Perhaps the biggest challenge facing New Mexico State entering Saturday's final is that it has been more than a month since the Aggies played Louisiana Tech, the hottest team in the WAC right now. Although the Aggies swept the season series, this isn't the same team.
"Their personnel is the same, and they are not doing a lot differently offensively, but they are doing it better," Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said.
Louisiana Tech's run to Saturday's WAC Tourney final against New Mexico State has been quite impressive, although somewhat surprising.
The Bulldogs, under first-year coach Mike White, beat arguably the WAC's two top programs. After beating defending champion Utah State on Thursday, Louisiana Tech upended top seeded Nevada 78-73 in Friday's late semifinal.
Yet Menzies wasn't surprised.
"I told people that if they continued to gel, they would be a force to be reckoned with in the tournament and here they are in the final," Menzies said.
Louisiana Tech led by 15 in the first half, by 3 at the half after shooting 8-10 from 3-point range in the first half. White said the Bulldogs have increased their 3-point shooting selection as the season has progressed. They have certainly been hot this week, shooting 16-for-31 (52 percent) from 3-point range in Vegas. Louisiana Tech finished 8-14 from 3 point range for the game.
NMSU has been very good against the 3-point line this year, but La. Tech has a player in freshman guard Raheem Appleby, who hit the Aggies for 30 in Las Cruces. The matchup between the guards is exciting to me. Louisiana Tech point guard Kenneth Smith reminds me of Daniel Mullings as far as his speed and quickness. White called him Speedy in the press conference. NMSU will have to guard against penetration because Speedy, Trevor Gaskins can get to the paint and Hawaii's Shaquille Stokes had some success on penetration on Friday.
On paper, the Aggies' size is the most obvious advantage. It's formidable against the Top tier teams. Against a guard oriented team like La. Tech, it's magnified even more. Yet Louisiana Tech is one of five teams this year to outrebound the Aggies. La. Tech did it 44-42 in Ruston.
That makes NMSU's center play important again. I think Chili Nephawe had his best game of the season on Friday. And Menzies said it was good to see since Hamidu Rahman wasn't effective on Friday, but did have a good game on Thursday.
Turnovers are also a key against La. Tech. Louisiana Tech pressures full court. They did it to NMSu in Ruston and forced 20 turnovers.
"They have done it before, but they are more efficient," Menzies said. "They play effective man defense but the guard play has really improved."
It's not the final that myself, or many probably wanted to see. But perhaps the final features the two teams who are playing the best right now.
Interesting they out rebounded us in LC. At first glance it didn't look like they hit the glass very hard against Nevada. I haven't seen the box score though.
50% from downtown will do it. It's like an NHL goalie getting hot during the Stanley Cup finals.
Now's when it hurts you that you haven't played Renaldo Dixon to have that one extra long guy to get out and challenge shots.
Have a bad feeling about tonite but hope I'm wrong and Bulldogs are the ones that can't play D.
Only 9 turnovers and 16 assists when the Aggies hung 83 on 'em in Pan Am.
Thought maybe Kabongo was playing when the 20 TOs were forced down in Ruston but, no, they were evenly spread throughout the team. Guess CK departed before the WAC games.
Great season if you manage to get to the conf championship game and then accomplish your early goal.
Yeah, you played only 7 guys last nite and two of them for only 14 mins. That's big minutes for the starting 5 - minus Rahman. So no pressure but really it is now his "Gordo moment." Time to play like it's your last game because the other 4 guys will undoubted dig deep but they have to run out of gas somewhere in the 40 minutes.
I hope Coach remembers the small lineup if the Aggies need to give the bigs a blow or they get behind...
Appleby hits us for 30 and LA Tech still loses.
Can we win again by instead shutting down Gaskins and Johnson? Certainly we'll have to play good perimeter defense as a team to win.
But the bigger factor, I think, will be rebounding and taking care of the ball.
It's good to have the WACs leading rebounder and a senior bringing up the ball.
I don't think McKines will let this game get away. That guy is driven and passionate about basketball.
Lobos won so now Aggies have to!
Can't get rattled if the LaTech air raid gets them up early. Keep to the game plan because tired legs will make those 3s stray off the mark late.
if it looks like you're loafing in the semi-finals of the tourney that gets you to the big dance then probably you just haven't recovered from the quarter finals game (where you admittedly played well).
one pair of size-13 glass slippers.
describe to claim
I guess the Menzies haters of the world get a free pass because Aggies didn't have to play anybody? Too bad it isn't the final matchup according to seed, but the level of play is like when HI came to the Pan Am.
Bad news fellers; Menzies and Boston strengthen their resumes and something for the rafters in the house that Lou built.
... die by the three.
I liked Wen's decision to red shirt last year. Good things come to those who rehab.
Thank you captain obvious.
Yea, there is no free pass for the Menzies haters. Dont pull the, "oh they didnt play anybody" card. Its a tournament, you cant pick who you play. You just have to beat who you play. The Aggies took care of business when Nevada didnt.
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