GAME NOTES: The Texas State Bobcats try to follow up their biggest upset of the season when they clash with the New Mexico State Aggies in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Friday night.
Texas State, one of the newcomers to the league this year and the seventh seed in this event, began the tourney with a 68-56 victory over Seattle on Tuesday night and then continued to play well on Thursday as it slipped by second- seeded Denver in the quarterfinals, 72-68.
The third-seeded Aggies, also known as the defending tournament champs, were expected to get at least this far considering they entered the tourney with a record of 14-4 all-time and have won three championships since 2007. Yesterday, NMSU had little trouble dismissing the Idaho Vandals in a 65-49 final in order to advance.
The Aggies won both regular-season meetings between these two programs, which means they now have a 3-1 edge in the all-time series. The survivor this time around will advance to the title game on Saturday to face the winner of the Texas-San Antonio/Texas-Arlington matchup for an opportunity to represent the league in the NCAA Tournament.
Joel Wright erupted for a game-high 32 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Texas State Bobcats upset the Denver Pioneers by four points in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament on Thursday. Wright shot a near-perfect 9- of-10 from the floor and 14-of-16 at the free-throw line for the Bobcats, while Phil Hawkins pitched in with another 13 points for a squad that finished the contest shooting an impressive 65.7 percent from the field.
Wright has been huge for the Bobcats this season, not only leading the team in scoring with 17.9 ppg, but also clearing 6.7 rpg to pace the program in that department as well. However, the big man does have his issues, specifically his tendency to get into foul trouble and the fact that he has 122 turnovers, against just 55 assists. Matt Staff checks in with another 11.1 ppg for a squad that is producing just over 70 ppg on the campaign.
Daniel Mullings produced a game-high 23 points as the Aggies posted a convincing 16-point win over the Idaho Vandals last night at Orleans Arena. Mullings converted 10-of-14 shots from the floor and made three steals for the third-seeded Aggies, followed by Bandja Sy with 14 points and seven rebounds as the team shot a sizzling 60.0 percent from the field overall, but a mere 7- of-16 at the free-throw line. Defensively, NMSU held the Vandals to only 3- of-19 shooting out on the perimeter and forced Idaho into 16 turnovers.
The kind of player who is willing to do whatever it takes to get his team on track for a victory, Mullings leads the Aggies in scoring (14.2 ppg), assists (84) and steals (71) and is also one of the better rebounders on the squad with 5.3 per outing. Sy (11.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) presents more of a stable presence in the paint and now the return of Tyrone Watson (10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) serves the same function.
Having won the previous two games this season, the Aggies clearly understand what they need to do in order to make it a clean sweep. Getting Watson back for the tournament is also a bonus for NMSU.
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