Game #9-208: New Mexico State Aggies at New Mexico LobosDecember 15, 2012 6:00 pm
The Pit (University Arena)
Round one of the Rio Grande Rivalry between the New Mexico Lobos and the New Mexico State Aggies this year was held at University Arena in Albuquerque, also known as the Pit. The two teams play an annual home-and-home series despite not being in the same conference since the Lobos abandoned the Border Conference for the Skyline Conference in 1951. They are the only Division I programs in the state; there are three Division II schools, NM Highlands, who the Lobos faced in an exhibition, Western NM, who played an exhibition with the Aggies, and Eastern NM, who faced neither this year, as well as the NAIA Northern New Mexico Eagles, who were a last minute addition to the Aggies' schedule when an additional game in the Wounded Warrior Project tournament
The all-time series is led by UNM, 113-95; the teams split two games last year, each winning on the other's home court. It was particularly galling to Lobo Coach Steve Alford when the Aggies won in the Pit in November last year
, and he has continued to complain in the media to his team about it ever since, even after the Lobos evened the score in the Pan American Center last December
Once again this year, the Lobos are off to a hot start as has been their wont under Alford, winning all ten prior games, including neutral site victories over Connecticut and George Mason, home wins over Davidson, USC, and Valparaiso among others, and a road overtime win at Indiana State. The Aggies have begun the season in the usual way under Coach Marvin Menzies: trying to find chemistry, losing a few that could have been won, playing a little below expectations but showing flashes of the untapped (to date) potential. Their record of 5-4 includes road losses at Oregon State
, Niagara (in a game the Aggies led by 22 in the second half) and UTEP
(by one point), a neutral site loss to Bucknell, a road win at South Alabama, and four home wins, most notably over Southern Mississippi
The Pit was sold out more than a week before the game, and over 15,000 were in attendance. Expectations were high for an inside battle between the two post men for each team, each from a different country: Lobo sophomore Alex Kirk (U. S.) and junior Cameron Bairstow (Australia) versus Aggie junior Tshilidzi Nephawe (South Africa) and freshman Sim Bhullar (Canada). A couple of days before the game, surgery on Nephawe's broken hand put him out of action for approximately six weeks, meaning that Aggie junior backups Renaldo Dixon and/or B. J. West would be called upon to spell Bhullar. In addition, Aggie guard Daniel Mullings still had a jaw wired shut while a fracture from the Niagara game healed; he continues to play and play well, but his stamina is definitely reduced by the liquid diet.
The Aggies won the opening tip, and an eight foot jumper by Mullings gave the Aggies their only lead of the afternoon, 2-0. After eight minutes, the Aggie centers led the Lobo pivots 6-4, but the other Lobos scored another ten, keyed by two Tony Snell #superhoops. A highlight dunk by wing Bandja Sy pulled the Aggies within three at 17-14, but Kirk scored seven of the Lobo points in a following 11-2 UNM run. NMSU closed within six twice more in the half, and UNM led 39-32 at the half.
Fifteen different players scored in the first half, seven Lobos and eight Aggies. UNM was led in scoring by Kirk's nine, the game's high. He and Bairstow combined for fourteen points from the centers, while Aggie centers Dixon and Bhullar combined for nine. The Aggies were led by Mullings' seven points.
The second half looked much like the first, and the Aggies came no closer than the seven points they trailed by at the half. Defenses were better in the second half; shooting percentages for each team dropped by about 10%. The Lobo press led to layups and easier shots than the Lobo 2-3 matchup zone was allowing the Aggies to take. Bhullar's two second-half dunks were the total scoring for Aggie centers, but Kirk and Bairstow combined for only eight. When the lead got to seventeen with just under two minutes to play, Alford cleared his bench; his son Kory got a rare minute of game time.
UNM got balanced scoring from starters Kendall Williams (fifteen), Kirk (also fifteen), Chad Adams (thirteen) and Snell (ten). NMSU was led by its young players: sophomore Mullings (fourteen) was followed by freshman Bhullar and sophomore Terrel deRouen (nine each) and freshman K. C. Ross-Miller (eight). Much was made in the local press about seniors Tyrone Watson and Bandja Sy combining for a total of nine points on two for nineteen shooting from the floor. No one mentioned that UNM also has only two seniors on its roster; forward Chad Adams and guard Jamal Fenton combined for nineteen points, making four of seven field goal attempts.
The teams next head to Las Cruces for the annual rematch, this year in the Pan American Center at NMSU.
NEW MEXICO 73, NEW MEXICO STATE 58
NEW MEXICO STATE 5-5 (0-0) -- T. Watson 0-5 4-4 4; B. Sy 2-14 0-0 5; D. Mullings 5-10 4-5 14; K. Ross-Miller 2-7 4-4 8; S. Bhullar 4-7 1-1 9; R. Dixon 2-6 1-1 5; T. de Rouen 3-5 1-2 9; K. Aronis 0-2 0-0 0; R. Barry 1-2 1-2 4. Totals 19-58 16-19 58.
NEW MEXICO 11-0 (0-0) -- C. Adams 2-4 7-8 13; K. Williams 4-10 6-6 15; A. Kirk 5-11 5-9 15; T. Snell 4-7 0-0 10; H. Greenwood 2-4 0-0 5; D. Walker 0-4 2-2 2; C. Bairstow 1-3 5-8 7; J. Fenton 2-3 1-2 6; C. Thomas 0-0 0-0 0; N. Banyard 0-1 0-0 0; K. Alford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-47 26-35 73.
Three-point goals: NMSU 4-16 (T. Watson 0-3; B. Sy 1-5; K. Ross-Miller 0-1; R. Barry 1-2; T. de Rouen 2-2; D. Mullings 0-1; K. Aronis 0-2), NM 7-13 (C. Adams 2-2; J. Fenton 1-1; D. Walker 0-2; K. Williams 1-2; T. Snell 2-2; A. Kirk 0-2; H. Greenwood 1-1; N. Banyard 0-1); Rebounds: NMSU 31 (T. Watson 11), NM 34 (C. Adams 10); Assists: NMSU 12 (K. Ross-Miller 4), NM 15 (K. Williams 7); Total Fouls -- NMSU 23, NM 17; Fouled Out: NMSU-None; NM-None.