800 Games Project

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New Mexico State Men's Basketball Recaps as part of The Mid Majority's 800 Games Project

800GP :: WAC Final :: New Mexico State-Louisiana Tech

Written By: Bill Harty

Saturday’s WAC Men’s Basketball Championship final featured the second seed New Mexico State Aggies and the fifth seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The prior two nights have seen the Aggies defeat Fresno State (seeded seventh) and Hawai'i (seeded sixth and upset winner over Idaho on Thursday). The Bulldogs road to the final went through Utah State (fourth) and Nevada (first).

This game would be another test of the maxim about how difficult it is to defeat a team for the third time as New Mexico State won both regular season meetings, January 7 in Ruston by a score of 83-73, and February 4 in Las Cruces, 83-72. On the tournament’s first day, the top two seeds won their third consecutive matchups against the bottom two, but Louisiana Tech’s victory over Utah State followed the Aggies’ regular season sweep of the Bulldogs. Nevada had also swept Louisiana Tech during the season, and again Tech prevailed.

The tournament was held at the Orleans Arena, attached to the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Orleans sports book odds (the path from the rooms to the arena goes through the book) favored New Mexico State by eight and the over/under bet on the total score was at 148½. The arena itself and its proximity to the hotel are nice, but attendance was poor again for the second year of the WAC’s neutral site experiment. During the tournament, I heard that using a neutral site might be continued for next season’s event because the conference membership is changing so radically that data from prior seasons might not mean much. (Next year, the WAC is losing Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawai'i to other conferences, and adding Seattle, Denver, Texas-Arlington, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio.) Attendance at campus sites has been much greater, with the tradeoff that one of the schools is playing home games for their crowd.

The weather, after finally getting here, has been great. Getting to Las Vegas was a bit of an adventure, as heavy winds closed the airport there for much of Tuesday. Our scheduled 3:40 departure from El Paso came closer to 7:40, but those who left at noon were still in Phoenix, and those who left at 1:30 were still in San Diego at that time. The New Mexico State team and entourage were originally on the 6:50 flight, which left about 8:00, but moved up to fill all the empty seats on our flight. At Saturday’s 9:00 p.m. tip off, it was a beautifully still and clear sixty degrees.  Continue Reading This Post >>

800GP :: WAC Semifinal :: Nevada-Louisiana Tech

Written By: Bill Harty

Friday’s second semifinal in the WAC tournament featured the regular-season champion Nevada Wolf Pack playing the fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Nevada had an easy victory on Thursday over San Jose State, while the Bulldogs defeated Utah State in a mild upset. Although there were some favorites based on the regular season results, any of the top six teams in the WAC standings had the talent to get to the NCAA tournament by winning out this weekend. For this evening’s contest, the Orleans sports book installed Nevada as a 6 ½ point favorite, and expected the scores to total 134, suggesting a significantly slower pace than the earlier semifinal.

As they did with everyone but Idaho, Nevada swept the regular season series, but both were close contests. January 28 in Ruston, the Wolf Pack defeated the Bulldogs by two, 65-63, a game that was close throughout. The rematch in Reno closed the regular season last Saturday, March 3, was also won by Nevada, 79-69.

Both teams started the game in active matchup zone defenses. After a layup by Tech center Romario Souza started the scoring, a brief superhoop fest broke out. Nevada forward Malik Story’s three was answered by Tech shooting guard Brandon Gibson. Nevada’s 6’8” guard Jerry Evans Jr. dropped in a three and was again answered by Gibson. Souza scored another layup before Tech guard Raheem Appleby scored the third Bulldog triple.  Continue Reading This Post >>

800GP :: WAC Semifinal :: New Mexico State-Hawai'i

Written By: Bill Harty

It was another great day for hoops in Las Vegas, sunny and 67 degrees for the six p.m. tip of the first WAC semifinal contest between second seed New Mexico State and sixth seed Hawai'i. The Orleans sports book made the Aggies an eleven point favorite and expected a total score of 150.
The teams split their regular season contests. Hawai'i won the January 21 game in Honolulu’s Stan Sheriff Center 91-87 in a game Hawai'i led by nineteen point midway through the second half. The Aggies scored 30 points in the final eight minutes of the game, but had led the lead get too large to overcome. In Las Cruces’ Pan American Center on February 23, the Aggies annihilated the Warriors 115 73 in a wild game marred by five technical fouls. The Aggies shot the ball unusually well, 60%, in that contest.   Continue Reading This Post >>

800GP :: WAC Quarterfinal :: Utah State-Louisiana Tech

The fourth game of the day in the WAC tournament matched the fourth seeded Utah State Aggies and the fifth seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, the second Aggie-Bulldog matchup of the day. The Orleans oddsmakers liked Utah State to win by about 4 ½ and the total score to be around 129.
This was the third game today in which one team had swept the other during the regular season. Utah State won January 14 at Louisiana Tech, 69-65, and February 9 at the Spectrum in Logan, 77-63. This was also the third matchup today contrasting the teams’ typical pace of play: Louisiana Tech is in the top 100 (87), while only 21 teams play more slowly and deliberately than Utah State (#324).

Louisiana Tech ended the regular season with games at Fresno State and Nevada. Since school was between quarters and there would be no classes to come back for on Monday and Tuesday, the Bulldogs stayed in Nevada for all this week. Apparently the rest and relative lack of travel was good for Louisiana Tech, as they scored the first ten points of the game, six on layups by Tech center Romario Souza, and the ninth and tenth on a breakaway dunk by guard Brandon Gibson. At the first media timeout, Louisiana Tech led 10-0.   Continue Reading This Post >>

800GP :: WAC Quarterfinal :: New Mexico State-Fresno State

Written By: Bill Harty

Orleans marquee

Welcome back to the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the second quarterfinal of the WAC Tournament. At the tip, it was still 63 degrees in Las Vegas for the matchup between the second seeded New Mexico State Aggies and the seventh seeded Fresno State Bulldogs. From the Orleans sports book, the Aggies were favored by 7½ and the over/under on the total score was 135½.

New Mexico State won both regular season contests. On January 28, the Aggies prevailed 60-56 in Las Cruces. Five days ago in the season finale for both teams, the Aggies emerged an 83-78 winner after the overtime period. The Bulldogs lost their last five WAC contests, but the largest margin of defeat was eight after two overtimes with rival San Jose State, and Fresno State played a total of six overtime periods in those games, including a three-overtime, three point loss to regular season champion Nevada. New Mexico State had won six of their prior seven games, losing only to Nevada by four in Reno in a game that was decided in the last ten seconds.

Coach Marvin Menzies had won 99 prior games as the Aggies’ head coach; winning today would make him only the fifth NMSU mentor with 100 victories. On the day after former Aggie and career steals record holder William Benjamin’s Las Cruces High team was eliminated from the New Mexico state high school championships, senior guard Hernst Laroche’s first steal would tie Benjamin’s record at 209, and the second would break it.  Continue Reading This Post >>

800GP :: WAC Quarterfinal :: Idaho-Hawai'i

Written By: Bill Harty

Welcome To Las Vegas
Welcome to sunny Las Vegas, where it is a balmy 63 degrees for Thursday’s first game of the WAC tournament between the third seeded Idaho Vandals and the sixth seeded Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors. Of course, what recap from Vegas would not include the lines, so at the Orleans sports book: to bet on Idaho, you would have had give up 5½ points, and the over/under on the total score was 138.

The teams split the regular season series, each winning on the other’s home court. January 28 saw Hawai’i win at Idaho, 76-70. One week ago, the Vandals prevailed at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, 82-63. Idaho had won seven of its prior eight games, including giving league leader Nevada its only conference loss at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno. Since a win over Division III Division II now apparently returning to Division I New Orleans, Hawai'i had lost five straight. In addition, Hawai'i leading outside shooter Zane Johnson did not make the trip to the mainland with the team because of illness. Another contrast between these two schools is their typical tempo of play: according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, Hawai'i is fifteenth nationally in adjusted tempo, while Idaho is 294th of the 345 teams in Division I hoops. Idaho had never won a WAC tournament game since joining the conference in 2005 06, while Hawai'i had not won one since 2005.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Thousands :: NM State vs. San Jose State

Written By: Bill Harty

Just over six thousand fans came out for New Mexico State’s senior night game against San Jose State. The three seniors were honored after the game with video highlights, the presentation of framed jerseys, and opportunities to each take the microphone and thank the fans who have supported them for four years. This was a special graduating class. Each of the three, guard Hernst Laroche from Montreal, forward Wendell McKines from Oakland, and center Hamidu Rahman from Somerset, NJ, scored over 1,000 points in their collegiate careers. McKines added over 1,000 rebounds, only the second Aggie to have 1,000 of each. Laroche is second in assists and steals in school history. Rahman is second in blocked shots.

Together, they went to the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Together, they have overcome the injury and chemistry issues that plagued last year’s team and continued through the first third of this season. McKines sat out last season after breaking his foot on the first day of practice. Rahman was injured early and played hurt for the rest of that season. Laroche has been as steady as any Aggie in history, starting every game during the four years, and only needing a few games to lead all Aggies in games played.   Continue Reading This Post >>

BracketBusters :: Drake At NMSU :: 02/18/12

Written By: Bill Harty

Before the BracketBusters pairings came out on January 30, New Mexico State knew it was possible that it would be one of the 26 teams selected to play on national television, but not confident that it would. However, only twenty members of the field were ranked in the top 100 of the RPI, and NMSU was one of them (ranked 84). The Aggies were selected for a TV game against former Missouri Valley opponent Drake, the first time the Aggies had drawn a Valley team. Four of the six prior BracketBusters games were against former Big West rivals, twice playing Pacific. Both Drake (7-1 before this game) and New Mexico State (5-1) have winning histories in BracketBusters games.

The history of competition between the schools is mostly from the period they were Valley members together. There were six nonconference meetings, split evenly: the Aggies 1939-40 team, on its way to its fourth consecutive Border Conference championship, beat defending Valley co-champion Drake on two consecutive December nights in Las Cruces; the Bulldogs won a Des Moines game in 1964; the Aggies’ Final Four team defeated the Bulldogs in the 1970 Midwest regional final in Lawrence, Kansas; and Drake won both games of a 1971 and 1972 home-and-home series. During the Aggies’ Valley membership (1975-83), New Mexico State was 13-6 against Drake, including a 1978 home victory in the conference tournament (yes, before Arch Madness, the Valley tournament was played in campus arenas). The teams had not met again since a 1983 Drake victory in Des Moines.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Young Guards Shine: LA Tech At NMSU

Written By: Bill Harty

Saturday marked the beginning of the second half of the WAC season for both New Mexico State and visiting Louisiana Tech. On January 7 at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, the Aggies defeated the Bulldogs 83-73, in a game that the Aggies led by 6 at the half and by double digits much of the second half. But after losing at home to both Idaho and Utah State the following week, the Bulldogs have been much improved, winning both at Hawai’i and San Jose State, and at home over Fresno State, before losing in the final seconds to conference leader Nevada. No one in Las Cruces was taking this game for granted.

The Aggies and Bulldogs have a relatively brief history: one non-conference Aggie victory in Las Cruces in 1977; one Aggie victory in Ruston in 2001, lone year their memberships in the Sun Belt overlapped (being in different divisions, they only played once); and thirteen WAC games before this season, the Aggies winning ten of them and all the Las Cruces games, including one in the 2007 WAC tournament.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Last Of The Independents: Cal State-Bakersfield At New Mexico State

Written By: Bill Harty

Wednesday in Las Cruces saw a visit to New Mexico State by the Roadrunners of California State University at Bakersfield. The Roadrunners played their first Division I season five years ago and have yet to find a conference home, although the Big West has been hearing from them regularly. There are only three independent Division I teams this year. Two of those have found conferences for next season: Longwood received the long sought invitation from the Big South, and Seattle will be joining New Mexico State in the WAC. Assuming the survival of the Great West—that is questionable given the recent attrition there—CSUB will be the only independent next season.

The NCAA rules for moving up to Division I now require a conference invitation to be able to make the move. The two schools that have announced that they are beginning that process next year already have joined established conferences: Nebraska-Omaha will join the Summit League and Northern Kentucky the Atlantic Sun. CSUB may literally be the last of the independents in Division I basketball.  Continue Reading This Post >>