GAME NOTES: Locked into the third spot for the upcoming Western Athletic Conference Tournament, the New Mexico State Aggies can breathe a sigh of relief as they close out the regular season against the Mavericks of Texas- Arlington at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces on Saturday night.
New Mexico State has dominated at home this season with 14 wins in 15 opportunities, a perfect 8-0 versus league foes. Two nights ago the team knocked off Louisiana Tech in a 78-60 final, snapping the lengthy win streak for the Bulldogs who had been nationally-ranked last week, but fell out of the top-25 despite their win streak.
As for the Mavericks, they don't have to worry about any movement in the standings either because they've secured the fourth spot for the WAC Tournament even before taking the floor this weekend. An impressive 6-2 in road conference bouts, Arlington is actually coming off a lopsided 84-55 defeat at the hands of Denver on Thursday night, snapping a brief two-game win streak in the process.
In terms of the all-time series between these two squads, NMSU has taken 10 of the first 12 encounters, although the Mavericks captured a surprising 68-47 win at home in the first meeting of the season in late December.
Against the Pioneers two nights ago, Arlington never really had a chance as the hosts shot close to 60 percent from the floor and 11-of-20 behind the 3- point line. Karol Gruszecki tried to make a difference as he tallied 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and made five steals, but it wasn't nearly enough. Drew Charles accounted for 12 points off the bench, but he was also charged with six of the unit's 22 turnovers as well.
Kevin Butler remains the team's only double-digit scorer on the season with 10.6 ppg, but against the Pioneers he tallied just two points and turned the ball over five times. By no means an offensive juggernaut, the Mavericks are generating a mere 63.3 ppg on the campaign while shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 65.5 percent at the free-throw line. Luckily the defense has managed to limit the opposition to just 61.6 ppg and 38.0 percent accuracy from the floor.
The Bulldogs were due to fall from their perch and New Mexico State was just the team to make it happen as the host limited LaTech to just 40 percent shooting from the floor and forced the visitors into 17 turnovers. The Aggies also suffered 17 miscues, but made up for them with a 40-26 rebounding advantage and 54.7 percent shooting from the field. Daniel Mullings tallied 23 points, eight boards, four steals and three assists, while Tyrone Watson and Bandja Sy both added 12 points, the former responsible for a game-high 11 rebounds as well.
Mullings is playing more than 34 minutes per game and using his time to generate a team-best 14.0 ppg, adding 5.4 rpg as well as 78 assists and 66 steals, the latter two totals pacing the Aggies through 30 games. Bandja (11.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) has assumed a lead role on the glass for NMSU, but with the return of Watson (10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) it will be tough for any squad to keep the Aggies out of the paint.
Defeating the Bulldogs was certainly a huge step for New Mexico State, but now the Aggies have to be careful not to look beyond Texas-Arlington this weekend.
Game Date and Time