It's hard to imagine New Mexico State sweeping this weekend's road trip to Idaho on Thursday and at Utah State, where they haven't won since 2006 on Saturday.
Going into the second half of WAC play, I thought Nevada only had two more loseable games in the rematch with NMSU in Reno and Thursday's trip to Hawaii. It turned out I was wrong as Nevada lost at home to Idaho on Saturday. It came after Idaho lost by 10 at Fresno State (a team that I still believe is No. 7 as far as talent level). Now if NMSU can complete the season sweep of Idaho and Nevada drops one on the island, NMSU could be tied in the loss column entering a difficult game at 4-5 Utah State.
If there is any motivation to finish at least No. 2, it should have been provided on Saturday against La. Tech. No team wants to face the Bulldogs in the first round if the standings hold out where they are at. NMSU matches up well against all three bottom teams, but La. Tech I think presents the most problems. They started a four-guard lineup on Saturday and one of their better players, Brandon Gibson, didn't play much because he was in foul trouble all night. Anytime a team can shoot like La. Tech, they are going to be tough to handle and Appleby went for 19 and 30 against the Aggies in the two meetings. I watched La. Tech warm up, and they spent the entire time working on jump shots. Teams like that are scary in the postseason, but I could see that four-guard lineup giving the Aggies more problems than Fresno or San Jose.
"We had to stop their three ball and just come together as a team and get rebounds. At one point in the game they were leading us in rebounds. We started collecting rebounds and that helped us pull away."
On the 46-22 margin in the paint
"It was the emphasis the whole game but I think in the second half we locked in. I owe it all to the bigs, getting down there and posting and holding their position. ... It started with (Rahman). We just have to give it up to the bigs working hard down there."
On his 8 straight points for the Aggies
"What made that happen was our guards on the perimeter swinging and reversing the ball as well as the bigs getting down to the block and also reversing the ball. Seams opened and me being a slasher and cutting, that's part of my game."
On defending Appleby, including a key stop down the stretch
"He's a good player. That was a key stop. I also got help from Wendell, who came up and helped. We got the miss. I think that helped turn his game off a little bit. We went off the fast break and it started our run."
La Tech finished the game 1-9 from 3-point range. NMSU played a lot of zone, chasing shooters off the 3-point line
"We knew they were first in our league at 3s. We knew we had to do whatever we could to chase them off the 3 point line. The 3s kept them in the game. We had to do our best to keep them off."
"Against them, the best thing we can do is rebound, close out because they were a good 3-point shooting team. We had to work on that and stop them at the 3. ... Coaches were just telling us to get it inside and just finish strong."
On a good game after three off nights
"I really needed that game. I have just been working, staying after talking to the coaches about what I need to do and do better. I needed to start off good to finish great. I just played my hardest."
On free throw shooting (Rahman was 6-15. Aggies were 15-28)
"That's something I need to work on. That's one of my weaknesses but we got the W so that's all that matters."
"Just really impressed with the way we played together, played tough, mentally tough, very unselfish. Played like a team that is growing and getting better. Down the stretch I think it showed. That was a talented team that came in here tonight. Very good one on one team that shoots a lot of 3s. I thought we did a good job challenging 3s late. We have to rebound out of that zone better with all of those long shots, you are going to have long rebounds."
"Hamidu and I had a very good heart to heart talk. I like to think I had a little something to do with his mindset tonight because he was much more comfortable and aggressive. He played more within himself. He was the player we need him to be but he has to do it every night. You just can't show up every once in a while. Especially as a senior. You have to bring that kind of effort day in and day out. Practice included. If he can continue to do that, we will be in good shape."