Monday, December 31, 2012

NMSU 0-2 for first time ever in WAC

The New Mexico State men’s basketball team is 0-2 in league play for the first time since joining the Western Athletic Conference.
NMSU fell 81-72 on Monday at Louisiana Tech to drop to 6-8 overall while the Bulldogs improved to 11-3 and 2-0 in conference play.
NMSU trailed 49-39 at halftime and opened the second half 7-for-10 to pull within two on a Daniel Mullings 3-pointer with 13:49 to play. It was the only 3 the Aggies hit on Monday while the Bulldogs were 11-for-22 from 3-point range.
“We played with a lot of heart today,” said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies, whose team lost at Texas-Arlington on Saturday. “They just really shot the lights out. It was a tough road trip but I am encouraged by the effort.”
The Aggies went scoreless for nearly four minutes before Renaldo Dixon hit from inside for two of his nine points with 9:30 to play as NMSU finished 44 percent from the floor. Dixon was 4-for-6 from the floor and led the Aggies with six rebounds as NMSU out rebounded Louisiana Tech 42-33.
The Bulldogs answered most of NMSU’s runs from the 3-point line. It was Kenyon McNeail in the first half and Brandon Gibson in the second half. Gibson was 5-for-5 from 3-point range for 15 points. Gibson drained a 3 to put Louisiana Tech up 74-65 with 8:25 to play.
“We typically do a good job against the 3,” Menzies said. “They hit a lot of shots and a lot of them were challenged.”
NMSU was 23-for-37 (62 percent) from the foul line, led by Tyrone Watson, who was 10-for-14 at the line to finish with 14 points. But Watson missed a pair of free throws with 6:10 to play and the Aggies trailing 74-68 as the Aggies shot 8-of-15 from the line in the second half. Gibson hit another triple to push the lead back to 79-70 with 3:05 left.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 12 in the first half. Louisiana Tech was 7-for-13 from 3-point land in the first half, scoring the most points against the Aggies in a half this season.
McNeail was 4-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half. He gave Louisiana Tech a 39-27 lead with 4:44 left in the half, but Mullings got the Aggies within six with 2:44 to play. Back-to-back Bulldogs triples helped Louisiana push the lead back to 49-39 at halftime.
Mullings led the Aggies with 21 points and Terrel de Rouen scored a career high 10 points in the first half as the Aggies were 15-for-22 (68 percent) in the first half from the foul line.
“Our guys have to understand that teams are going to get up to play us,” Menzies said. “That’s what happened in both games. That’s discouraging that we were not a little mentally tougher. I didn’t think we had the effort on Saturday night that we had tonight.”

La. Tech: Three keys and a prediction

Marvin Menzies said all the right things after a season-low 47 point effort against Arlington last week. He then said the players met privately. We will see if any of it makes a difference tonight against a program Menzies is 10-1 against.

Seniors step up: NMSU seniors Bandja Sy and Tyrone Watson do a lot for the Aggies. Watson does a little bit of everything and that includes responsibilities that should be left to the point guard this year. Despite a poor start offensively this year, Sy has remained steady defensively and he leads the team with 6.6 rebounds per game. But both players have a way of disappearing on the offensive end. This team doesn't have a go to scorer, and although Bhullar looks the part, he is only out there for 20-25 minutes per game. Sy and Watson are best served as complimentary players throughout their careers. It's not their game, but they have to be better offensively.

Turnovers: Louisiana Tech forced Denver, a Princeton style offense, into 16 turnovers on Saturday. The Bulldogs force 17 turnovers per game and NMSU commits 16 TOs per game. Against Southern Miss, another team that pressed for the entire 40 minutes, NMSU turned the ball over 19 times, but they got the win at home.

Transition defense: NMSU tries to get to the offensive glass. The Aggies could have a size advantage against La Tech but if the Aggies don't score or get the offensive rebound, the Bulldogs are running. Kenneth Smith pushes the tempo and has a Daniel Mullings  like motor at the point guard spot. The Bulldogs play four guards and their biggest player is 6-9 Michale Kyser. NMSU has to get back in transition and try to limit the easy baskets or transition 3s. La. Tech only shoots 31 percent from 3, but they have five players who shoot around 30 percent.

I was ready to give the Aggies the win tonight, but they are clearly out of sorts offensively and they aren't good at taking care of the ball, which is something La. Tech thrives on. Final Score, La. Tech 67, NMSU 60

Saturday, December 29, 2012

WAC champs?

New Mexico State certainly didn't appear to be the defending WAC champs on Saturday night. Perhaps the Aggies believed they could show up and win. Other than that, couldn't really tell what the game plan was from watching the game. I know the Aggies are looking at an 0-2 start to WAC though.

New Mexico State never threatened Texas-Arlington in a 68-47 loss at Arlington on Saturday in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
The Aggies scored a season-low 47 points to fall to 6-7 overall entering Monday’s WAC game at Louisiana Tech.
“We didn’t give them any indication of who the WAC champions were when we walked in tonight,” said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies in his postgame radio comments. 
NMSU trailed 37-24 after a sluggish first half on the road and never threatened in the second half.
“The bell went off for the first conference game and we laid an egg on the road,” Menzies said. “I was emotionally embarrassed by our play tonight.”
The Aggies trailed by as many as 15 in the first half as Arlington made 5-of-10 from 3-point range while NMSU was 32 percent from the floor and 4-for-11 from the foul line in the first half. Terrel de Rouen knocked down one of the Aggies two 3-point makes to close NMSU to within nine with two minutes left in the half, but it was as close as NMSU would get as the Aggies finished the first half 2-for-11 from 3-point range.
The Aggies finished 33 percent from the floor, 47.8 percent (11-for-23) from the foul line while Arlington shot 44 percent and scored 12 points off 15 NMSU turnovers.
“It doesn’t matter what we do defensively if we don’t play offensively the way we are supposed to,” Menzies said.
The Aggies trailed 54-32 on a Karol Gruszecki 3-pointer with 10:33 to play. 
NMSU closed to within 13 on a Daniel Mullings lay up with 3:20 left as Mullings led the Aggies with 21 points. Sim Bhullar had 14 points, six rebounds and five blocks in 25 minutes.
“They just kicked our butts from tipoff to the buzzer,” Menzies said. “They outrebounded us by seven, we weren’t blocking them out. We knew how well they rebounded offensively.  ... I’m upset because of the lackluster effort of not answering the call.”

Texas Arlington - Three keys and a prediction

The Aggies open WAC play tonight against Texas Arlington. Hard for me to get a handle on the new WAC teams. Arlington's three losses were to Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State but they did beat North Texas. Could the Aggies beat North Texas? I'm not sure. It should be close.

Keep feeding Sim: I picked Bhullar as the WAC Newcomer of the Year for the preseason, and before Chili Nephawe was injured, I didn't think the pick was looking good. Now that Nephawe is out, I think we have seen who the better player is. Nephawe's career high is 15 points. Bhullar has already had games of 12, 13, 17 and 25 in less than half a season. And against smaller teams, WAC teams, Bhullar has been dominant, shooting 63.5 percent from the field. Arlington's biggest player is Jordan Reeves at 6-10. Reeves averages a double double, but NMSU should have another good size advantage.

Win the ball control game: The Aggies have to take care of the ball on this first road trip as both teams seem to create turnovers. Unlike Louisiana Tech though, Arlington doesn't shoot the 3 very well at 36 percent but UTA does force 17 turnovers per game. NMSU needs to continue taking care of the ball, cutting back on their 16 turnovers per game. Arlington on the other hand, turns the ball over 20 times per game. NMSU could use those turnovers to get some easy baskets.

Get off to a fast start: I want to see NMSU get off to a good start tonight. The Aggies have been solid on the road against good teams. Now they play a team they are better than on the road. The Aggies have to start showing they have improved.

I'm going with the Aggies, 71-64. I think the Aggies have found some  offensive balance with Aronis and Buovac and Sim Bhullar inside.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Watered down WAC

Sim Bhullar has dominated WAC like undersized teams of late. Aggies could ride Bhullar to another WAC title.

LAS CRUCES — The Western Athletic Conference has survived as a basketball league for the time being.
But this is truly the last year the league will remotely resemble the same conference that New Mexico State joined in 2005-06 as Utah State, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech join the mass exodus of familiar foes after this season. The quality of the league has suffered, but this year’s WAC consists of 10 schools, including five newcomers — four of whom won’t be around next year.
It could be a fun race to watch, but don’t get too attached to one particular team because it will all continue to shake up next season.
Here are five story lines as WAC play opens this weekend:

Off to an average start: It doesn’t get much more mediocre than this. WAC teams combined for a 49-49 start to the season in non-conference play. The WAC is the No. 18 RPI conference in the country as only three teams enter conference play better than .500. Some schools like New Mexico State and Denver have played challenging non-conference schedules while failing to gather quality wins while others such as Utah State has collected wins without testing themselves against quality competition. More teams means 18 league games. It’s likely that 15 wins can win the league title in what should develop into a three, possibly four-team race. It results in what has been the case for some time — only one WAC team will enter the NCAA Tournament. 

Aggies vs. Aggies: Either New Mexico State or Utah State has won the last four WAC Tournament championships. Rivalries are born when championships are on the line, but this year will be the last time both will be in the league as the UtAgs head for the Mountain West next season. NMSU has won three tournament titles since joining the league with Utah State in 2005-06. The Aggies are 2-1 against Utah State in WAC Tournament play, beating Utah State in the 2006-07 and 2009-10 championship games. Utah State has appeared in the WAC Tournament championship game in five of the seven years since joining the league. The two programs were picked atop the WAC once again. It would only be fitting to settle things with another NCAA bid on the line.

Watch out for those Bulldogs: Louisiana Tech is proving to be no one-hit wonder after spoiling its way into the WAC Tournament championship game last year as a No. 5 seed. The Bulldogs are 9-3 this season and they lead the WAC in scoring with 73.8 points per game. Defensively the Bulldogs are fourth in the league at defensive field goal percentage (40.8 percent) and they force 17.5 turnovers per game.

New faces: WAC coaches picked Denver to finish third in the preseason poll as the Pioneers were the highest regarded of the five new schools. But the Pioneers have done little in the non-conference to inspire confidence with just four wins despite playing one of the league’s toughest schedules. Texas Arlington is 5-3 entering WAC play.

Top players: Daniel Mullings is the best player on New Mexico State’s roster, but the Aggies have found a dominant presence in 7-foot-5 freshman center Sim Bhullar. The Aggies will have a substantial size advantage on opponents in league play. In the Aggies last three games against such teams (Southern Mississippi, South Alabama, Missouri State), Bhullar is shooting 78 percent and averaging 18 points per game. San Jose State’s James Kinney leads the WAC ins scoring with 22.6 points per game and Louisiana Tech’s super sophomore Raheem Appleby is third at 17.8 points per game. The WAC’s preseason player of the year, Utah State’s Preston Medlin, has been slow to heat up, averaging 13.6 points per game to start the year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

6-6 entering WAC

After a 71-51 victory over Missouri State on Saturday, New Mexico State enters WAC play 6-6.

I wanted to see if you are disappointed? Is it where they should be? Concerned?

I had the Aggies going 7-5 entering WAC play so I'm not surprised by the record. This team had a lot of things to work through coming into the season so some growing pains were to be expected. I think the Aggies will be fine without Nephawe with Bhullar and Dixon playing center. Not as deep but I doubt Nephawe could score 25 like Bhullar did on Saturday.

The point guard spot appears to be KC Ross-Miller's despite mediocre results like a 1to1 assist to turnover ration, not what you are looking for from that spot. I don't think the WAC is going to be that good this year and the Aggies should still contend but I could see them losing games they shouldn't throughout the season, perhaps costing them a shot at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lobos 68, Aggies 63

Tyrone Watson
"I would say they played better defense in the second half on the 3-point line. Overall we were 10-for-17 we were making 3s but we just fell short. ... Our shooters were on the bench so that could be a little frustrating at times when there aren't shooters on the court. We are still trying to pound the ball inside. ... Usually they let us shoot the 3s. This time we were making the 3s. They made a halftime adjustment and we struggled to make the easy ones. ... First half we shot good from the free throw line, and then ended 11-20. We spotted them nine points and they won by five. ... We looked on it on film and we weren't really pounding the ball inside. We figured if we could get (Kirk and Adams) in foul trouble, eventually they would have some problems. ... We try to do it for the the city, for the fans and for the university and we just fell a couple possessions short."

Steve Alford
"We won the last four minute game and we have done that a lot this year so that's a good trend. ... (Kendall Williams) that would have changed how we subbed but he came back and he was just terrific. He's playing at a very high level. ... (Tony Snell) We challenged Tony at half. I keep telling him he is our shooting guard, not our screener. I thought in second half, he moved a lot better. He hasn't been getting to the free throw line and our whole team is getting to the free throw line. He's got to get there because he's a 90 percent free throw shooter, he is our best 3 point threat. I thought he worked a lot harder in the second half to get shots. ... Our game plan in both games, we were hoping it was going to be post play. Their big kid is big but I don't think he's going to be a double-double guy yet. I don't think Dixon could be a double-double guy yet so those shots were taken away from Sy and Watson and Mullings). We weren't going to trap, we weren't going to double. If you look at the center position in both games at the center position, if you look at points and rebounds,  I think we come out ahead. I think that was key. ... I don't think there was an adjustment. We just said contest more. They haven't been a good 3-point shooting team. To their credit, in the first half they made 3s. Aronis was a good 3-point threat we knew that and he kind of got away from us a little bit. The other guys, Dixon made a 3, Miller might have made his second all year. We weren't really concerned about it. We just wanted to contest a little better because I think the key to it was trying to take away the dribble drive. ... We caught them at halftime and just told our guys they have not been a good 3-point shooting team but they just made 6-of-7 and they are still down two."

Marvin Menzies
"Tip your hat to the Lobos. They are on a roll right now. I thought we could get a win here. Our guys were really shooting the ball well in practice but it wasn't meant to be. They are the better team and they proved it by beating us twice. ... We drove, we did what we designed to  do. We can't get to the free throw line if they don't call fouls. I have to watch the tape. I think we were hit a lot more than we got called. They called the games like they call the games. It's one of the components you can't control. ... Not having Chili hurts. Sim played his heart out. He's a work in progress. We didn't have the manpower to beat them tonight. I was concerned about rebounding and I challenged them there. I just have to ask them to do everything I guess. We will get there eventually. ... Kendall Williams came off a broken foot and went to work. It was the Kendall show. ... It was tough because Bandja was rebounding really well and I couldn't take Daniel out because he was subbing for (Aronis). Maybe so."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UNM: Three keys and a prediction

Turnovers aren't an issue, unless the Aggies are very sloppy with the ball, which they weren't in Albuquerque and I don't expect them to be again against the Lobos. UNM doesn't force turnovers. It's not what they do. So here are three things NMSU needs to do tonight to get a win.

Defend the 3: UNM only made seven 3s on Saturday but it felt like more.
"When you see a 3 ball go in that's a dagger," sophomore guard Terrel de Rouen said. "Then if we go down and miss a shot and they come and hit another 3, that's a killer. That's the biggest thing is taking them off the 3-point line.
"I don't think our transition game was too bad, but when someone gets to the middle of the floor, it messes up rotations for your defense."
Players and coaches talked about the majority of UNM's 3s were open. The Lobos set a lot of ball screens, mostly with Kendell Williams. NMSU did a good job for stretches, but the Lobos take advantage of breakdowns. Look for NMSU to almost sacrifice the drive tonight just making sure to chase people off the 3-point line. Another part of that is transition play. If the Aggies don't turn the ball over, they can't take bad shots that give the Lobos transition.

Patience offensively: A lot of talk about Tyrone Watson and Bandja Sy with an off night on Saturday. Here's a little nugget to remember though. The Lobos extended their lead in the second half with Kendall Williams, Tony Snell and Alex Kirk on the bench. Even if Watson and Sy are better, the Aggies have to get the ball inside to Sim Bhullar and Bhullar has to attack Kirk. Renaldo Dixon has to attack Kirk and the Aggies have to make open shots when they get them. NMSU was 4-16 from 3-point range on Saturday.

Mix it up: Marvin Menzies said the Aggies tried to play zone defense on a couple possessions. The Lobos hit a 3 out of a timeout on one and then got to the paint on another. Playing zone against a team with a lot of shooters is risky business, but playing with Sim Bhullar on the court wouldn't be a bad idea when he's on the court considering the Lobos bring him out away from the basket where he only collected two rebounds in the first game. I think the Aggies could also pressure the Lobos more full court at times. I like de Rouen and think he can bother Hugh Greenwood like Hernst Laroche did last year. Renaldo Dixon is obviously more mobile than Bhullar so extending the pressure  and creating some turnovers could jumpstart the NMSU offense.

I don't expect the Aggies to change much from the first game. The reality is NMSU played good enough defense in Albuquerque to hang around. I expect the game to be closer but the Lobos have already beaten NMSU and it's going to take something in addition to hoping Watson and Sy have better games. Lobos win 65-61

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Alford and Menzies

Following New Mexico's 73-58 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday, Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said that the inner-state rivalry is about more than Steve Alford vs. Marvin Menzies. It's a long standing rivalry and the Aggies play four hard rivalry games every year. Menzies is right of course, but Alford is still 9-2 against the Aggies under Menzies. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Two under-the-radar players who can make a difference

Just got to The Pit two hours early.

I've written about Sim Bhullar and Renaldo Dixon as two players who should see extended minutes without Chili Nephawe. It's a big opportunity for both players, who I feel have the ability to step in and possibly make the Aggies better in the long run. Bhullar has played two really good games back to back but the Lobos will be physical with him today. Dixon has yet to show that he can contribute consistently.

But here are two guys who if they come off the bench and are productive tonight, the Aggies will win this game.

Terrel de Rouen — The Lobos have the edge at point guard, no doubt about it. Hugh Greenwood is a solid player, but he was bothered by pressure last year. Of course that was UNM's second game. I don't think KC Ross-Miller starts but de Rouen is a big guard who is athletic enough to bother Greenwood and/or Jamal Fenton. Problem is, neither Aggie point guard has proven capable of taking care of the ball.

Kevin Aronis — Aronis was brought in as a shooter, but it's hard to tell if the Aggies are even using him. Playing time has dropped off dramatically to 13 minutes in the past two games where he hasn't attempted a field goal. If the Aggies aren't in transition, they can't get Aronis open for a 3. If Aronis is aggressive and looks for his shot early, I think the Aggies need to hit some 3s and perhaps Aronis can get himself going tonight.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nephawe injured

Marvin Menzies said on Thursday that center Tshilidzi Nephawe did undergo surgery sometime in the past week for an injury in his right hand, believed to be torn ligaments in the thumb. It sounds like it's not clear if he will return or not this season. Perhaps he could return to the lineup sometime before the end of WAC play, but that's a guess.

I've been wanting to see more of Renaldo Dixon, and he figures to be next in line to back up Sim Bhullar, which could be a fine duo in conference play. Against the Lobos I'm not sure. Dixon vs. 6-9 Bairstow could be an important matchup in the game.

I also asked about Daniel Mullings, who still is on a liquid diet with a wired jaw.

"Daniel is better but he's still not Daniel," Menzies said. "There is a fatigue factor and a nutrition factor."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

UNM: Five keys for NMSU at Lobos

Rivalry series often consist of peaks and valleys, especially one that dates back to 1904.
New Mexico has certainly enjoyed the lion’s share of recent success against New Mexico State on the basketball court. The Lobos had won seven straight against the Aggies prior to last season, when the Aggies won for the first time at The Pit since 2002. The teams still split the series last year as the Lobos won at the Pan American Center to record their eighth victory in the last nine meetings with NMSU.
Here are five things the Aggies have to do to swing the rivalry back to their favor when the teams meet again on Saturday at The Pit in Albuquerque:

Closing time: The Lobos have certainly earned their 10-0 record and No. 17 ranking. UNM won 28 games last year, winning 22 games by a double-digit margin. The Lobos have already won six games by double digits this season, including come-from-behind efforts against Davidson and George Mason. The biggest difference between the in-state rivals this year appears to be their ability in the final minutes. Whether it’s discipline, execution or just good luck, the Lobos have found ways to grind out wins while the Aggies have lost second-half leads to Niagara and UTEP. Even in a road win at South Alabama on Dec. 4, the Aggies nearly lost a 17-point advantage. NMSU was 6-for-10 from the foul line in the last eight minutes, but the Jaguars were equally inept at 5-for-12 in the second half. The Aggies haven’t struggled in the opening minutes this season. If they are fortunate enough to build a lead on the road on Saturday, the Aggies won’t emerge victorious if their streaky play down the stretch continues.

Win the 3-point battle: The Aggies held the Lobos to 28 percent shooting from the floor last year in a 62-53 victory at The Pit, the lowest percentage for a Steve Alford team. UNM was 7-for-19 from the 3-point line, including off nights for key returners Kendall Williams (0-for-4), Tony Snell (3-for-6) and Demetrius Walker (1-for-2). The Lobos score 27 percent of their 73 points per game from 3-point range and shoot 33 percent from 3-point range. Guarding the 3 has been an Aggies’ strength for the past two years, illustrated by Bandja Sy’s game-sealing block of Phillip McDonald’s 3-point attempt in the final minute last year. Sy and sophomore guard Daniel Mullings match up well against Snell and Williams. The Aggies would also be served well by hitting a few 3s of their own as UNM opponents have shot 34 percent against the Lobos from 3-point range. Mullings has knocked down open shots this year, shooting 57 percent from 3-point range this year. His teammates need to do the same.

Limit turnovers: Turnovers have been coming fast and at inopportune times for the Aggies this season. NMSU turns the ball over 25 percent of the time or 17 times per game. The Aggies committed 17 turnovers against South Alabama. UNM doesn’t pressure teams into turnovers, forcing just 13 per game, but the Lobos have length on the wings that can easily make the Aggies pay for lazy passes. 

Free throw disparity: The Lobos are taking a page out of NMSU’s playbook from a year ago, using the free throw line to its advantage. The difference is the Lobos are not only getting to the foul line, but shooting 76.6 percent from the line, ranking 18th nationally. UNM leads the country with 21.6 made free throws per game and the Lobos are third with 28.2 free throw attempts per game. The Aggies attempt 25 free throws per game so NMSU can neutralize the Lobos at the line if they improve on the 66 percent mark from the line so far this season.

For WAC’s sake: The Western Athletic Conference is starving for quality wins and a victory over the No. 17 Lobos would be the league’s best win by a wide margin. The WAC was 37-37 overall entering Monday. The Mountain West by contrast has been among the best leagues in the country, going 57-16 in the non conference with a number of signature wins and a No. 5 RPI ranking. NMSU can boast the league’s best win with a 68-60 win against Southern Mississippi, along with Louisiana Tech’s victory over the same Southern Miss team and a Utah State victory over Santa Clara.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekly WAC rankings

Still hard to get a good idea. Utah State and Seattle aren't playing and San Jose isn't playing anybody.
I still can't get La. Tech over Utah State despite the difference in games played and I'm wondering how good that Southern MIss team is after losing road games to two WAC schools last week as the WAC enters this week 36-36 with some non-Div I games mixed in there.

Aggies/Lobos and San Jose/Santa Clara are games to watch this week.

We will get a better idea on San Jose this week. They played on the road at Kansas but other than that, another weak schedule in the WAC. They host a 6-2 Santa Clara team this week, probably a better indicator of how they will do in the WAC. Santa Clara lost by two to Utah State.

Rank                          Previous                      Last week                                   This week           
1. Utah State (5-1)        1                        W  W. Oregon                                       Sat @ Utah Valley

2. La. Tech (8-2)           2                    L @ NW State, W vs. S. Miss    Wed @ McNeese St. Mon @ Little Rock

3. NMSU (5-4)              3                      W @ S. Alabama                                     Sat @ New Mexico

4. Arlington (4-2)           4                     W @Texas Pan American                        Thurs. Houston Baptist

5. Denver (2-5)             7                   W Mercer                                                   Sat. Neb.-Omaha

6. San Jose St. (5-3)     8                 W Cal Davis, W Sac St.                               Tue. Santa Clara

7. UTSA (3-6)               5               L @ Miss. State, L S. Carolina Upstate

8. Idaho (3-5)                6              W @ E. Wash., L @ UTEP                            Sat. Walla Walla

9. Texas State (4-5)      9          L Oral Roberts, W Texas Pan American      Sat @ Texas, Mon @ Northwestern

10. Seattle (2-3)            10                                            Mon. @ E Wash, Thurs. Washington, Mon Jackson St.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

NMSU with first road win

The New Mexico State men’s basketball team picked up its first road win of the season, beating South Alabama 58-52 in Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday.
“I feel fortunate to get out of  here with a win based on our recent history to finish games,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. “I knew it would be a close game. I wasn’t sure who would have the lead in the last four minutes. We got stops when we needed them.”
The Aggies led by six at halftime and held off the Jaguars to improve to 5-4 on the season. Aggies senior Bandja Sy stole an attempted backdoor pass by Jaguars guard Freddie Goldstein with 20 seconds left and the Aggies leading by three.
South Alabama entered the game shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. The Jaguars were 5-for-17 (29 percent) from long range on Tuesday and 32 percent from the floor.
“We didn’t have great offensive execution,” Menzies said. “We have to get out point guards and bigs in sync. It was a plus for us the way we defended the 3-point line, 29 percent is huge. Our defense has been carrying us.”
Leading by six at halftime, NMSU turned the ball over on seven of its first 10 possessions in the second half after committing seven turnovers in the first half. South Alabama closed to within two with 15:34 to play but the Aggies answered with a 9-2 run that pushed the lead back to nine with 11:10 to play.
Neither team was good at the foul line — NMSU was 9-for-18, but the Aggies made just enough, 6-for-10, in the last eight minutes to hold the Jaguars off. South Alabama closed to within two with two minutes to play but the Jaguars were just 9-for-17 from the line.
Sy had 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Aggies shot 48 percent from the floor. Daniel Mullings led the Aggies with 13 points and Sim Bhullar had 12 points in 16 minutes.
The Aggies led 31-25 at halftime after leading by 17 with 8:08 left in the first half. Five of NMSU’s seven first-half turnovers were in the last eight minutes as the Jaguars closed to five on an Augustine Rubit follow with three seconds left.
Rubit’s bucket was one of few easy looks for the Jaguars, who started 3-for-19 and shot 30 percent from the floor in the first half while NMSU was 52 percent. South Alabama was 1-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half. 
The Aggies went up 17-4 on a Watson floater with 12:50 left in the first half to cap a 15-0 NMSU run. Terrel de Rouen drove to the basket for another lay in to put NMSU up 23-6 with 8:08 to play in the half as part of a 21-2 NMSU run.

South Alabama: Three keys and a prediction

 NMSU started the 2007-08 season 0-7 on the road. That included losses at Duke, Louisville, Texas and WEst Virginia on a neutral court and road losses to UNM and UTEP. Probably the hardest schedule under Menzies.

NMSU is 0-4 on the road this year entering tonight's game at Sun Belt's South Alabama.

Defend the 3: South Alabama shoots 40 percent from 3-point range and score 32 percent of their 74 points per game from the 3. The Aggies hold opponents to 30 percent from 3 so tonight should be a good test.  Junior guard Xavier Roberson shoots 50 percent from 3, Senior Freddie Goldstein shoots 28 percent and junior Antoine Allen shoots 39 percent. Guard Mychal Ammons is another big guard at 6-6 who scores 12 ppg and shoots 53 percent from 3 but on just 17 attempts.

Mirror Southern Miss game plan: Like Southern Miss, South Alabama is an undersized team that likes to play fast, 72 possessions per 40 minutes. I don't think the Aggies will face full court pressure the entire game though like they did against Southern MIss, however. Sim Bhullar played like the 7-5 monster he is, on both ends of the floor. Chili Nephawe was also good. If the Aggies are to play an extended period of time without Nephawe down the line, I think the Aggies have players in Dixon and Barry who could compliment Bhullar. NMSU scored 34 points in the paint against Southern Miss and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and shoot nearly 70 percent at the foul line. That's a good formula for a road win.

Turnovers: Continues to be a key for this team. NMSU got away with 20 turnovers at home, but I would say 20 plus turnovers cost the Aggies road wins at Niagara and UTEP. South Alabama forces about 17 turnovers per game.

South Alabama has two Sun Belt wins already so they have played meaningful games. They have experienced players, but the fact that South Alabama wants to play fast plays into the Aggies preferred style. It's slow teams that NMSU struggles with.

Final score, New Mexico State 70, South Alabama 62

Monday, December 3, 2012

Weekly WAC rankings

Utah State has played five games but they have a big one against BYU this week. While other teams have been playing games, USU has been practicing, which is a good thing for Stew and a new team. Louisiana Tech continues to rack up wins against no name teams, but the Bulldogs are 7-1. Appleby had 34 against Georgia State. 

Aggies jump up by virtue of Denver losing to Southern Miss, a team NMSU beat, although the Aggies  had Southern Miss at home while Denver traveled. 

Other notes, Arlington beat North Texas, but North Texas also lost to Louisiana. Perhaps Stephen Madison is a capable second scorer for Idaho 21 vs. Cal Davis. Denver with the worst record but with the toughest schedule. 

Rank Team (W-L)               Previous              Last week                                                       This week              
1. Utah State (4-1) 1            W @ Santa Clara Wed @ BYU, Sat vs W. Oregon

2. La. Tech (7-1) 2         W vs. SE La., W @ Ga. St.               Tues @ NW State, Sat. vs. S. Miss.

3. NMSU  (4-4) 5 L @ UTEP, Sat., W S. Miss                           Tues @ South Alabama

4. UT-Arlington (3-2) 6       W @ N. Texas, L @ Texas, Mon @ Texas Pan Am,

5. UTSA (3-4) 3 L @ Oregon, L @ Bakersfield          Tues. @ Miss. St, Sat. @ SC Upstate

 6. Idaho (2-4)                7 L @ Wash. St, W vs. Cal Davis                   Thurs. @ E. Wash, Sat. @ UTEP

7. Denver (1-5) 4 L. @ S. Miss, L @ Stanford                 Wed. vs. Mercer

8. San Jose State (3-3) 9 L @Kansas, W @ Montana St Wed. @ Cal-Davis, Sat. vs. Sac St.

9. Texas State (3-4) 10 L vs. Utah                         Wed. vs. Oral Roberts, Sat. vs. Texas Pan Am

 10. Seattle (2-3) 8 L @ Stanford, L vs. Boise

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sim Bhullar's brother in town to watch brother's career night

Sim Bhullar posted a career high 17 points with 7 rebounds and two blocks in New Mexico State's 68-60 victory over Southern Miss. Among those in attendance was 7-3 2014 prospect and younger brother, Tanveer Bhullar.

Saturday was an unofficial visit, coming to Las Cruces for the first time with his mother, who was in town for the second time as the family surprised Bhullar for his 20th birthday on Sunday.

"He thought that KC's family was going to come. So KC told him to drive him to the airport to pick up his family and we were there. He said this is the most surprised he has ever been in his entire life," Tanveer Bhullar said.

Tanveer Bhullar reclassified as a 2014 prospect. He attends Father Henry Carr in Toronto.

"I think we are 9-0 right now and we are the No. 1 team in Canada," Tanveer Bhullar said. "After high school basketball, I will just be working out and get ready for AAU."

Bhullar said the Aggies have offered him. Having his older brother on the roster is an obvious selling point, underscored by a very good performance by the Aggies in a win over a good Southern Miss team.

"It gives me a chance to look at the school. If I have questions about the school, I can just ask my brother. I know some of the Canadian guys on the staff and I know coach Weir well."

Bhullar said Eastern Michigan, Rice, Jacksonville State are among the schools who have offered. The only high majors so far are Seton Hall and Providence.

I asked Bhullar to evaluate what he has seen so far from Sim Bhullar as a college player.

"I can just see that he hasn't been playing like he used to play. Tonight is how he used to play. He lost a lot of weight (70 pounds). I'm surprised. I can see when they push him, he can't push back. I've been watching the games online."

The fact that the Aggies have been to two NCAA Tournaments in three years helps.

"It's always a positive because every year the school is going to develop more and more."

Tanveer looks like, and sounds like his brother. I asked about their playing style.

"People have told me I'm more finesse. I don't dunk the ball like he does. That's something I have to work on."