New Mexico State improved to 7-0 in Western Athletic Conference openers.
The Aggies improved to 11-5 overall and 1-0 in the WAC this season with an 83-73 victory at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
“This was the ugliest win all season but the most rewarding because it was a conference win and it was on the road,” said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies, who improved to 5-0 in conference openers. “We had 20 turnovers and were outrebounded by two and we won. We really shot the ball well and executed well offensively.”
NMSU started the second half 9-for-9 from the field, pushing a six-point halftime lead to 61-46 with 14:36 to play.
“It’s all about sharing the ball and taking the right shot,” said NMSU senior Wendell McKines, who recorded his ninth double-double with 25 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 14 rebounds. “We all enjoy playing with each other.”
The Bulldogs answered with an 8-0 run thanks to five straight NMSU turnovers as the Aggies finished the game with 20 turnovers. But eight points was as close as the Bulldogs would get in the second half.
NMSU was a scorching 69.6 percent from the field in the second half, finishing the game 57.1 percent from the floor.
The Aggies had 14 assists on 32 made field goals and had four players in double figures.
“It was just a matter of sharing the ball and executing,” McKines said. “We had one of our highest assist games of the year.”
NMSU senior guard Hernst Laroche and junior wing Tyrone Watson each scored 14 points and senior center Hamidu Rahman had 11 points and six rebounds. Daniel Mullings had eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocks.
Louisiana Tech finished 34.7 percent from the field. The Bulldogs (0-1 WAC) had 19 more field goal attempts than the Aggies, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds and outrebounding NMSU 44-42.
But the Aggies were too efficient on the offensive end, scoring 44 points in the paint and shooting 16-for-26 from the foul line.
McKines scored 14 points in the second half and Laroche hit a jumper from the foul line at the buzzer.
“Coach told us that they are a good shooting team and we wanted to challenge all shots, not just the 3-point line,” McKines said.
The Aggies shot 48.5 percent in the first half for a 40-34 lead at the break.
“If you want to win on the road, coach tells us we have to win by 10 and that’s what we did,” McKines said. “Getting off to a good start made us feel comfortable quicker.”
Louisiana Tech shot just 32.4 percent but the Bulldogs’ full court pressure forced 10 Aggies turnovers in the first half.
“It threw us off because we hadn’t been pressured like that in a game so far this year,” McKInes said. “We bounced back and handled it better in the second half.”
NMSU plays host to Utah State at home on Thursday.
“(Winning their WAC opener) is critical and it’s how we want to go about things all year,” McKInes said. “It was a good confidence booster.”