NMSU was clearly motivated and the Aggies are just a tough matchup period for Utah State. NMSU ended a 13 game Utah State win streak, handing Utah State their first WAC loss, 64-51 on Thursday. A lot of talk about how well the Aggies played defensively, and that's true. But they've been good defensively for two years now and to be honest, this Utah State team is not good offensively outside of Preston Medlin, who has to create for teammates more than he has had to do in the past. NMSU just matches up very well with Utah State, which is why I picked Utah State to win the regular season and NMSU to win the tournament.
It was the perfect way to open a three game home stand with San Jose State and Denver coming up. By the way, Denver beat San Jose State 77-37 on Thursday. WAC leading scorer James Kinney didn't play for the Spartans for the past two games for apparent disciplinary reasons.
It all started for the Aggies on the defensive end. Utah State scored 51 points, the lowest since 2010. Utah State's 39.3 field goal percentage was the second lowest of the season, both losses. NMSU's 57.8 percent shooting is the highest a USU opponent has shot since Hawaii was 63 percent in 2010.
Looking back at my keys before the game, NMSU outrebounded Utah State 33-26, limiting Utah State to 15 offensive rebounds after 10 in the first half. NMSU opened the second half with an 11-4 run, getting into transition and highlighted by a one handed Bandja Sy follow. Also NMSU point guard KC Ross Miller and out performed Utah State's two point guards. KCRM had 10 points while Utah State point guards Marcel Davis and TeNale Roland combined for seven, which forced Preston Medlin into playmaking duties which the Aggies were perfectly willing to let him do instead of scoring.
Sim Bhullar tied a career high with five blocks, including a Mt. Mutombo finger wave in the second half. Bhullar is a force on defense, blocking shots now where he may have whiffed in the first half of the season.
Menzies said Emory Coleman is suspended indefinitely per NMSU rules while the school "gathers information" Menzies did express concerns for the family of the man who lost his life in the car accident last year.
"We took it to them early. Very pleased with the defensive effort more than anything. This team can get you. We never let them get into a rhythm. ... I feel fortunate to come out of this game victorious based on the momentum we have had coming into the game. You always are concerned with when is there going to be a dip. We haven't had it yet so lets postpone it until next season. ... Outside of the last five minutes, I thought we did a fantastic job of pressuring the ball and dealing with their screens. ... We have a good thing going. We had great support. We are just growing in a lot of areas. ... You have to do certain fundamental things night in and night out in order to give your team a chance to win. coaching Xs and Os, you can steal a few plays but at the end of the day I will take the talent. Early in the season, we had the physical gifts but we weren't doing the things that we needed to do repeatedly like blocking out and taking care of the ball. ... For a 7-5 guy to play ball screens, his conditioning is obviously getting better. He played the most minutes all year. When look at Sim's development, integral part in our overall progress. He got elbowed. Shaw caught him and he came down right on his nose. He had a bloody nose. He was a little shaken up. He was ready to go back in but we thought we should hold him out. ... San Jose State is a real challenge for us. I hate playing teams after they lose. They have a great scorer. They have a little more depth. They are playing teams very close. It's a team if you get up on you have to manage the game. We are going to need the students in the house again."
It's up there with our best defensive efforts. ... This was a motivational week for all of us from the coaching staff all the way down to the players, managers. Every practice, we just had emphasis on going back to defending. We know they have a lot of sets so defending screens, trying not to go under them, trying to go over them and try to run them off the 3 point line as much as possible and try to make them put it on the ground. Once we kind of speed them up and get them out of their offense, we just finish it with a defensive rebound. ... We like to get out and run. We are a transition team. We have a lot of advantages on that end. Once everybody is running their lanes, everything is clicking and it just looks good. ... I thought (Sim Bhullar's finger wag after his fifth blocked shot) was wonderful. I was surprised. That's the first time I've seen that much emotion from him. I loved it. He gets a wave and a bloody nose, it's a great day. ... If he (Medlin) starts getting going with a couple 3s, even if he misses a couple but gets a couple good looks, which we were trying to limit, it's better for us. No matter if I was late for a screen, I was trying to run him off the line as much as possible and lure him into our defense.
It was a great motivational week for us. We have a little rivarly against them now. We knew they were undefeated. We thought they were probably the best offensive team in the conference. ... I don't think they have seen the type of defense that we play throughout the season. The opponents that they have played throughout the season have been kind of weaker offensive teams. We just got after them and took them out of things they like to do. ... We had fans support. The kids came back. It was a motivational boost. Over the Christmas break, it was just the alumni and older folks. We still love them but we got our fans back. ... Late shots were long rebounds and we didn't box out and they got a bunch of second chance points but we made that emphasis at halftime. ... It's a plus for the younger guys. they might be down and out but the older guys kind of shed some light on them because we have been in similar situations before. Actually all four seasons, we have kind of been clicking right around this time. ... chasing (Medlin) around staggers all game, that is a tough job for Daniel all game. When we chase him off the 3 point line, we have Sim waiting for him so good luck with that. That was the game plan. ... This game was a great motivation to go into the next game. We aren't perfect. We aren't undefeated.