Game #9-319: Utah State Aggies at New Mexico State AggiesJanuary 17, 2013 9:00 pm
Pan American Center
The primary rivalries, at least to the fan base, of the New Mexico State University Aggies (for today, let's call them the Crimson Aggies) are with the New Mexico Lobos and the UTEP Miners. By far the nearest other Division I schools, it is only natural that these would remain important, despite sixty years of conference realignment that started even before the formation of the WAC. Within the WAC, the school that the Aggies have played the most is Utah State University. The Aggies from Logan (let's call them the Blue Aggies) seem to always have a quality team, even before the arrival of current coach Stew Morrill; the USU program and following is strong enough to have lured Morrill from a stable position at Colorado State several years ago.
Coming into this game, Utah State leads the all-time rivalry, 35-29; dividing the games by location, the USU record is 22-8 in Logan, 10-19 in Las Cruces, and 3-2 in neutral site games. Both teams were among the many independent programs in the west during the '60s and '70s and played nine times, NMSU winning five of those. Both schools were in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, which changed its name to the Big West while both were still members, for seventeen years; during that period Utah State won twenty-two of the thirty-seven contests, including two of the three conference tournament games. Since both came to the WAC for the 2005-06 season, NMSU has won nine of the seventeen games, and two of the three tournament tilts. (Interestingly enough, the six conference tournament games have alternated between the schools; NMSU won the most recent game, 2010, in Reno. There's a historical precedent to worry about another time...)
Utah State brought a thirteen game win streak into Las Cruces. Their 14-1 record was only marred by a loss to St. Mary's in the second game of the season, and by the horrifying incident at a practice when forward Danny Berger collapsed and his heart stopped. Thanks to the rules requiring portable defibrillators in practice and game facilities, and to the skill of the USU trainers in using them, Berger is on the mend, though his playing career is likely over. Utah State's regular game with Brigham Young, scheduled right after the Berger incident, was postponed into February, denying the Blue Aggies another difficult early test. In WAC play, they started with a road trip to UTSA and Texas State then went home to defeat Seattle, Idaho, and San Jose State. I think it is fair, and Coach Morrill said as much at the beginning of the week, that the Blue Aggies had yet to be tested in conference play. Their road trip to Las Cruces and Denver would provide the most difficult WAC competition so far.
New Mexico State brought a record of 10-8 into the contest, but also a four-game win streak. After losing both games of their first conference road trip at Arlington and Louisiana Tech, the Crimson Aggies handled UTSA and Texas State at home, and squeaked out two road victories at Seattle, in double overtime, and at Idaho, by a single point. Winning them all on the home court is always important to winning the conference regular season championship, so this game was probably more important for NMSU than for USU.
Utah State won the opening tip; it was the first time NMSU had not won the tip since 7'5" freshman center Sim Bhullar moved into the starting lineup after an injury to the early-season starter, Tshilidzi Nephawe. Both teams were very intense on defense. The game was somewhat rough and called loosely; each team only was whistled for four first-half fouls. NMSU guard Daniel Mullings canned the first two baskets; USU leading scorer Preston Medlin responded with a two- and a three-pointer. The first run of the game saw nine straight NMSU points open up a 16-11 lead. The rest of the half split evenly, and the halftime score was 23-18.
The Blue Aggies had to feel pretty good about their position at the half. They had only made 26% of their first-half shots, and everyone knew they would be better in the second. NMSU shot 45% in the first period, led by Mullings' nine points and forward Tyrone Watson's five. Leading for USU was Medlin with seven; five other Blue Aggies scored a bucket each. (Yes, you mathematicians, one was a three.)
The second half was also, typically between these teams, pretty rough, and the personal foul whistles increased. Two Crimson Aggies (Mulllings and Bhullar) required game stoppages to clean up bloodied faces. Two Blue Aggies were much more severely injured, as we found after the game. Medlin was called for fouling Mullings on a play that resulted in a broken wrist that will keep him out of action for six to eight weeks, almost the rest of the regular season. Forward Kyisean Reed, USU's senior leader and key inside player, suffered an ACL injury ending his collegiate career.
The Crimson Aggies began the second half with an 11-4 run, and Morrill called a timeout down by twelve; his team responded immediately, cutting the margin back to eight. From there, NMSU gradually increased the lead back to ten and a 6-0 spurt made it quickly sixteen. USU got one bucket before another 7-0 New Mexico State run pushed the lead to twenty-one with six minutes to play. With the help of four superhoops and improved shooting (56% for the second half), the Blue Aggies made an effort to rebound, but the lead was too much to overcome, especially with key players injured. But The Crimson squad also stepped up their second half shooting, making just below 70% of their shots in the period. The final score was New Mexico State 64, Utah State 51. For the sixth time in the past thirty years, the New Mexico State Aggies had ended a five-game or longer Utah State win streak with NMSU's fifth consecutive win.
For the game, New Mexico State had four players score in double figures: Bandja Sy with sixteen, Watson and Mullings with twelve each, and point guard K. C. Ross-Miller with ten. The Crimson Aggies also got seven more rebounds than the Blue ones in the second half; five different players had at least five boards. The Blue Aggies were led by Medlin's fourteen points and Jarred Shaw's eleven.
Utah State continues on the road going to Denver for a Saturday afternoon game, while New Mexico State's home stand continues with San Jose State on Saturday and Denver on the following Wednesday.
Here's a link to the Aggie Vision recap
, in case you'd like to look at the highlights.
at NEW MEXICO STATE 64, UTAH STATE 51
UTAH STATE 14-2 (5-1) -- P. Medlin 6-10 0-0 14; S. Butterfield 2-4 0-0 5; M. Davis 1-7 0-0 2; K. Reed 3-8 0-0 6; J. Shaw 5-12 0-1 11; T. Roland 2-4 0-1 5; B. Clifford 1-2 0-0 3; M. Jean 0-3 0-0 0; M. Lopez 2-5 1-2 5; J. Stone 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-56 1-4 51.
NEW MEXICO STATE 11-8 (5-2) -- T. Watson 5-11 2-4 12; D. Mullings 5-10 2-3 12; B. Sy 7-9 2-2 16; K. Ross-Miller 4-6 1-1 10; S. Bhullar 2-3 1-4 5; R. Dixon 2-3 2-2 6; T. de Rouen 0-1 0-0 0; K. Aronis 1-2 0-0 3; R. Barry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-45 10-16 64.
Three-point goals: USU 6-14 (J. Shaw 1-1; P. Medlin 2-6; B. Clifford 1-2; M. Davis 0-2; T. Roland 1-1; S. Butterfield 1-2), NMSU 2-8 (B. Sy 0-1; R. Dixon 0-1; K. Ross-Miller 1-2; T. de Rouen 0-1; D. Mullings 0-1; K. Aronis 1-2); Rebounds: USU 20 (J. Shaw 4), NMSU 33 (B. Sy 7); Assists: USU 9 (K. Reed 3), NMSU 11 (D. Mullings 3); Total Fouls -- USU 15, NMSU 10; Fouled Out: USU-None; NMSU-None.