It seems like I've seen this over and over the past four plus years. The Aggies have a big game at home. A game that seems like they can win, and they blow it. It's not even always the Lobos. The fact is that with a shortened WAC schedule, NMSU can't afford to not show up on a night and explain it away by saying that more important things are ahead. One bad loss in conference play and the top seed is gone. Drop two games to teams they should probably beat and they could easily be looking at a No. 4 seed.
UNM could have won by 40. And they are right, conference play matters most. But NMSU fans will not be happy after Wednesday's result and I think they have more right than ever. They actually showed up, filled the Pan Am to near its current capacity and had nothing to cheer for for most of the game as UNM took the lead for good less than eight minutes in.
NMSU fell to 2-2 against rivals on the season. Normally a respectable result. But after the way they lost on Wednesday, 89-67, it's hard to take anything positive from this game. The last two games where the Aggies played a decent team, they were taken out of the game immediately. On Wednesday, we saw what happens if NMSU can't battle back or play the in-your-face defense they did early on. Against UTEP, I thought it was the players. NMSU's lack of improvement from the first game vs. the Lobos until now was evident on Wednesday and that has to be on the head coach. You have to figure UNM would shoot the ball better and I figured they would make some shots, but 12 3s was remarkable.
3-point makes were probably the difference and Wendell McKines and Hamidu Rahman were very good. UNM's guards outscored NMSU guards 53-20. ... UNM had 19 assists on 30 makes, NMSU had 8 assists on 22 makes. ... Everything else was even, except the 3s. The game proved that NMSU, although they have been good in the second half, is not a good come from behind team. They just aren't built that way this year. 1-14 from 3s and 8-31 from the field in the first half are difficult for this group to recover from. It can get bad in a hurry and it got away from them on Wednesday.
"This was a barometer game for us. I'm really proud of my team. We have gone 6-1 away from home. You do that in non conference and you have done good things. Our team has gotten better. It's something we are proud of. ... Our ceiling has been big because we had not shot it particularly well. Offensively we are just now starting to get into rhythm. We had 19 assists on 30 goals so we are sharing the ball. We are competing hard but now we are starting to make some 3-point shots. ... We have really guarded, and I think that was the thing tonight."
On ball screens (I've written here that the NMSU centers don't do a good job against ball screens and the Lobos went at them a lot. It put pressure on the rest of the defense. It led to wide open shots, which the Lobos knocked down.)
"That's always been a big part of what we do. Sometimes we have been big-big. Now we are more of a pick and roll team and the guys have gotten more familiar with that and that part of our offense has really improved since the first time we played."
On the Aggies
"This is a very good team and they aren't going to lose a lot of games at home. I think Arizona was the only other team to beat them in here. For us to lead almost start to finish says a lot about where our team has come from."
"In the first game, we didn't finish anything inside. In this game, we really finished well. When Drew plays the way he did tonight, we are a much better basketball team. The other guys fed off that."
"From the first time we played, our drive and kick game has got better. I didn't like our spacing in the first game. the guys have really worked hard at finding daylight. That's easier for the guy that is driving to see. I think that part of our offense has really gotten better and now we are taking open 3s instead of tough 3s. Now we are getting really good looks."
On the Lobos
"They attacked us. They had much more energy than last time and a lot more urgency and they shot the ball. Wow. That's the best 3-point shooting I've seen in the Pan Am since I've been here."
State of the Aggies after loss
"At the end of the day, this is what we do. We are not going to lose our confidence. If we lose our confidence, we may as well not suit up. Every season is a journey. 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."
On the Lobos shooting
"Just have to think about the next play. You can't let it get you down. If that's in your head, them making three points is not only three points, but it's your points the next play down. You have to keep playing. You just have to give them credit for making their shots and try to defend the 3-pointer better."
On the Lobos and Aggies since the first meeting
"They seemed a lot more crisp. They seemed like they are playing more within themselves. It seemed like everybody knows their roles on the team. They looked like what they were predicted to be at the top of the Mountain West. You have to give them all the credit. ... They shot the 3-point ball very well in the first half and it dug us in a hole that was very tough to get out of. Hats off to New Mexico. As far as us, we have to go back to the drawing board and get back to what we do. We can't let this get us down. On to the next one. This is a long season. We can't let one loss dictate the rest of the season."
"I'm glad the rivalry games are over. That's for sure. The Lobos shot the lights out tonight. It was one of those things where we had no answer for the 3 ball. We go 1 for 14, they go 12 for 24 and thats pretty much the story of the game. There are things that we did well and things they did well but at the end of the day, that was the point differential that was the story of the game. 21 points is far too much to climb when you have that type of a team."
"At the end of the day, we beat them there, they clobbered us here. It's frustrating to have such a good crowd and not being able to perform better is what is probably the most frustrating thing. I don't think we will shoot that bad again from the 3 point line but it came at a very inopportune time."
"If you can shoot the 3 ball, then coming back is always a possibility. When we shoot it like we did tonight, it's not a possibility. We had guys air balling 3s tonight. That's just a matter of getting in the gym, getting more reps. Having a higher level of concentration. Not being frustrated when things don't go our way."
On defending ball screens
"The defense of the ball screen wasn't bad, it was the rotations off the ball, which we went over, and over, and over. Yet we still did not execute it very well. That one was baffling. I have to look at the film on that."
"Players have to play. I feel like we knew who we were facing. They have improved and we haven't improved as much as they have. They shot the ball much better than we did.
we didn't play very well offensively down there but I thought we took them out of some things and I thought we did some things well defensively to help us get over the top but unfortunatly, we didn't do either tonight. 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. ... Against a very good team, you have to bring your A game and we brought our C game."