulldogs' 10-game winning streak and
handed them their first WAC loss of the season.

Chris Oakes had 16 points for the Spartans while Robert Owens scored 12.

Kyle Gibson led Louisiana Tech (17-3, 5-1) with 22 points, only two of those
coming in the first half when he got into early foul trouble. Olu Ashaolu
added 19 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Oliver was one point short of the San Jose State single-game scoring record
of 40 set by Wally Rank on Jan. 3, 1980 against Sacramento State. Oliver's
39 points surpassed his previous career high of 37, set last February
against Boise State.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Momentum stops and starts

Following the Aggies hoops team reminds me of driving in traffic in a big city. Just when you think things are going well and they are making progress, something always happens to bring it screeching to a halt.

A previous poster asked me where I'm at regarding Wendell's arrest and subsequent release over the weekend.

Do I think Wendell should have been allowed to play? It doesn't matter. I think that things get blown out of proportion but I understand that people think it's a disturbing trend and I tend to agree. I get that people's frustration is that Wendell played later that night. My understanding was that Wendell did pay the fines that were in question either previously or shortly after he was arrested. If that was the case, why not allow him to play?

I also have become numb I guess to these issues and understand Aggies fans. I could have a long post here on transgressions from NMSU players the past three years. I'm not defending the program. I guess I'm defending the players on this occasion. I would say that Young has grown up after his incident in a cafeteria and we did report Wendell's initial arrest in the spring that resulted in the fines that he had a warrant out.

I guess I'm just curious what you think the school should have done? My understanding is that he will play tonight. Troy Gillenwater will not, as he was not cleared as of late Wednesday. NMSU is hoping for a decision on his waiver late this week but next week is more realistic. All things we've heard before but I know there is some interest there.

Hawaii's Dwain Williams didn't play last week against San Jose State. Williams had a family issue in California and he could miss tonight's game as well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Aggies win third straight, 9th in 11 games

Wow.
NMSU is playing great offensive basketball right now and Jonathan Gibson is having an exceptional senior season.
I think if I had to name a MVP, i would go with either Gibson or McKines. The Aggies turnaround coincides with Wendell's return so you can't take that for granted. But Gibson was the only guard who was consistently knocking down shots all season while JY, Gordo and Hernst found their stroke.
There was a three minute stretch where Gibson and Young combined to hit five 3s. I don't think you see that too often. The Aggies' 32 3-point attempts were four off a school record. Gibson's 6 makes from 3 were three off Eric Channing and Terry Bennett's mark of nine. Gibson's 14 attempts from deep was one off Brad Bestor and Jeff McCool's record 15.
But I would say that few of them were bad shots. It appears this is what the Aggies are going to be this year and as long as they are falling, you can't argue I don't think. Fresno State has weapons but the Bulldogs showed that they can't hang with the Aggies pace, turning the ball over eight times in the second half while nmsu had four in the second half.

Nice games by Hamidu Rahman (9 and 7) and Hernst Laroche (seven and 10 assists) and Abdoulaye N'doye played 12 solid minutes.

I'll have more tomorrow.

Versus Fresno State

12-10 Fres 15:43 Gibson has hit two 3s and Fresno has already hit three triples.

21-14 Fres 11:29 McKines hit Young on a nice bounce pass from the top of the key on a backdoor cut to stop a little scoring drought.

43-34 FRESNO HALF
Fresno had a 13-4 run over four minutes in the first half that gave them the cushion but the stats are mostly even. NMSU outrebounding Fresno by 2. NMSU shooting 42 percent, Fresno at 45.5 percent

Fres 49-48 14:55
NMSU opened the second half on a 14-4 run and took a brief 48-47 lead on a McKines jumper. Paul George is at the line with two free throws out of the timeout

67-54 NMSU 10:02
Young and Gibson are on fire. The Aggies have hit 8 3s in the second half so far

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gillenwater and Fresno State

Troy Gillenwater will most likely not play on Saturday. NMSU is hoping for a decision next week, but as of 3:07 on Friday, which is after business hours on the East coast, the university had not heard a decision regarding its appeal.

Someone asked what the gut feeling is on if Troy Gillenwater will return. My feeling was no, but once I learned it has gone to the NCAA, I can say that I really don't know now. I think the university and the program has an obligation to try to get Troy on the court and to do whatever they can in order to do so. I'm not going to speak on if it's right or wrong should he return after clearly he hasn't done everything he needed to do in the classroom by the standards other student athletes are judged.

From a competitive aspect, the team needs Gillenwater for depth and an offensive scoring punch in the interior that they need even though Hamidu Rahman has proven to be a threat night in and night out.

Gillenwater is enrolled in Spring classes, which was one of the stipulations to the appeal that NMSU filed with the NCAA.


Other notes:
Hamidu Rahman did not practice Thursday (shoulder soreness) but Menzies expected him to practice Friday and play on Saturday.

Fresno State started the season 2-4 but seem to have righted the ship, winning four straight before losing at La. Tech on Thursday. Still, they started 3-0 against the likes of Boise State, Hawaii and San Jose State. I think they are good but not a second place team.

The Bulldogs are last in the league in scoring with 69.2 per game, but they are second in scoring defense (64.8) and first in field goal percentage defense (41)

"They are much more methodical about scoring in the half court and they don't rush. There are fewer possessions as a result," Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. "They will run but they are very patient. As of late, they've been very consistent with full court pressure and dropping back into a halfcourt zone. It helped them turn their season a little bit."


Menzies on Utah State's win at Nevada on ESPN2 on Wednesday
"Utah State just hung tough and did what they did down the stretch and were solid and had those guys who were returning play within themselves. Nevada stalled a little bit offensively so the momentum went the other way and then the big shots that were made in overtime by Utah State really sealed the deal. But it was great WAC battle and a good national game to represent the conference."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Forbidden words for women's program

Don't say the words "last" or "year" or any combination of the two around the NMSU women's program this year.
It's true that the Aggies are 10-4 and riding high on a six-game win streak that includes the first win at Boise State in nine attempts.
"It's a hard working group," Aggies coach Darin Spence said. "There are still players who were here last year and they have that to remember. That's always in the back of our mind."
Of course what he is referring to last year's 9-22 record where the Aggies were 5-11 in the WAC.
Not only is this team better than last year, but the Aggies are not only beating good teams (Michigan, Kansas, Boise State), but they are blowing out teams that they should beat, like a 73-51 win at home against Hawaii.
Even the 23-9 team from a couple years ago had trouble with the teams that they should have handled.
"I think this team has a lot more depth and the skill level is higher than two years ago," Spence said. "We have just learned how to do it. The first couple games, we thought we could do it in one possession. Now we are learning to be more efficient in what we are doing. We have learned how to put teams away."
The Aggies play host to Fresno State tonight at 7 p.m. in a matchup of two of the four unbeaten teams in district play. The other two, Utah State and Nevada, play each other tonight.
Utah State went on the road and beat league favorite La. Tech, so the league race is still far from over, but tonight's game is a big one for the Aggies to be playing at this point in the season.
"It's an early reward for playing well but we know we still have seven games to play and top teams to play," Spence said. "It will go the wire. It's going to be a fun race."

Is Utah State in trouble?

Utah State coach Stew Morrill asked why his team was picked to win the league this year, considering they start with 5 on the road.

They get all of those teams to come back to Logan, but how many losses do you think you can take to win the league this year? some have said 10 or 11 wins get it done. USU plays at Nevada at 9 on ESPN2 on Wednesday. I know it's early, but a loss on Wednesday could make it tough to climb back into the top half of the league, particularly if Fresno proves to be legit.

Gillenwater

Unless something happens late tonight, nothing has changed regarding Troy Gillenwater's eligibility for the spring semester. NMSU officials met on Tuesday to certify grades for all athletes who compete in the spring. Braun Cartwright told me that the men's basketball team was completed with the exception of Gillenwater. He said that unless something changes by 5 p.m. Wednesday, nothing will change since school starts on Thursday morning.

Certifying grades means that they look at if an athlete has done what they need to do in pursuit of their degree at this point in their career. Below are the NCAA eligibility standards for an athlete through five semesters, where Troy just completed in the Fall.



First Year
After First Semester
1. Must pass 6 hours in the fall semester
After Second Semester
1. Must pass 6 hours in the spring semester
2. Must pass 18 hours in the fall and spring semesters
3. Must pass 24 hours in the fall, spring and summer semesters
4. Must have an overall GPA of 1.8

Second Year
After First Semester
1. Must pass 6 hours in the fall semester
2. Must have an overall GPA of 1.8
After Second Semester
1. Must pass 6 hours in the spring semester
2. Must pass 18 hours in the fall and spring semesters
3. Must have completed 40% of credits for degree (roughly 52 credits towards degree)
4. Must have an overall GPA of 1.9

Third Year
After First Semester
1. Must pass 6 hours in the fall semester
2. Must have an overall GPA of 1.9

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jameer Nelson and Delonte West?

I was covering the NMSU/Kansas women's game against Kansas and Jahmar Young asked me if I remembered St. Joe's tandem of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. Now West is playing along LeBron and Nelson is an all-star, but Young's point was that Jonathan Gibson and Jahmar Young have been putting up big offensive numbers this year.

After the Aggies' 75-72 win at Idaho on Monday, Young leads the Aggies with 20 points per game and Gibson is right behind him with 19 per game.

Nelson scored 20.6 and West scored 18.9 in 2003-04 during St. Joe's Elite 8 season.

Both of them were great over the weekend.
First Gibson scores 26 in an 88-85 win at Boise State on Saturday. JY comes back with 32, one off his career high in a 75-72 win Monday.

Gibson was 14 of 30 (47 percent) from the floor and 7 of 17 (41 percent) from long range and averaged 22 per game the last two games. Young was 18 of 35 (51 percent) from the floor and 5 of 16 (31 percent) and scored 25.5 per game to help the Aggies make up some of the ground they lost by dropping the home game to Nevada.

Here's the first few paragraphs of my story after listening to Jack's radio broadcast. Listening to it brought back how it seemed he played at UTEP earlier this season in the second half of that game.
Coming off a win at Boise State on Saturday, Aggies junior guard Jahmar Young scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half, giving the Aggies a 3-1 Western Athletic Conference entering Saturday’s showdown against 3-0 Fresno State at the Pan American Center.
Young scored 21 of the Aggies’ final 23 points.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Boise State

I will say this for the Aggies. They are winning some close games this year, which is different for them the past two years. And twice, it's been Gibson who has made the big shot at the end. This time sinking the game-winning 3.
Young and Gibson combined for 45 points in a high-scoring affair. The Aggies seem to be shooting the ball better, hopefully the Boise State game was a sign of things to come for the Aggies

Monday, January 4, 2010

Energy




If Wendell McKines is tired, something is wrong.
McKines looked drained after playing 39 minutes. Hamidu Rahman played 36 minutes, Jahmar Young played 38 minutes and Hernst Laroche played 36 minutes.
"After playing 94 feet against Utah State and you know how intense that game was. To come out and bring the same intensity this time, your body says, 'Na, relax.' Fatigue set in a little bit but it's still not an excuse."
I heard people in the crowd yelling at Menzies to go his bench. Other than Gordo, who is ready to contribute meaningful minutes? Just a question. West has potential but is he ready to bang with Babbitt? N'Doye and Sy don't know the rules and Watson was battling through an apparent injury.
Energy seemed to be a constant theme in talking with McKines and Menzies postgame.
Getting a split is nice, but to allow a team to shoot 57 percent in a half comes down to effort on the defensive side of the court.


Once the Aggies stopped making shots (They were 7-of-20 from long range), the effort on the other end dropped.
"We have an offensive mindset,” Menzies said. “Unfortunatley, it gives you your energy and it shouldn’t be that way. Your energy should be there on defense regardless. I don't care if you are making shots or not. Like the final six minutes against Utah State, we weren't scoring but the game was on the line so they were getting stops but they have to play the first six minutes like the game is on the line."

Nevada never trailed and was pretty much in control through the entire second half.
"We just went away from the game plan and went away from the great defensive effort we put on on Saturday. Just the tenacity and energy that you have to have on defense that we always have on the offensive end. We have to take that same mentality on the defensive end. We kind of went away from that. Best thing about it is it's only the second conference game and we will be a totally different and better team come tournament time. We will be ready. We are just learning as the season goes along."



I'll have more tomorrow....I mean later today. Video courtesy of Pulse editor Lucas Peerman.

Nevada game

20-16 Nevada 8:49
Rahman and Gibson have kept the Aggies close. Six of Nevada's points are second chance points by my count

33-26 Nevada 3:59
Babbitt scored five points during a 10-2 run that opened a 10-point Nevada lead. It looks like the Aggies are starting to get more comfortable against the Nevada zone defense. Wendell set Rahman with a high low pass. Hamidu was fouled and steps to the line to try to get to within five

38-31 Nevada Half
Babbitt has 15 for Nevada and young has scored 10 for NMSu. Babbitt hit two triples in the last 4:43. The second came off a wild play in transition to stop an Aggie run after they closed to within five.

41-36 Nevada 15:55
The Aggies just got a big stop, running out the shotclock. It's apparent that Shaw and Johnson wont shoot the 3 unless they need to

52-43 Nevada 11:42
Every time the Aggies make a run and try to get the crowd into it with a couple of Rahman dunks off nice looks from Laroche, Nefvada hits a three. the wolfpack have eight of them

61-49 Nevada 7:14
To see the Aggies struggling on the defensive end isn't a surprise. They have had their troubles before. But if they can't score like tonight, shooting 4-13 from long range, its difficult. Nevada is just sitting back in zone and NMSu can't get them out of it

77-67 Final
Nevada shot 57 percent in the second half and 52.5 percent for the game. Babbitt's improvement was fun to see in person, but I thought the Aggies would get a split and given who came in here, I think they were fortunate to split the opening weekend

Attendance

I've only been covering the men's team for a couple years now and don't really understand the fan base and the excuses that we hear about why people aren't coming out. You would think that winning four in a row entering a WAC opener against one of the historically best teams in the league would be enough to draw some interest even if the students are off. I want to give props to the 5,000 or so who did show up because they were into it the entire game and it seemed louder than 5,000. Maybe 5 in a row and another top tier team in Nevada will bring people in. It remains to be seen

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Brandon Fields and Nevada

Nevada coach David Carter gave senior guard a fresh start.
Fields played in 32 games last year after he was cleared in Oct. of 2009 of any criminal wrongdoing in an alleged shoplifting incident at a sporting goods store. But his numbers plummeted compared to his sophomore year and he never started a game as he was never fully freed from Mark Fox's doghouse.
It appears that under Carter and playing a supporting role to Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson, Fields has returned as one of the better guards in the WAC.

Senior season — 14.4 points per game, 29-percent 3-point shooter, 43 percent from the field in 31.6 minutes
Junior season — 9.4 points per game, 22-percent 3-point shooter, 36 percent from the field in 22.6 minutes
Soph. season — 12.4 points per game, 38-percent 3-point shooter, 44 percent from the field in 29 minutes

Carter said it was a preseason trip to Europe in May that helped his team adjust to him. It also opened Fields' eyes.

"I told him that it's a fresh start but at the same time, you can't do what you did before and can't play out of character. Just be who you are.
"When something like that happens to a 19-20 year old kid, there is a lot of pressure trying to prove to people that he was back and he couldn't get out of that slump a little bit. He's more mature now. He knows that it's his senior year and he's playing on both ends of the floor and has been very disciplined. There will be nights when he will score for us and we need him to. He has accepted his role and by no means taken a back seat. People have to guard him because he can score."

It will be interesting to see who matches up with Fields. Unlike Utah State, Fields should be able to stay in front of Gibson and i would think that Shaw will guard Young. Babbitt will certainly get a lot of attention, but the Aggies can't afford to leave Fields.

Utah State win was ...

Big for a couple of reasons in my opinion.

First and foremost, they showed that they can close out a game. Sure it was shaky offensively in the end and Utah State probably is going to shoot the ball better than 23 percent from long range, but the Aggies had too much athleticism. Quayle was nowhere near Gibson when he pulled up for that jumper and it was there whenever Gibson wanted it.

They won scoring a season low 55 points committing a season low 10 turnovers while the UtAgs turned it over 15 times. They also did it without JY contributing offensively at least. Youngdidn't have his best shooting night and he turned it over four times, but he will have his off nights. A good way to tell if Young is effective is his free throw shooting attempts. He only had two tonight.

He will be back. And now the Aggies have a great opportunity to defend home court against a Nevada team that just lost at Louisiana Tech.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Utah State

Louisiana Tech beat Nevada 77-71 in Ruston earlier this evening.

USU 7-3 15:16
USU has had a couple of baskets inside against the NMSU zone from wesley that were hardly contested

USU 9-7 11:32
The Aggies went scoreless for nearly five minutes and trailed 9-3 before a Rahman layup from inside and Gordo Castillo hit a jumper, which has to be the first time either team has had anything in transition

NMSU 20-13 7:51
The Aggies' athleticism appears to be bothering USU so far as the UTAgs have struggled inbounding on makes. NMSu on a 17-4 run and have the ball

NMSU 25-24 2:23
Utah State came back pretty quick and tied the game at 22 as the Aggies' shots quit falling for a stretch before McKines' second 3 of the game put NMSu back up.

NMSU 27-24 at half
McKines blocked a pooh Williams shot and Gibson finished with a nice flip of his left on the other end as the UtAgs were scoreless in the last 2:58

NMSU 31-30 15:28

NMSU 39-36
Gibson scored eight straight to pushe the lead back to seven but you dont expect the UtAgs to go away and they havent

NMSU 53-45 5:52
Gibson is heating up and the UtAgs just hit their second 3 of the game

NMSU 53-47 3:23
NMSU has run the clock but missed its last three shots

NMSU 55-52 final
Very good win for the Aggies. Learning how to close out a game against a good team to win their fifth in a row.

Wendell vs. Wesley

Every WAC contest has an exciting individual battle or two. One of my personal favorites is Utah State's junior power forward Tai Wesley and NMSU's junior Wendell McKines.

It should be interesting, as the two actually go head-to-head for extended periods.

Tai Wesley 6-7 240 14 ppg, 6.7 rpg
Wendell McKines 6-6, 224 16 ppg, 10.7 rpg (three games)

I didn't get to talk to Wendell about if he likes going up against Wesley (tonight is the fourth time they have played against each other since Wendell started figuring more into the rotation last year) but Utah State head coach Stew Morrill had some things to say about McKines and I asked Menzies about the matchup between the two juniors.

Morrill on McKines
"He's a good player. He is a great rebounder and a good all-around player. He has expanded his game and is capable of shooting the 3-pointer and he has been passing it well. We fully anticipated that both of them (McKines and sophomore Troy Gillenwater) would be cleared by conference play and they will be better once they are."

Menzies on McKines vs. Wesley
"It's going to be interesting. They have played each other already and had some good battles. Wesley has some size on him so Wendell will have to work harder than he normally does but we will try to do some things to help Wendell. There is not one guy that is going to be able to stop him just like I don't think one guy can stop Wendell. They are going to have to get help. The game within the game though, I think that matchup is going to be intriguing to see it unfold."

Utah State notes and quotes

Sorry that I haven't posted anything until now. It's been hard to get back into the swing of things I guess. Going on vacation in the middle of the season is weird.

Anyways, here are some thoughts and quotes that didn't get into the story in today's paper.

I don't know how you feel about the Utah State game or what your expectations are for the first two games. Personally I believe that a split would be huge for this team right now. And if I had to choose a game the Aggies would win, I would pick Monday against Nevada. The Wolf Pack is on the road against a tough Louisiana Tech team tonight.

Menzies said that Gomez is facing eye surgery but didn't indicate any other injuries and I saw most of the key members before practice on Friday.

Jonathan Gibson on entering conference play
"You have to raise everything up a level in intensity and execution. Everything we did in the non-conference helped us prepare for conference. Intensity and everything else goes up."

On the Utah State rivalry
"They are right there because every year since I was a freshman, it has always been us and Utah State so I would say they are our No. 1 rival in the conference."

Hamidu Rahman on winning four straight entering tonight
"It's a big boost for us going in and knowing that we have won four straight and knowing this is the same team that took us out of the tournament. We are going to come ready to play."

Marvin Menzies
On starting conference play with two teams who are historically at the top of the league
"It's good if you end up winning because you are off to a great start. If you are not successful in the first couple, it could be a little tougher pressure wise to win the next one. If you have a successful weekend, it's a big plus. You have to play them eventually so you might as well get them out of the way.

On the league
"I'm a little disappointed that we haven't had more wins as a conference and quality wins. Our team is probably like a microcosm of the league in the sense that expectations were pretty high but didn't end up getting the 'Ws" at a high enough clip that we can feel really optimistic about our postseason bids as a result. Again it will probably come down to tournament time."

NOW the Utah State side:

I was on a little conference call with Stew Morrill the other day and I asked how his team has replaced the production from Gary Wilkinson, mostly with 6-8 junior college transfer Nate Bendell. He went on to talk a little about some other positions on his team as well.

"When you lose Wilkinson, you lose the statistical things that he did but you also lose leadership. Bendell has done a really solid job for us and I'm certainly pleased with what he has done."

Morrill said that since Bendell has missed their last two games (He was expected to practice this week after undergoing a minor heart surgery) but "the backup post situation (Modou Niang and Brady Jardine) is more solid and experienced going into conference."

"(Tai) Wesley is coming off a Player of the Week performance and Jared (Quayle) hass been shooting the ball well. We need Pooh Williams to step up and play well on the road."

Other USU personnel info if you are interested. Brian Green gets minutes at the two or the point and Jaxon Myaer backs Quayle up at the point.


Morrill on the Aggies
"It starts with their wings. They are as good as offensive wings as we have in the conference and if both of them have big nights, you are probably going to lose."

"It starts with containing those guys in transition and our transition defense is always what we emphasize."