This will be my last blog entry until Dec. 26 although I will still be approving reader comments. Heading home for the holidays for the first time in two years.
In the meantime, follow @TeddyFeinberg on Twitter for game updates from Wednesday's game vs. McNeese State. Here is Monday's El Paso Times story from UTEP's win at home against McNeese State. There is this near the end of the story on McNeese State's guards.
"The Cowboys have a pair of good players in 6-foot-4 senior Patrick Richard (16.4 points a game and he has scored 1,183 points in his career coming into Monday night) and 6-3 junior Jeremie Mitchell (13.0 points a game and over 20 twice already this season). Richard, blanketed most of the night by Washburn, had just 12 points and scored five of those late. Mitchell finished with just three points."
Facing quality guards and big guards is a good thing for the Aggies, especially if suspended guard Christian Kabongo returns to the lineup Wednesday, a day after he was reinstated and allowed to practice for the first time on Tuesday after missing the past two games.
McNeese presents a more realistic chance to see if the Aggies are starting to regain their swagger from a 4-0 start that included a win at UNM. It sounds like McNeese played zone against UTEP so the Aggies will likely see a healthy dose of it as well. On the flip side, NMSU did well in their zone against Southern and McNeese isn't a great shooting team either so the Aggies could also work that into their defensive game plan Wednesday but we will see. The more defenses the Aggies can throw at a team, the better.
I asked Wendell McKines if the Aggies can build back to the defensive performance we saw at The Pit. We all know that's how this team is going to win games. Defend, rebound.
"We just have to emphasize it more," McKines said. "The whole season is a marathon. I feel as though we showed flashes against Southern of that same type of defensive effort. We just have to be consistent. Everybody knows that has to be the makeup of our team if we want to go as far as we can. It's all about practice and executing on the floor."
One sign that the Aggies were learning from their previous mistakes was the 51-29 margin on the boards against Southern. I know that Southern is not to the class of UNM or Southern or UTEP (other teams that have hung with the Aggies on the boards), but they reminded me of a lower tier WAC front line in terms of size and athletic ability.
Turnovers seem to be creeping upward though for the Aggies.
NMSU had 17 against Western and 22 against Southern. Is it just a result of giving young players minutes? Were the Aggies 9 assists on 31 makes a product of poor ball movement or just the fact that NMSU had 40 points in the paint, 15 offensive rebounds that led to 23 second chance points?
I guess we will see when the level of competition continues to increase building up to UNM and WAC play.
Lastly, it was good to see Bandja Sy play well from an offensive standpoint against Southern. Sy was 2-16 from 3-point range in the previous six games entering Southern. Sy was 3-4 from the field on Monday and 2-3 from long range. He also had three boards. I still think that Watson is a more polished player, a player who coaches trust more, but Sy was a factor early in the season. Hopefully he returns to form, giving the Aggies a big lift off the bench and next year as well.