Rivalry game aside, this was a bad loss to a bad one-win UTEP team — the Aggies first such loss of the season, but third straight loss nonetheless.
UTEP didn't exactly win this game. In fact, the Miners tried to help the Aggies out down the stretch, yet they still outscored NMSU 10-4 in the last 345. In a previous blog post, I believed the Wendell McKines wasn't getting enough touches late in close games the past two games. It was the other way around tonight. McKines didn't shoot in the first half and he was 1-7 in the second half for a season low 4 points as the Aggies were 1-7 from the floor down the stretch with McKines going 0-4. That, along with UTEP outrebounding NMSU 39-39 were two stats that stand out from this one after the Aggies outrebounded the Miners (minus Gabe McCulley, who killed the Aggies again for 18-13-7 ast.) by 20 in Cruces.
"They played with more energy and they executed down the stretch," McKines said. "They just executed down the stretch and we didn't. ... They had a game plan. We had a stretch where we could have put the game away and we didn't. They fed off that and made their run."
Yet the Aggies still had a chance to win the game, up by five with seven minutes left, and to tie the game, down by 3 McKines missed an open triple from the wing. At one point postgame, McKines said perhaps not being in rhythm all night threw him off.
But later, he said this, "That was a wide open look. No excuses, I should have made that shot."
McKines was frustrated, but the Aggies hung around with role players playing well. Hernst Laroche played well with a season high 16 and I liked the Aggies running the ball through him and using Christian Kabongo as a second ball handling option, but in the end, the Aggies fell short in a third straight close game.
"We had some turnovers, the boards, all of that was a breakdown. ... It (the box and 1) caught us off guard, they were making shots. McCulley was making 3s. we had difficulty getting the ball to Wen. They came out strong."
"It's a tough one because we had it. We have a bunch of seniors and juniors who have already played in those kind of situations. We just let the lead go down. Ya, it hurts."
"They were making shots. We weren't. We knew it was going to be a battle. It's there house and we weren't going to quit."
"They keyed in on me specifically and we didn't make the proper adjustments. We made the adjustments in the second half. Every coach is going to have a game plan coming in. We had a chance to put them away and we didn't."
"I haven't seen that (a box-and-1) in college. It caught me off guard. In the first half, I waiting for us to make the proper adjustments but we didn't do that until the second half. I had to sacrifice my scoring in this game for us to compete. ... Just making me a part of the offense a little bit but stuff like that happens. We expected me to get hedged and boxed out really tough but not necessarily a box and 1. It kind of caught us off guard but as a team, we had a chance to put them away. Anything I was doing individually, it didn't really matter. I tried to get involved a little bit at the end of the second half, but after not touching it the whole game, I was out of rhythm."
"This is where being a student of the game plays a part. I have to watch film and talk to the coaches and see where I can make proper adjustments to still be a part of the offense if that's what is needed to win the game."
"We are a well rounded team. We have a lot of talent from the starters to our depth. I wasn't surprised. Tyrone stepped up, Bandja stepped up. We have players to step up. It's just about the little things. Defense played a part as well. We wouldn't have lost the game if we would have stopped them more. At the end of the day, we can make up all the excuses in the world. We just didn't execute down the stretch."
"Streeter is probably our best chaser and we wanted to limit (McKines) his catches and touches as much as we could. We thought he had the feet to do it. We knew they would take him to the post and we knew he would have back side help when they did. We thought we could limit all of his perimeter catches early and we were hoping they would keep him on the perimeter and keep him off the offensive glass. ... Based on what happened in the Cincinnati/Xavier game, it was going to be a closely called game and we wanted to start box and 1 thinking we wouldn't foul as much. That didn't work out. They lived at the line."
"They are going to beat themselves up on the foul line and we really should as well. They make some free throws and it's a different basketball game."
"We practice to make 3s. We don't always make them at this high of rate but we took what was given to us. We were able to get some wide open shots there."
"We got what we wanted. If they would have fouled, they would have fouled. We got the look we wanted. We were actually going for a quick two. If that wasn't there and they did a good job clogging it up. CK threw it out. We got a good look at it but it was just short."