Game #9-476: Texas-Arlington Mavericks at New Mexico State AggiesMarch 9, 2013 9:00 pm
Pan American Center
The final game of the regular season in Las Cruces brought the Mavericks of the University of Texas at Arlington to visit. This was the thirteenth meeting between New Mexico State and UTA in men's basketball and the second as members of the WAC. Since UTA is moving to the Sun Belt next year, it is unlikely that these teams will meet again anytime soon. NMSU won the first ten meetings between the schools; UTA has won the previous two, including a 68-47 victory to start the conference season on December 29. That was among the worst efforts given by the Aggies this year, and among the best by UTA.
Entering the evening, New Mexico State (20-10, 13-4 WAC) was in third place in the conference and destined to stay there, trailing Denver by two games and leading UTA (17-11, 11-6 WAC) by two with one game to be played. UTA's lead on Utah State was one game, so if the Mavericks were to lose and USU to win, the teams would be tied for fourth. UTA held the tiebreaker for seeding, so would be the fourth seed for the conference tournament no matter today's outcome; the only thing that seeding means is that UTA will wear the home uniforms in the four-five game between USU and UTA in Las Vegas.
The big news I received arriving at the arena was that, on Senior Night, senior forward Tyrone Watson was wearing a boot on his left ankle, rolled over by Louisiana Tech's J. L. Lewis on Thursday night, and would not be able to play. The others who were somewhat questionable because of health reasons would be able to play, particularly Aggie sophomore guards Daniel Mullings, K. C. Ross-Miller (with injuries) and Terrel de Rouen (flu).
The Aggies won the opening tip and forward Renaldo Dixon made a long jumper, just inside the three point arc, to start the scoring. Despite the Maverick press, the Aggies moved out to a 14-10 lead. Aggie wing Bandja Sy scored five points in the 7-0 run that followed for NMSU. Arlington substituted liberally, using ten different players in the first half, to maintain their defensive intensity, but the Aggie lead slowly continued to build over the period. Sy made two "and-one" plays consecutively as part of an 8-0 Aggie run leading to halftime, when the difference was Aggie 38, Mavericks 23. Kevin Butler scored eight first half points to lead the Mavericks. The game leader was Sy with fourteen points, closely followed by Ross-Miller's twelve.
After the intermission, UTA scored the first ten points, and fourteen of the first seventeen, to quickly narrow the Aggie lead to four at the under-twelve timeout; the first Aggie field goal, an INCREDIBLY LARGE TIP (h/t @KennyOcker) came after nearly eight minutes had passed. After the timeout, de Rouen knocked down a superhoop from the left wing before five Maverick points, three by Butler, cut the margin to two. Mullings took things in hand, scoring six in the Aggies ensuing 9-4 run. The Mavericks cut the lead back to four behind five points from forward Greg Gainey before Karol Gruszecki's superhoop cut the Aggie margin to two. Five quick NMSU points stretched the difference back to seven.
UTA switched to a zone defense with about four minutes to play; the Aggies were slow to respond while the Maverick 10-1 run gave them a two point lead, 66-64, with fifteen seconds remaining. Before I tell you about the final play, here's a chance to watch it
Sy's superhoop from the right baseline gave the Aggies a one-point edge with three seconds to play. After each team used a timeout, Arlington's inbounds pass hit the scorer's table without anyone on the court touching it, giving the Aggies the ball back at the baseline. Aggie wing Remi Barry made both free throws to make the final score 69-66.
Butler and Gruszecki each had three superhoops for Arlington and led their scoring with fourteen and eleven, respectively. Gainey added nine; guards Drew Charles and Shaquille White-Miller scored seven each for UTA. Sy was the game's leading scorer on Senior Night, garnering nineteen; Mullings' nine in the second half gave him eleven for the game. Ross-Miller's twelve all came in the first half. Barry scored nine, while Bhullar and de Rouen added eight each. For the final time this season, Aggie Vision's game summary shows the highlights
Short videos about both seniors were shown to the crowd before Coach Marvin Menzies and each player had the chance to thank the crowd for their four years of support. Although Watson improved each year in Las Cruces, especially defensively, he remained much the player he was when he arrived at NMSU from Hamilton, Ontario; a "glue guy" who is after every loose ball and rebound, occasionally scoring if that is needed by the team, and routinely handling the ball near the end of games. On the other hand, Sy arrived four years ago with great athletic promise and very little basketball experience or knowledge, having played mostly soccer at home in France. His development into the player named to the WAC's all-conference first team (on the following day) has been incredible to watch; it is a real tribute to his hard work and the NMSU coaching staff. His highlight reel dunks and ever-improving baseline superhoops have made important contributions to the Aggies' success this season.
Both schools will start WAC Tournament action on Thursday in Las Vegas. NMSU will play Idaho, a dangerous team that the Aggies defeated twice this season by a total of three points. UTA will play Utah State; the Mavericks won both regular season meetings rather handily
at NEW MEXICO STATE 69, TEXAS-ARLINGTON 66
TEXAS-ARLINGTON 17-12 (11-7) -- H. Hunsaker 3-11 6-6 13; J. Reves 2-5 5-8 9; K. Butler 5-11 1-2 14; S. White-Miller 3-4 0-0 7; K. Gruszecki 4-10 0-1 11; C. Catlett 0-5 0-0 0; G. Gainey 4-8 1-3 9; D. Charles 1-7 4-4 7; B. Edwards 2-3 2-3 6; J. Outler 1-5 0-0 3; D. Rodgers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-58 13-21 66.
NEW MEXICO STATE 21-10 (14-4) -- B. Sy 5-11 8-9 19; S. Bhullar 2-3 4-7 8; D. Mullings 3-7 5-8 11; R. Barry 3-7 3-5 9; K. Ross-Miller 3-5 5-6 12; R. Dixon 1-2 0-0 2; T. de Rouen 3-6 0-0 8; K. Aronis 0-3 0-0 0; B. West 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 25-35 69.
Three-point goals: UTA 9-21 (K. Butler 3-6; J. Outler 1-4; B. Edwards 0-1; S. White-Miller 1-1; K. Gruszecki 3-6; D. Charles 1-3), NMSU 4-13 (B. Sy 1-3; K. Ross-Miller 1-2; R. Barry 0-1; T. de Rouen 2-3; D. Mullings 0-1; K. Aronis 0-3); Rebounds: UTA 32 (G. Gainey 9), NMSU 35 (S. Bhullar 12); Assists: UTA 13 (S. White-Miller 8), NMSU 10 (D. Mullings 5); Total Fouls -- UTA 31, NMSU 20; Fouled Out: UTA-K. Butler; NMSU-R. Dixon.