I talked to a lot of people in the offseason. an overwhelming impression I got from fans and people who follow the Aggies closely: If they play hard and beat their rival games at home, people will show up.
That's why I wrote about the need to beat UNM and UTEP at the Pan Am this year. I don't think that's going to be easy, but it's necessary.
The other part is effort. People don't like watching the Aggies play a 2-3 zone, loaf back in transition and shoot 3s. To that end, I was encouraged by what I saw in NMSU's 115-64 win over Eastern New Mexico on Wednesday.
I counted four drawn offensive fouls in the first half before I stopped paying attention to every play so I could work. Other numbers that show you a heavy work ethic: 22 offensive rebounds, nine steals, nine blocks, 23 assists and 25 second chance points, all 11 players played at least 12 minutes and the bench scored 51 points.
Perhaps because they were offensive oriented in the past, Christian Kabongo's ability to guard people and Hernst Laroche's ability to guard people last year got lost. Not the case this year. Add freshman Daniel Mullings (13 points, three assists, four steals, two blocks) and hopefully Terrel de Rouen, and the Aggies have perimeter people who are high energy and fun to watch even if they aren't great offensive scorers or shooters.
Here are some left over postgame quotes.
On guards responsibility playing man to man: "If you are on the wing guarding a guard, you are trying to force him baseline. If you are guarding him in the middle, we don't anyone to go body to body with us because it really affects us when they go to the middle and basically not let anyone in the paint."
On playing hard: "I think we feed off our energy but it's always a bonus when you feed off the crowd's energy. It's always good to hear people cheering."
CK was able to get to the paint last year, perhaps it was his biggest strength. Against a D2 team, he did it at will.
"It's still a strength. I think I have a shot, but we still have more to prove. This is just an exhibition. As the season goes on, it will show."
On Daniel Mullings
"He's like oxygen. He's everywhere. You beat him, you think he's not there and he's the one getting the block. He is like the energizer bunny."
On if the Aggies can play this way all year:
"We have guards who can guard full court and guards who can push. Wendell can bring it up, Bandja can bring it up. We have been conditioning more. It was the hardest conditioning ever. A lot of people came back early. It was a whole lot of running."
On the hustle stats: "Those are things we take pride in. those are things we practice. Those are things we get after each other on. It's onlyright that we show them in the game. I think that is going to be our image."
On Mullings: "He is going to be good. He has a lot of energy, plays hard defense, he's long and athletic. He is going to be good. He is good. And he's only going to get better."
On man-to-man: "We have a lot of pride and we like to man up. We take responsibility for our man and helping our teammate and making our rotations."
Defense: "We have a little bit more in the arsenal but that's the way we would like to play."
On offensive rebounds: "It's an emphasis. We want to try to create those second chance looks. It's one of those things we want to try to create scoring opportunities using our length."
Okay win against against lower-division competition.
I'm waiting for UNM and UTEP to come to town before I sing their praises.
My observations from the game wednesday night:
What has changed......
1)There seemed to be a much greater emphasis on defense. Everybody was flying to the ball on every possession. Perhaps Delk's influence. The freshman were ball faked a couple of times and gave up some 3's, but they'll learn to not leave their feet.
2) Our leader is back! Big Wen ripped into teammates on a couple of occassions after mistakes. It's good to see. By the way, in my opinion, he looks better than he did before the injury.
3) This team in freakin athletic.Even the returning players like CK and Chili look better than last year. Mullings is going to be a stud!
Wha HAS NOT changed......
1) Rahman still fumbles every ball that comes near him. I don't understand how somebody can't improve on something so simple. I think the guy we saw against Michigan State in the tournament was an imposter. I haven't seen that before or since out of him.
2) Sy still looks lost on D and can't hit a jump shot to save his life. What an unbelievable waste of athletic ability. He has the athletic ability to play in the NBA, but not the skills. It didn't look like he has improved.
3) The Las Cruces community is still pathetic. How can they only get 5000 fans in the seats??? I realize its ENMU, but it's FREE PEOPLE!!! I don't ever want to hear anybody make the "tickets are too expensive" argument. They won't even attend when its free.
4) Where is our outside shooting going to come from? it looked bad.
Overall, I think the team looked improved, more athletic, and seemed to be sharing the ball well. The Norther Colorado game will be a good test because I believe they beat us last year. I think this is a make or break year for Menzies. I'm cautiously optimistic about this team.
On a side note......
Who was the hot blond sitting next to groves at the Pan Am?
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