The New Mexico State men’s basketball team is 0-2 in league play for the first time since joining the Western Athletic Conference.
NMSU fell 81-72 on Monday at Louisiana Tech to drop to 6-8 overall while the Bulldogs improved to 11-3 and 2-0 in conference play.
NMSU trailed 49-39 at halftime and opened the second half 7-for-10 to pull within two on a Daniel Mullings 3-pointer with 13:49 to play. It was the only 3 the Aggies hit on Monday while the Bulldogs were 11-for-22 from 3-point range.
“We played with a lot of heart today,” said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies, whose team lost at Texas-Arlington on Saturday. “They just really shot the lights out. It was a tough road trip but I am encouraged by the effort.”
The Aggies went scoreless for nearly four minutes before Renaldo Dixon hit from inside for two of his nine points with 9:30 to play as NMSU finished 44 percent from the floor. Dixon was 4-for-6 from the floor and led the Aggies with six rebounds as NMSU out rebounded Louisiana Tech 42-33.
The Bulldogs answered most of NMSU’s runs from the 3-point line. It was Kenyon McNeail in the first half and Brandon Gibson in the second half. Gibson was 5-for-5 from 3-point range for 15 points. Gibson drained a 3 to put Louisiana Tech up 74-65 with 8:25 to play.
“We typically do a good job against the 3,” Menzies said. “They hit a lot of shots and a lot of them were challenged.”
NMSU was 23-for-37 (62 percent) from the foul line, led by Tyrone Watson, who was 10-for-14 at the line to finish with 14 points. But Watson missed a pair of free throws with 6:10 to play and the Aggies trailing 74-68 as the Aggies shot 8-of-15 from the line in the second half. Gibson hit another triple to push the lead back to 79-70 with 3:05 left.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 12 in the first half. Louisiana Tech was 7-for-13 from 3-point land in the first half, scoring the most points against the Aggies in a half this season.
McNeail was 4-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half. He gave Louisiana Tech a 39-27 lead with 4:44 left in the half, but Mullings got the Aggies within six with 2:44 to play. Back-to-back Bulldogs triples helped Louisiana push the lead back to 49-39 at halftime.
Mullings led the Aggies with 21 points and Terrel de Rouen scored a career high 10 points in the first half as the Aggies were 15-for-22 (68 percent) in the first half from the foul line.
“Our guys have to understand that teams are going to get up to play us,” Menzies said. “That’s what happened in both games. That’s discouraging that we were not a little mentally tougher. I didn’t think we had the effort on Saturday night that we had tonight.”