Is this Aggies team the 4-0 club that started the season or the team that has gone 4-5 since?
New Mexico State basketball fans showed up in droves to see for themselves on Wednesday night. They left shaking their heads, badgering their own players from the stands and questioning the head coach.
Was Wednesday’s 89-69 home loss to New Mexico an aberration or the product of an off night? It’s starting to appear as if the Aggies’ 4-0 start is the aberration.
“Every season is a journey,” New Mexico State senior Wendell McKines said. “We are just in a little bump in the road right now. We are looking forward to playing our best basketball in March and we still have a ways to go. We will be fine.”
Of course, McKines is right.
It is a long season and there is plenty of time for the Aggies to revert back to the defensive-oriented team that beat the Lobos at the Pit and nearly beat Arizona at home.
It needs to happen soon.
The Aggies open Western Athletic Conference on Jan. 7, 2012 at Louisiana Tech, home against Utah State (Jan. 12) and Idaho (Jan. 14) and at San Jose State (Jan. 19) and at Hawaii on Jan. 21.
At first, I thought the Aggies could open WAC play 4-1 at worst with a possible loss at Hawaii.
After what I saw on Wednesday and in a Dec. 11 loss at UTEP, I’m not so sure.
UTEP bolted out to an early lead in a 73-69 victory in El Paso.
UNM did the same, leading virtually wire-to-wire and ending the game early with superior ball movement, defense, and a deft shooting touch that the Aggies are not capable of at this point.
The Lobos could have won by 40. Making 12 3-pointers certainly helped their cause, but the Lobos ran circles around the Aggies with simple pick-and-roll basketball that led to wide open looks from all over the court.
It was stark contrast to the Aggies’ pressure on and off the ball in their 62-53 victory in Albuquerque that seems like a lifetime ago now.
“The defense of the ball screen wasn’t bad, it was the rotations off the ball, which we went over, and over, and over,” Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies said. “Yet we still did not execute it very well.”
NMSU had 17 assists in Albuquerque. The Aggies’ had eight on 22 makes on Wednesday.
“We were bad on both sides of the ball and when you play like that against a good team, you don’t have a chance,” Menzies said. “Against a very good team, you have to bring your ‘A’ game and we brought our ‘C’ game.”
With a shortened WAC schedule this year after Boise State’s departure, NMSU simply can’t afford to let games get away from them either early or in the final result.
The Aggies have historically lost a conference road game they shouldn’t somewhere along the line. With Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii playing well, sweeping all three also seems unlikely.
NMSU can still achieve its goals come WAC time.
But if the last two games against legitimate competition are any indication, don’t book your NCAA Tournament tickets just yet.
Jason Groves can be reached at (575) 541-5459. Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves.