I talked about this in my last post. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but Marvin Menzies even acknowledged Nevada as the best team they've played so far in the WAC after Thursday's 68-60 loss at the Pan American Center.
"It would have been great to win this game and we have a lot of games in front of us but we need a little help now from somebody else," Menzies said.
Nevada won its 14th straight game and looks the part of a WAC Championship team. NMSU, after another slow start, trailing by 14 at halftime, not so much. Nevada is now 6-0 in WAC play with road wins at 4-2 NMSU, 3-3 Utah State and 4-2 Idaho. Nevada also beat Hawaii at home.
"We didn't play like a championship team at all," Menzies said. "A lack of execution, a lack of urgency to start the game defensively. Offensively, just out of sync. Wouldn't execute what we drew up out of timeouts. Didn't adhere to the scouting report. All of those things add up to a loss."
For the second straight game, NMSU rallied in the second half to make the final score look closer than the game really was.
"I just don't have a good feeling about how we are playing that first half," Menzies said. "We have to come out with better execution, especially after timeouts. It's frustrating. We have good kids, we have talent. Just have to get them to understand that if you want to be efficient you have to play together and play within the system and play harder on both sides of the ball."
Nevada led by 18 with 708 to play. The Aggies made it a game with full court pressure, begging the question why not do it for longer stretches. Easy answer....no depth with the departure of Christian Kabongo and the season ending injury to Terrel de Rouen.
"Wendell fouls out, Hernst was subbing in and out. It's a double edged sword. Losing Terrel really hurt. But that is what it is. We have to be able to string together games strategically without having to play 10 or 11 guys and still get it done. We can spot pressure in places. It's either that or get these guys in much better shape and go back to what we were doing in the beginning."
A lack of depth in the backcourt takes away from creating transition baskets for the Aggies, which they need. NMSU was 5-22 from 3-point range and Hernst Laroche made four of them. We knew that NMSU wasn't a 3-point shooting team, but when they fall behind, that weakness is exploited even more.
"You can praise them for their effort and comeback but that song is getting old," Menzies said. "We have to start the games off with some urgency both offensively and defensively in terms of execution. Until we do that, we are going to be in an uphill battle every game. We have to rebound quickly and get ready for Fresno State."
Time will tell what lineup changes are coming. Bandja Sy doesn't seem like he's earned more playing time. He took some bad shots, reached in transition to lead to an open 3 from Story and finished 2-9 from the field. Remi Barry was 0-3 in five minutes, all from 3-point range.
"We have to do something to start the games with more urgency, especially when you are saying what they do and then you lay off guys and they go 6-for-9 (from 3-point range) in the first half," Menzies said. "you can tell them where to go and what spots to be in , but at the end of the day, you have to come out with a little more younger."
Pure speculation at this point but something I wouldn't mind seeing the Aggies play with is going small from the start with McKines, Watson, Sy, Mullings and Laroche. Fresno State doesn't have a lot of size so it would be a good game to start out with considering that's essentially the lineup that got the Aggies back into the Hawaii game.
Other postgame comments
Hernst Laroche: "We are trying to get a win next game. It's unfortunate that we lost but we are trying to get wins. We are looking ahead for Fresno. There is nothing we can do, it's past. We lost."
"they got Burton going, they got Malik going. They had some easy things down low too. ... They don't shoot college 3s, they shoot NBA 3s so it opened up the zone more."
"A lot of times, they just outplayed us. That's a big time team. There is a half of me that is just pissed off. The other half, I have to give them credit. Deonte Burton is a pro. He's a NBA player. We have to get a better strategy on how we are going to guard him next time. He hit some that was so deep, it was like, 'Are you serious?'"
"They challenged us to shoot the ball and we didn't do that well. ... I think we let them get going. Their first few shots they made were very unchallenged. We woke up and started to challenge them. We did a very good job in the second half because that was all we talked about at halftime. But that was all we talked about before the game too."
"We have to bounce back. We have to put these games behind us and look at the positives. We have to shake it up to get a better offensive execution. I don't know what it means right now. I have to watch film."
"They are the best team we have faced to this point for sure. We lost by eight but they are really good. They have a lot of tools in their first six guys that can get things done, both from deep and inside. It was disappointing but I'm optimistic we will play better."