GAME NOTES: The New Mexico State Aggies continue their run through the Western Athletic Conference, as they play host to the Idaho Vandals at the Pan American Center on Saturday evening.
The Aggies boast of the best record among WAC schools at 13-5 on the year. Marvin Menzies' squad enters this contest with a six-game win streak in town, including a 2-0 start in WAC play after knocking off Seattle in a shootout on Thursday, 96-87.
Don Verlin's Vandals haven't been as fortunate this season. The team sits three games under .500 at 7-10. Idaho brought a four-game skid into Thursday night action as well, and was able to finally end the losing streak with a thrilling 86-85 2 OT decision over UTPA. The win was the first in conference play for the Vandals after opening with two losses.
NMSU has dominated this series with wins in 23 of the 27 all-time meetings.
The Vandals have struggled with their shot of late and now enter this contest with modest numbers at the offensive end, averaging 72.0 ppg, on .442 shooting. The problem is that opponents are shooting the ball better (.4533) and scoring more (74.4 ppg). Forward Stephen Madison has been the top player on the Idaho roster this season, leading the team in both scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg). While Madison gets very little help on the boards, Connor Hill (14.2 ppg) and Glen Dean (12.6 ppg) provide scoring help and balance along the perimeter.
Hill was 10-of-18 from the floor and knocked down seven 3-pointers in putting up a game-high 28 points in Idaho's marathon win over UTPA last time out. Madison added a double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Dean and Sekou Wiggs chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Aggies have had no problems offensively this season, as they are shooting an efficient .484 from the field, en route to a hefty 78.1 ppg. The team has just two players averaging double digits in Daniel Mullings (16.4 ppg) and DK Eldridge (11.4 ppg), but three others are just under that mark in Sim Bhullar (9.8 ppg), Tshilidzi Nephawe (9.8 ppg) and KC Ross-Miller (9.3 ppg). Bhullar (.670 shooting percentage, 7.4 rpg, 53 blocks) and Nephawe (6.8 rpg) have been a formidable duo down low, although Bhullar is currently sidelined with a sprained foot.
Renaldo Dixon started his second straight game in place of Bhullar and made the most of his opportunity, scoring a career-high 18 points in the win over Seattle. Eldridge tied Dixon for team-high honors with 18 points of his own and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Mullings however, did complete the feat with 13 points and 11 boards. Rounding out the top scorers in the game for NMSU were Kevin Aronis (15 pts) and Ross-Miller (12 pts).
Even without Bhullar in the lineup, New Mexico State has too much firepower for Idaho to handle, especially in Las Cruces.
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