"It's a missed opportunity," Aggies senior forward Wendell McKines said. "We missed a moment. Just thinking about the feeling we would have had if we would have won this game. To Know that we arent going to feel that way, it's tough."
The Aggies were right there. They did everything that has worked for them up to this point to give them a chance to win against a Pac 12 team (rebound — Held a 41-38 edge with 19 offensive rebounds. Get to the foul line — Shot 16 for 23 (69.6 percent), limit turnovers (NMSU 9, Arizona 11).
But as good as the Aggies were rebounding the ball all night, and as much as players refuse to use fatigue as a factor, the Aggies nearly came back late in the second half after a 14-2 Arizona run, but couldn't secure a rebound off a missed front end with 29 seconds left down three.
"That's a free throw rebound. It's four against two. Somebody doesn't pinch hard as they should have and it could be the difference in the game. We would have had the ball down three. That's an excellent opportunity to come down and score and get a quick bucket and then who knows.
"I felt like our guys were mentally ready to play," Menzies said. "I don't know about physically. We got a little fatigued there and maybe weren't able to execute at the highest level down the stretch, especially offensively.
"I have to go back and look at the film. I thought we had a couple guys get to the basket and they missed shots or had contact. It's just disappointing to play that hard and not win. We made a lot of mental errors with defensive rotations.
The result was a 83-79 loss, the Aggies' first at home before heading back out to play two more road games.
Wendell McKines was great, finishing with a career-high 28 points, shooting 10 for 18 from the field and 4-7 from 3 point range. Wendell didn't force anything and had the kind of night at home where I thought he could have had at the Pit when he missed shots in the first half he normally makes. The Aggies went cold during the Arizona run, and I can't remember Wendell getting many touches during the run.
"They just made their run. They executed," McKines said. "They are a team full of vets. They just beat us."
Late in the game, the Aggies looked to McKInes and Christian Kabongo.
Arizona had 19 assists on 30 field goals. NMSU had nine assists on 28 field goals, but it's hard to fault the Aggies for looking to Kabongo. He was 7-11 at the foul line and scored five straight points (three on an And 1 and two from the foul line) to get the Aggies to within three.
"(Kabongo) penetrated very well and he's been shooting it fantastic from the free throw line."
NMSU pounded the ball inside with centers Hamidu Rahman and Tshilidzi, especially when Jesse Perry was guarding them. Rahman had 13 and 8 and Nephawe had 6 and 9. Perry was tough though, finishing with 15 and 12 as someone had to step in for Solomon Hill as he battled foul trouble.
"They did a great job," Menzies said. "We really challenged the bigs tongiht. Hamidu shot 50 percent from the field and did a great job with eight boards. Chili had nine boards. Thats what those two have to do every night. We wanted to attack them inside and the guys did a good job finding them. We have to get them more shots depending on the situation."
At times in the first half especially, Nick Johnson beat the Aggies back in transition badly and as a result the Wildcats shot 60 percent in the first half.
NMSU also struggled finding shooters when Arizona guards got into the paint or played pick and roll. Arizona hit the most 3s in a game since hitting 14 against St. Johns.
"Our defensive transition was very weak tonight," Menzies said. "We have done a much better job at that in the past. We were so aggressive offensively going to the glass that we didn't turn around and run with them."
McKines said that there were no excuses, but Menzies let on that in certain situations, fatigue, mental or otherwise, played a factor.
Especially on the offensive rebound on the free throw and the Aggies' 3 point shooting (4-21)
"We had a few really good looks where first look was the best and we passed on it. We were trying to make the extra pass and look for an open shot but the ones that we had off initial penetration were pretty open. 4-21 is not acceptable and not going to win a lot of games at home shooting that percentage."