My first reaction is that the Aggies played poorly offensively but were still right there. Timeout or no timeout, that is the question. When things fell apart on that last possession, I think the Aggies should have called their final timeout. As a senior, Hernst Laroche could have even called it when he got under pressure at the top of the key.
New Mexico State trailed Nevada by nine with three minutes to play, didn’t score for 10 minutes and still had the ball with 20 seconds to play.
But Aggies senior point guard Hernst Laroche turned the ball over with one second left and Nevada won the Western Athletic Conference title outright with a 65-61 victory on Thursday.
“We did not get any offensive rhythm or tempo in the second half,” said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies, whose team fell to 9-4 in the WAC.
Idaho beat Hawaii 82-63 on Thursday night to pull to within a game of the Aggies and could catch NMSU (22-9) for the WAC Tournament No. 2 seed if the Aggies lose at Fresno State on Saturday and the Vandals win at San Jose State.
NMSU junior wing Bandja Sy hit a 3-pointer and dunked in transition off one of Nevada’s 16 turnovers to make it 63-59 with 2:24 to play. Freshman guard Daniel Mullings dunked home two more off a loose ball to pull NMSU to within two with 57 seconds left.
Menzies called a timeout with 1:08 to play, leaving NMSU with one remaining timeout. Nevada called a timeout with 45 seconds left and couldn’t get a good look at the basket with Deonte Burton launching a 25-footer from the top of the key that the Aggies rebounded with 25 seconds left.
Laroche was pressured and threw the ball into the fourth row with one second left without getting a shot off.
“I called a play in the previous timeout,” Menzies said. “They knew the play but they just didn’t do it. Halfway through it, it looked like they were getting it together. There was still about 13 seconds left. It was supposed to be a ball screen on the side and Hernst never received it. (Tshilidi Nephawe) came up late. Hernst had to make an extra pass and it was an errant pass. They did an excellent job defending and you have to give them credit.”
Nevada packed the paint, holding NMSU to 33.8 percent shooting for the game — 30.8 percent in the second half.
The Aggies went nine minutes without scoring midway through the second half and 10 minutes without a field goal before a Wendell McKines 3-pointer made it 59-54 with 3:42 to play.
Nevada finished 42.9 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range. The Wolf Pack made seven 3s in the first half but went 0-for-7 from long range in the second half.
“I know we will play better offensively going forward,” Menzies said. “It’s one thing not being able to score but we have to defend. We did that.”
Trailing 43-36 at halftime, the Aggies pulled to within two on a McKines 3-pointer with 17:53 to play.
McKines finished with 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting to go with 13 rebounds.
In a match up between the top two players in the WAC, McKines’ Aggies couldn’t catch Nevada and Burton. The Aggies did hold Burton to nine points but Malik Story had 14 points and Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt controlled the paint. Czyz scored 15 points and Hunt had 10 points and six blocks.
Nevada led throughout the first half, hitting 7-of-9 3-pointers in the first half. Malik Story made four of them, draining four straight from NBA range to put Nevada up 39-28.