In the loss the previous night of the Great Alaska Shootout, New Mexico State was outworked, outhustled, outrebounded and simply outplayed. For a team who draws its energy from its leader, Wendell McKines, who prides himself on being one of the hardest workers on the court, it was a bit of a shock. Talk to any head coach after a loss and nearly to a man they'll tell you that one of the best things about sports is that no matter how bad the previous game was, the next game provides an opportunity for redemption.
Redempton is what New Mexico State was seeking on Saturday night as they took the court to face San Francisco in the third place game of The Shootout. Likewise, San Francisco was looking for some redemption after coming up just one shot short against Murray State the night before.
On paper the game looked like it would be a competitive one and it did not disappoint. The two teams traded jabs early. The Aggies went ahead by three, then San Francisco came right back and grabbed a three-point lead. The Aggies briefly retook the lead at 15-14 but USF answered going on an 8-2 run to take a seven-point lead. The Aggies' defense was being shredded by the Dons and head coach Marvin Menzies took a timeout to try to settle the troops. In the other huddle, USF head coach Rex Walters was imploring his team to keep doing what they were doing.
Out of the break the Aggies clamped down on defense and went on a 6-0 run scoring all of their points at the free throw line, a place they had become intimately familiar with over the course of the tournament. San Francisco would build a small lead of five points thanks to a #superhoop from Cole Dickerson with 2:30 left in the half but the Aggies would hold the Dons scoreless and scored five unanswered to send the game to halftime exactly where it started, tied.
San Francisco came out in the second half and did what they had done for much of the first half-- assume the lead. Rashad Green's layup with just over 11 minutes left to play put the Dons were up by seven at 57-50. It was gut-check time for New Mexico State. This had been about the point in the Southern Miss game that the Aggies had been unable to overcome the Eagles' physical play. This presented an opportunity for redemption.
The Aggies responded with a 7-0 run fueled by three layups and a free throw. Perris Blackwell would answer the Aggies' run with a layup to give USF a 59-57 lead with just under eight minutes left to play but the Aggies would go on a 6-0 run to take the lead and they would not give it back the rest of the game. The Aggies would push the lead to nine a couple of times, San Francisco would get no closer than six the rest of the way. The Aggies' leader, McKines would punctuate the game with a breakaway #omgdunx and with that, the Aggies had found redemption.
The Dons will have to wait another game for their crack at redemption but that's the beauty of sports. There's always that next game.
NEW MEXICO STATE 81, SAN FRANCISCO 71 11/26/2011
NEW MEXICO STATE 5-1 (0-0) -- R. Jones Jr. 2-6 0-0 5; W. McKines 6-15 5-8 17; C. Kabongo 5-9 11-12 23; H. Rahman 3-6 4-4 10; H. Laroche 3-4 4-4 12; B. Sy 3-5 2-4 9; T. Watson 2-5 1-2 5; D. Mullings 1-2 2-2 4; T. Nephawe 0-3 1-2 1; T. de Rouen 0-0 0-0 0; R. Dixon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 30-38 81. SAN FRANCISCO 5-3 (0-0) -- A. Caloiaro 5-8 8-9 22; C. Doolin 2-5 0-0 5; M. Williams 2-9 2-2 7; P. Blackwell 5-9 2-3 12; R. Green 5-10 0-0 11; D. O'Connor 0-4 0-0 0; C. Dickerson 3-6 0-0 7; G. Hoffmann 1-1 0-2 2; J. Raffington 1-1 0-0 2; K. Murphy 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 25-54 13-18 71.
Three-point goals: NMSU 5-12 (W. McKines 0-4; H. Laroche 2-3; T. Watson 0-1; B. Sy 1-1; C. Kabongo 2-3), SF 8-22 (R. Green 1-3; A. Caloiaro 4-7; D. O'Connor 0-1; M. Williams 1-5; C. Dickerson 1-3; C. Doolin 1-3); Rebounds: NMSU 32 (W. McKines 8), SF 19 (P. Blackwell 6); Assists: NMSU 15 (H. Laroche 7), SF 24 (C. Doolin 7); Total Fouls -- NMSU 13, SF 25; Fouled Out: NMSU-None; SF-None.