Game #9-055: Southeastern Louisiana at New Mexico State AggiesNovember 15, 2012 10:00 pm
Pan American Center
After a loss at Oregon State to open the season and the Wounded Warrior Classic
, New Mexico State hosted the Southeastern Louisiana Lions of the Southland Conference. This was the Aggies' home opener, against a school they had only faced once before, in 1997. The Lions came to Las Cruces after opening the season with road losses at Wisconsin and Marquette. While NMSU is predicted to finish near the top of the WAC, Southeastern is anticipated by Southland coaches to be just below the middle of their conference.
Conference realignment has greatly affected both of these leagues. The ten schools in the WAC this season include five new members, three of which (UT San Antonio, UT Arlington, and Texas State) came from the Southland; all three of them will leave the WAC after one season, UTSA to Conference USA, UTA and Texas State to the Sunbelt. The Southland had nine returning members after these defections, but has this season added Oral Roberts, which is favored to win the championship in its first year, and three schools for next season: Houston Baptist and two Texas schools moving from Division II, Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word.
A smallish crowd of just over 5,000 showed up to see the Aggies' first home contest. The Lions started the game with an 8-2 run; their patient motion offense was led by junior guard Jeffery Ricard's long jumper and longer #superhoop. The Aggies' 9-0 run following the first media timeout, with senior wing Tyrone Watson scoring six, put NMSU back in the lead. The two teams traded baskets for a while, with Watson driving to the basket for the Aggies, and preseason all-conference guard Brandon Fortenberry scoring both inside and out for the Lions. With about eight minutes left in the half, the Aggies shifted to a zone defense and scored ten straight points, including #superhoops
by sophomore guard Daniel Mullings and junior wing Kevin Aronis, to take the lead for good.
The Aggies led at the half 47-31, behind 20 points and 8-8 free throw shooting from Watson, and eight points from Aronis, who added a second three-pointer. Fortenberry had 10 points for the Lions. The Aggies led the country in free throw attempts last season, and the first half of this game was consistent with that; NMSU made 12 of 16 attempts, while Southeastern made 4 of 7.
For the first eight minutes of the second half, the Lions outscored the Aggies 15-6, behind the outside shooting of Fortenberry, Ricard, and senior wing Roosevelt Johnson over the Aggies' man-to-man defense. With the lead only six, Tyrone Watson left the game holding his right hamstring and stretching it with a trainer during the media timeout. He shortly returned to the game, but was much less effective, only adding four points during the second half. The taller Aggies began to assert their superior size, going inside for a couple of dunks and drawing several two-shot fouls. Starting with about eight minutes left, the Aggies went on another 9-0 run, which extended to an 18-4 difference for the remainder of the game. The final score was NMSU 81, Southeastern 56.
The Lions' scoring was led by Fortenberry's twenty-one and starting forward Roosevelt Johnson's twelve. Ricard added nine and forward Onochie Ochie (say that quickly three times) who scored eight. Watson's career high twenty-four led the Aggies, followed by freshman center Sim Bhullar (the INCREDIBLY LARGE MAN from the Oregon State story) who added thirteen. No other Aggie was in double figures but Mullings had nine, center Tshilidzi Nephawe and Aronis each added eight, and junior forward Renaldo Dixon added six to go with his four blocked shots, two of which came in the same possession during the Aggies' final stretch run.
One of the Aggies' issues against Oregon State was ball handling; this had been anticipated as a challenge for this year's team, since four year stalwart point guard Hernst Laroche had used up his eligibility. (I started to say "graduated," but Laroche did that the prior year.) There are now three point guards on the New Mexico State roster: transfer sophomore K. C. Ross-Miller, sophomore Terrel DeRouen, who was injured early in last season, and freshman Eric Weary. Their play in early season contests will determine which of them will be the floor general; should no one show their ability, Mullings or possibly even Watson might end up running the offense. Tonight, Ross-Miller played pretty well at the point, as did Mullings; each only had two of the team's twelve total turnovers. DeRouen did not play (coaches decision) and Weary appeared briefly at the game's end.
The Lions finally start their home schedule on November 20, hosting Louisiana College at the University Center in Hammond; the Wildcats will be the first Southeastern opponent that was not in last year's NCAA Tournament. The Lions close out the month visiting Ruston, Louisiana, to face the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech. The Aggies headed immediately (5:30 the following morning) back on the road to Niagara for the second and third of their four games in the Wounded Warrior Classic, playing the Bucknell Bison and the host Purple Eagles, before returning home for the fourth Wounded Warrior game, hosting the Eagles of Northern New Mexico College. at NEW MEXICO STATE 81, SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA 56
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA 0-3 (0-0) -- B. Fortenberry 8-13 2-4 21; D. Evans 1-8 1-2 3; J. Ricard 4-12 0-0 9; R. Johnson 6-13 0-0 12; J. Petrovcic 0-1 0-0 0; O. Ochie 3-8 1-1 8; T. Nelson 0-4 0-0 0; J. Campbell 1-2 1-2 3; J. James 0-0 0-0 0; R. Woods 0-1 0-2 0; A. Benton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-63 5-11 56.
NEW MEXICO STATE 1-1 (0-0) -- K. Ross-Miller 1-4 1-1 3; B. Sy 2-9 1-3 5; D. Mullings 3-7 2-4 9; T. Watson 7-10 10-10 24; T. Nephawe 2-6 4-4 8; R. Dixon 2-3 2-2 6; S. Bhullar 6-9 1-2 13; K. Aronis 3-4 0-0 8; E. Weary 1-1 0-0 3; B. West 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-54 21-26 81.
Three-point goals: SELU 5-21 (B. Fortenberry 3-6; D. Evans 0-2; A. Benton 0-1; O. Ochie 1-2; T. Nelson 0-3; J. Ricard 1-6; R. Woods 0-1), NMSU 4-8 (T. Watson 0-1; B. Sy 0-2; D. Mullings 1-1; E. Weary 1-1; K. Aronis 2-3); Rebounds: SELU 28 (J. Petrovcic 8), NMSU 37 (B. Sy 10); Assists: SELU 7 (R. Woods 2), NMSU 15 (K. Ross-Miller 6); Total Fouls -- SELU 20, NMSU 13; Fouled Out: SELU-None; NMSU-None.