Thursday, January 17, 2013

Utah State: Three keys (plus one) and a prediction

Keep it rolling: NMSU has won four straight and if NMSU can increase its win streak to 7 with home wins in the next six days against Utah State, San Jose State and Denver, the Aggies will be right there for the second half of WAC play. NMSU won back to back road games by one point each improving to 3-3 on the season in games decided by 6 or less and despite Utah State appearing to be a shell of its former self, I expect tonight's game to be close again, putting importance on taking care of the ball and free throws.

Keep Medlin in check: I said it last year and it's still true, NMSU has at least three players with length and ability to pester Medlin all night long with Daniel Mullings, Bandja Sy and even Tyrone Watson. If Mullings and Sy are engaged on defense, which they are every night, Medlin simply shouldn't have open looks unless Utah State gets out in transition play. Medlin was 3-10 for 9 points in Las Cruces last year.

Rebound/Transition: I watched last year's 80-60 Aggies win at the Pan Am lastnight and remember transition dunks from Mullings and Watson. NMSU out rebounded Utah State 39-28 in  that game. To be fair, Utah State does appear to be a better rebounding team with Jarred Shaw pulling down nine boards and Kyisean Reed with 7 rebounds per game. The Aggies are built slightly different but they still want to push after a defensive rebound, which could lead to more highlights from NMSU high fliers.

"We still have a lot of the same guys. Transition just starts with our defense. If get back to defense, getting rebounds and pushing it in transition we will get back to our style of play we are used to and how we beat them last year, especially in the second half," Mullings said.

Point guard play: Entering the season, I thought both teams would have some questions to answer at the point guard position. We know how the Aggies PG spot has played out. Terrel de Rouen and KC Ross Miller have had their moments this year. Utah State starts a true freshman in Marcel Davis with JC transfer Tenale Roland coming off the bench. Somewhat surprised Stew starts a true freshman, but that just shows that obviously Morrill has grown to trust him. Whichever duo plays better could determine the difference.

"Ross-Miller took a big step, especially in the Idaho game," Mullings said. "A couple of us were kind of struggling. He just stuck with it and made big shots when we needed it."

I think Watson could have a big night tonight, if he's matched up on Reed. Reed has a size advantage, and actually had a decent first half here last year, but Watson has been playing well and I think he can get to the paint or the basket against Reed. I thought NMSU matched up well with UTah State last year and I feel that way again. Less veterans on this year's team could mean a closer game but I have NMSU winning 68-66

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