You don't think of Idaho as a quality basketball program, but the Aggies 80-68 victory over Idaho on Saturday was NMSU's best conference victory of the season. Yes, even better than the Utah State win on Thursday.
Idaho is a good team, with tough guards that are more versatile than Utah State's pairing of Pane and Medlin. They have skilled post players and have multiple players who can shoot the 3. Their 1-2-2 zone is also hard to score against.
But NMSU held the Vandals to 33 percent shooting from 3-point range, outrebounded the Vandals and shot 70 percent from the foul line, getting to the line 32 times.
Postgame comments from Tyrone Watson, Hernst Laroche and Marvin Menzies
On veteran leadership: "Being here a couple years now, we are much more experienced and know how to handle certain adversity. Conference games mean that much more. We knew it was going to be a tough game even though we beat Utah State by 20. We weren't coming in thinking we were going to beat Idaho by 20. We were thinking they were going to give us a run for our money. We had poor execution in the first half with turnovers and we lacked in rebounding. We came together as a unit and we talked about our mistakes. We came out and gave a better effort in the second half."
On three seniors: "I've been playing with Hernst for three years now so I want him to leave on a good note, I want him to leave positive and I want to get one more ring with him before he leaves. Me and Bandja are the only seniors, we are going to take on big roles next year so we are just learning a lot from these three this year."
On free throws: "We don't shoot free throws good overall as a team so we knew that was a staple and that they were going to foul. They were staying in the zone the whole game so we had to attack. They fouled and we had to make free throws."
On defense in the second half: "We didn't really change anything. Just more of an urgency type thing. We need to understand who did what more and when to do certain things. We had our matchups correct in the second half and we kind of knew their plays and what they liked to do so we took them out of that in the second half."
On the team's physicality at all positions: "We have physical guys and we use that to our advantage. The other teams have advantages too. They have quick guys so they have me running all over the place. I have to run around with all the little guys. We are versatile and we are comfortable with guarding the wings and the perimeter. It helps us as a team because we can guard multiple positions with multiple guys."
On shooting: "I just have the confidence. I'm in the gym with Tony Delk and (paul Weir). I just have confidence so when I come here and step on the line, I know I can make it."
On closing the game out: "We have veteran players, Tyrone, Wen and Hamidu. We know how to close out games. We just had to slow down the game because they were doing a good job in that zone. They played a similar style (as Utah State) We just had to have two guys on top and one guy running, just trying to move the zone out and try to go inside. The zone is designed for us to shoot but we are trying to go inside, trying to get fouls."
On Tyrone Watson's big three point play: "They denied me and I just went and screened him and I have confidence in Tyrone. He went in and did what he was supposed to do."
Defense in second half: "Just more talking. We had some mental errors in the first half but we corrected it."
"At the end of the day, in the WAC, it's about winning and losing and tonight we got the 'W'. It wasn't as pretty as we would have liked but at the end of the day, it's about winning. When you get to conference, it doesn't matter who you are playing, you have to get the 'W' to be able to reach your goal of competing for a WAC championship, WAC Tournament championship. Those are all goals still in front of us. We took a step towards it. We have to make sure we stay on target. ... We have a lot to clean up. We went from six turnovers to 18 turnovers. Were they unforced? I know there were some. did they bait us into some of those passes with their sagging 1-2-2? Probably. You have to give the Vandals some credit for turning us over 18 times as well. I think they took us off our pace a little bit with the 3/4 court. We should have been more aggressive attacking it."
On Idaho's future in the WAC and the Idaho program, which Menzies is now 9-1 against:
"They got a split this trip so I think they are in the upper echelon in my mind. They have to protect the house. They lost to Nevada at home and that's the one that is going to beat a lot of people. they have to go steal a couple on the road. ... It has been dominance, but let's face it, the honest answer is resources. Regional things factor into it but I don't know if they have the history and tradition that we have and our resources I think are better than theirs. All of that plays into matchups and a series with teams."
On seniors: "We were really good in the second half with free throw shooting. I told them to step to the line and concentrate. You guys are at home, relax and do what we do in practice."
On defense: "I thought we did a much better job in the second half of getting out to their 3-point shooters. In the first half, they were 4-10 but three of them were against underneath out of bounds in the zone. I wanted to change defense based on need and we needed to."