Game #9-223: Missouri State Bears at New Mexico State AggiesDecember 22, 2012 9:00 pm
Pan American Center
Today's matchup between Missouri State and New Mexico State is only the second time the two schools have met on the hardwood. On December 12, 1950, the New Mexico A&M Aggies visited Springfield and were defeated by the Southwest Missouri State College Bears, 64-54. Although the Aggies were once members of the Missouri Valley Conference, Southwest Missouri State University joined the MVC in 1991, eight years after New Mexico State moved to the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (now the Big West), looking then as they are now for a home for their football program.
To say that Missouri State has had a disappointing season to date is a severe understatement. The Bears come in 2-9, with the only two wins coming outside of Division I. Home losses have been to San Diego State, Jacksonville, Oral Roberts, and Valparaiso. Neutral court losses were to South Carolina and SMU, but they came with a trip to Puerta Vallarta. Road losses occurred at Tulsa, Oklahoma State, and four nights earlier, at Alabama A&M. The Bears bring a seven game losing streak to Las Cruces.
The Aggies have been somewhat better, with a record of 5-6. In December so far, the Aggies defeated Southern Mississippi
, overcame South Alabama in Mobile, and then lost twice to New Mexico: first in Albuquerque
, then again in the return game in Las Cruces
. This was their third game without junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe, out for an undetermined period after surgery to repair a broken hand. Nephawe's absence has created an opportunity for freshman center Sim Bhullar to start and play some additional minutes as he works his way into shape after redshirting last year while rehabilitating a broken foot. Sophomore guard Daniel Mullings is expected to play again with a broken jaw, wired shut at least until December 27, when the closure is expected to be removed.
A small holiday crowd (ending up 4877 of the arena's basketball capacity of 8994) was present as Bhullar won the opening tip. The Aggies quickly had two turnovers turned into layups by the Bears; NMSU coach Marvin Menzies called time out 68 seconds into the game. After that time out, the Aggies gradually moved into a 10-10 tie, hampered by a Bear zone defense keeping the ball away from the basket. NMSU took the lead on a jumper by guard Daniel Mullings from just inside the three-point line. With about 12 minutes to play, Aggie freshman wing Matej Buovac entered a game for the first time, after the decision not to redshirt him was reached earlier in the week. Buovac responded with two #superhoops, with a shorter jumper sandwiched between; his eight first half points led the Aggies and tied for the game lead. Missouri State responded with an 8-3 run to pull within one at 24-23. Led by a dunk, a layup and a free throw from Bhullar, the Aggies scored the next ten straight to make the halftime score 34-23.
The Bears were led by forward Christian Kirk's eight points; to the best of my knowledge, he is no relation to UNM center Alex Kirk. Four other Bears scored in the half. For the Aggies, Bhullar added seven to Buovac's eight, and fellow freshmen K. C. Ross-Miller added a #superhoop
to give the freshman class eighteen first half points. Sophomores Mullings (five), Terrel DeRouen (three), and Remi Barry (two) gave the underclassmen twenty-eight of the Aggies' thirty-four.
The second half began with a further NMSU 8-2 run, extending the lead to seventeen. A sloppy twelve minutes followed. Seventeen fouls, twelve turnovers, and a lot of missed free throws later, there were only three minutes left in the game and the Aggie lead was still thirteen. The Aggies closed out the half on a 9-2 run, including a couple of dunks by senior Bandja Sy and Bhullar, to close out the Bears 71-51.
First half leaders Kirk and Buovac failed to score for their teams in the second. Guard Anthony Downing, the only senior on the Mo. State roster, scored eleven second-half points to lead the Bears with a total of seventeen; forward Gavin Thurmond tallied ten, and Marcus Marshall seven. For the Aggies, Bhullar continued his improvement with experience, adding eighteen in the second half to set a career high of twenty-five points, including seven of ten free throws. Mullings totaled eleven, and senior forward Tyrone Watson added nine. An indication of how young both of these teams are: NMSU freshmen and sophomores scored fifty-six of the Aggies' total of seventy-one points; Mo. State freshmen and sophomores scored thirty-two of the Bears' fifty-one.
This game completed the pre-conference portion of each team's schedule, although each has a non-conference game left in late February. On Saturday, New Mexico State begins WAC play at UT-Arlington's new College Park Center. Sunday, Southern Illinois begins the Missouri Valley schedule visiting the Bears in Springfield.