New Mexico State cruised to an 84-62 victory over Western Athletic Conference newcomer Grand Canyon on Saturday in Phoenix, Ariz.
NMSU improved to 12-5 and 1-0 in conference play, but the Aggies did it without sophomore center Sim Bhullar, who did not travel with the Aggies after suffering a foot injury in last weekend’s victory over South Alabama.
“He got his foot stepped on in the last game,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. “We thought he was going to be good, but it was still nagging him. A bruise was the first assessment and he has a chance to play against Seattle (on Thursday at the Pan American Center). I want to get it right before we get him all the way back in. We will probably make a call on Wednesday.”
When asked about the availability of Bhullar’s brother, 7-foot-3 freshman, Tanveer Bhullar, Menzies said the younger brother will redshirt this season.
“He’s a redshirt,” Menzies said. “If someone were gone for the rest of the year now, I would talk to him about it.”
Senior Renaldo Dixon (eight points, six rebounds, two blocked shots) started at power forward with junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe. Matej Buovac logged 19 minutes at the power forward position, scoring five points.
“They had to play smart, good defense,” Menzies said. “When you are a man down, you have to rally and play smart. They played smart basketball defensively.”
Kevin Aronis led the Aggies with a career-best 20 points, hitting 6-for-8 from 3-point range as the Aggies were 9-for-19 (47.4 percent) from long range. Aronis was 5-of-6 from 3-point range for 15 points in 13 minutes off the bench in the first half.
“With the bigs that we have, we have to be able to get perimeter shooting,” Menzies said in his postgame radio comments. “The last few games, the guys have been in a groove. It’s making a difference for us overall.”
Aronis and Buovac each hit 3s during a 10-2 NMSU run to open a 21-10 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. Aronis caught fire late in the first half, hitting four of his five 3s in the last 6:04, hitting one from the top of the key out of a NMSU timeout in the final minute for a 45-31 lead at the half.
GCU (1-1 WAC) closed to within 10 early in the second half, but the Aggies pushed the lead back to 55-38 when DK Eldridge ran down a loose ball and converted a three-point play.
Eldridge had 14 points and 10 rebounds as NMSU out rebounded GCU 41-25. Daniel Mullings scored 15 points and Tshilidzi Nephawe had nine points and 11 rebounds.