800 Games Project

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

The Lou Henson Classic :: Fresno State at New Mexico State

Written By: Bill Harty

Saturday brought us to a series of basketball events to the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico. First, the NMSU women continued to learn new coach Mark Trakh’s system against Louisiana Tech’s Lady Techsters, a traditional power in women’s hoops. The first half was close, but two 15-0 Tech second half runs, and the loss of point guard Kaitlyn Soto to a career-ending ACL injury made the second half depressing for Aggie fans.

Next was the Aggie Athletic Club’s eightieth birthday party for legendary coach Lou Henson, held in the arena’s practice gym. Some of Coach’s history at New Mexico State has been discussed here in Sam Wasson’s Legends post (with a good photo), and in another earlier post of mine. Lou Henson’s status in Las Cruces is truly legendary, not just for his basketball accomplishments. Henson was a JC transfer to NMSU in the mid-50s, playing for long-time Aggie baseball and basketball coach Presley Askew. After graduation, he found work at Las Cruces High School, teaching math and coaching basketball. It is a tribute to his skills at the former that many of his students discussing him today talk about math classes before basketball. Of course, he excelled at coaching basketball, winning three consecutive state championships in 1959-61. After that, he was given a shot at university division (now division I) coaching at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, Texas. His success there in just four years, winning 20 games twice, placed him in their hall of fame. Interestingly enough, he also had an offer to assist Bob King at the University of New Mexico, but turned it down as Hardin-Simmons had agreed to integration of the team roster. He almost was a Lobo.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Catch Us If You Can: Nevada At New Mexico State

Written By: Bill Harty

Since there’s been no 800GP story on a WAC game since Sam Wasson and I both covered the NMSU-Idaho game nearly two weeks ago, the conference race has begun to take shape. Tonight’s opponents in Las Cruces are the clear favorites: Nevada came in unbeaten with a 5-0 record including key road wins at both Utah State and Idaho; last week the Wolf Pack won two games at home, defeating future Summit League member Nebraska-Omaha and conference foe Fresno State. New Mexico State is 4-1 with two road wins of its own, but those came against Louisiana Tech and San Jose State, two of the bottom three teams in the standings. The Aggies last week took them to San Jose for an easy victory, and to Hawai'i, where they trailed by 19 points in the second half, only to have their monster comeback (30 points in the final eight minutes) come up short by four.

Trailing these two in the standings are Hawai'i and Idaho at 3-2 each, Utah State and Louisiana Tech at 2-3, Fresno State at 1-4, and San Jose State at 0-5. One key game last weekend had Idaho hold the home court against Utah State in both teams’ only conference game, giving the USU Aggies their third conference defeat; the Aggies also lost at future conference foe Seattle. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs surprise weekend sweep including a win at Hawai’i, aided by the Thursday illnesses of two Hawai’i starters. Fresno State’s Bulldogs (there seems to be a shortage of team nicknames in the WAC, we seem to keep reusing them) also won a non-Division I game against Cal State-San Marcos last week. On Monday of this week, San Jose’s Spartans got a much needed victory over Cal State-Bakersfield. After this weekend’s full slate of games, the conference season will be half complete, as each team will have played seven of the fourteen WAC contests.

New Mexico State and Nevada have never met in a non-conference game. The Aggies won thirteen of eighteen Big West games between the schools between 1993 and 2000, splitting the two conference tournament contests. The Wolf Pack has won ten of the sixteen games since the Aggies joined the WAC for the 2006 season, but the Aggies have won all four WAC tournament games, including two in Reno and last year in Las Vegas, and three of the last four games. In Las Cruces however, the Wolf Pack has won two of the prior three years.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Milestones: 400, 500, 1000, 3-0

Written By: Bill Harty

As the Eight-Hundred Game Project reaches its halfway point, today in Las Cruces was a day of milestones in other ways. This afternoon, I attended a memorial service for Dick Waugh. Dick was the associate director of the NMSU Computer Center for many years, some of which I spent working for him, more in a programming class he taught, and many more than that enjoying Aggie sporting events together. In 1978, Dick began a 28 year run as the official scorer at NMSU home basketball games; he was courtside for over 500 Aggie men’s games. When he retired from the university several years ago, he started second careers as a nearly full-time grandpa and as a twice-weekly golfer, got to indulge his passion for baseball at spring training in Arizona, and continued into this fall attending Aggie sporting events. It always ends in a loss; we’ll miss you, Dick.

Another significant milestone was passed this evening as “Voice of the Aggies” Jack Nixon broadcast his 1,000th Aggie men’s basketball game. Jack joined NMSU Athletics in 1976, just a few years after his graduation from Kansas, replacing another Aggie broadcasting legend, Tom Dillon, who moved to Tempe to begin 20 years as the voice of Arizona State Athletics. After a short detour in the early 80’s to cover the Oklahoma Outlaws of the USFL, Jack returned to Las Cruces in 1986 to stay. He has taken us, via the Aggie Sports Network, to games from literally the four corners of the country, following the Aggies to Fairbanks, Honolulu, Springfield, MA, and Miami, and many places between.  Continue Reading This Post >>

WAC Play Begins In Las Cruces

Written By: Bill Harty

Conference play in the WAC started last weekend, and the race appears to be wide open. Before the season, WAC coaches picked Nevada to win, followed by New Mexico State and Utah State. WAC media (I believe the WAC is the only conference that conducts two separate preseason polls) picked Utah State, followed by Nevada and New Mexico State. In the last week of December, stat guru Ken Pomeroy did simulations of the likelihood of each Division I team to win its conference; the WAC was projected to be the closest of all the conference races with New Mexico State winning 32% of the time, Utah State 29%, and Nevada 22%.

The first weekend of WAC action bolstered Nevada’s chances to emerge as champions as they won twice on the road, at both Idaho and Utah State; the Utah State loss was the blue Aggies’ first home conference loss in four years. Both Idaho and Utah State won their other home games against Fresno State. The other pairs of traveling partners only played one game each on the opening weekend, New Mexico State winning at Louisiana Tech and Hawai’i besting San Jose State on the islands.  Continue Reading This Post >>

800GP :: New Mexico State vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff :: 12/31/11

Written By: Bill Harty

The atmosphere at Saturday's noon game between the Golden Lions of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and New Mexico State was quite different from the Aggies' Wednesday sellout against the University of New Mexico. Even by halftime, the crowd was very small and quiet. Here's the view from my seat.

The Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions are truly road warriors, playing their third game in four days after competing in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational in El Paso earlier in the week, but still three games away from their first home game of the season. Their schedule includes only nine home games, all against the other members of the SWAC. (Brandon Hickey wrote a good story about their travels and travails earlier in the project, covering their game at Akron.) Entering the NMSU game, their record was 1-11. Their lone win was in Tulsa against Isiah Thomas's Florida International team in the consolation rounds of the Pre-Season NIT.  Continue Reading This Post >>

A Very Different Wednesday Night In Las Cruces

Written By: Bill Harty

Wednesday night brought the last of New Mexico State's annual home-and-home rivalry games against New Mexico and UTEP. The Aggies beat New Mexico in Albuquerque what seems like a lifetime ago (actually November 16), ending long University Arena (commonly known as the Pit) home win streaks of non-conference home games and games against NMSU. In that game, the Aggies played a stifling defense, only allowing the Lobos 28% shooting. Since the victory in Albuquerque, the Aggies' record is 6-4, losing to Southern Mississippi twice (once in the Great Alaska Shootout, once at Hattiesburg), to Arizona and at UTEP. The Aggies opened at home against UTEP and got two wins in Alaska, over Central Michigan and San Francisco. The New Mexico game is the fourth of the current home string, the prior three being wins over Western New Mexico, Southern, and McNeese State.

The Lobos are 9-1 in their ten games building toward the rematch. After a win at Arizona State, New Mexico lost in overtime to Santa Clara in the first round of the 76 Classic in Anaheim. Since then the Lobos have won eight straight, with neutral court wins over Washington State, Boston College, and Oklahoma State, a road win at Southern California, and home wins over Idaho State, Missouri State, Montana State, and Missouri-Kansas City. Leading up to the Wednesday game, Lobo coach Steve Alford quietly, but firmly, made revenge of the Aggie win in the Pit a team focus.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Wednesday Night In Las Cruces...

Written By: Bill Harty

Wednesday night’s matchup between the McNeese Cowboys and the New Mexico State Aggies was the first time the two teams had met since 1956, so there is not a lot of history to write about. The Cowboys came to Las Cruces with a 4-5 record, but three of the wins were against schools outside of Division I, the exception a five-point win at Sacramento State. Most recently, McNeese dropped a two point game last Wednesday at Louisiana Tech and Monday’s fifteen point defeat at UTEP. New Mexico State began the evening 7-4, dropping two games to Southern Mississippi and one each to Arizona and UTEP. This was the third of a five game Aggie home stand, with wins over Western New Mexico and Southern in the prior week; this was a game the Aggies might have looked past with the rematch of the Rio Grande Rivalry with New Mexico coming next week.

What felt like it would be a small holiday crowd grew to nearly 5,000. Santa danced with all the kids at halftime (that was a little strange), and besides supporting the home team, the crowd reacted well to the usual promotions: “tees for threes,” the kiss cam, and the Lorenzo’s pizza giveaway.
Aggie guard Christian Kabongo returned to the court after a two-game suspension related to unsportsmanlike conduct in the Aggies’ game at UTEP; he overreacted to a hostile crowd and embarrassed himself and the program with inappropriate gestures. He did not start tonight, but played significant minutes; his stats (15 points) were padded with some late baskets after the game was essentially decided.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Just One Change...

Written By: Bill Harty

Editor's Note: Bill will be recapping Aggie home basketball games this year for bleedCrimson.net as part of the larger 800 Games Project from The Mid Majority.

New Mexico State and Arizona have a natural geographic rivalry that is not renewed often enough. Of Division I schools, only Arizona State and Northern Arizona are closer to Arizona; only UTEP and New Mexico are closer to NMSU. The Aggies and Wildcats match up tonight for the 100th time, Arizona holding an all-time edge of 60-39. Most of the Arizona advantage comes from the very early years, with the Aggies winning only six of the first thirty games from 1917 through 1933, when both schools joined the new Border Conference. During the conference rivalry and since then, the two teams have split very evenly, each usually winning at home. Since 1971, this is only the fourth Aggie-Wildcat contest. The first three, in Tucson, were all won by Arizona; last year’s score was 83-57. This is a mid-major rarity: the return game of a home-and-home series with a school above the Red Line.

Expectations for the Aggies were high in Las Cruces. They are off to a 5-1 start, heading into only their second home game, and they played well in the Great Alaska Shootout, winning two of three. Arizona came in 4-2, after an exhibition BLU to Seattle Pacific, and losing their last two, to Mississippi State in New York and to San Diego State at Tucson.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Aggies-Miners Game One: This is Always a War

Written By: Bill Harty

Editor's Note: Bill will be recapping Aggies home basketball games this year for bleedCrimson.net as part of the larger 800 Games Project from The Mid Majority.

There are only five other division I schools within 400 miles of Las Cruces, New Mexico. In 1951, the Border Conference moved from the newly organized College Division of the NCAA to the University Division. The schools now known as Northern Arizona, Arizona State, Arizona, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Texas-El Paso, Texas Tech, and two schools no longer participating in Division I, West Texas A&M and Hardin Simmons, were a conference that made competitive and geographic sense. But New Mexico State is no newcomer to conference realignment. The very next year, New Mexico moved to the Skyline Conference; in 1956, Tech joined the Southwest Conference; and in 1962, the Border Conference dissolved as Arizona and Arizona State joined New Mexico and three other schools (BYU, Utah and Wyoming) in founding the Western Athletic Conference. They were joined by UTEP and Colorado State in 1967.

Since their 1962 petition to join the WAC was denied, the Aggies have been conference nomads. After a few independent years, New Mexico State has belonged to the Missouri Valley, the PCAA (now Big West), and the Sun Belt, before finally getting that long-desired WAC invitation. It came after the UNM Lobos and UTEP Miners left the WAC for the Mountain West and Conference USA, respectively. Through all these years, the rivalries between New Mexico State and closest neighbors UTEP and New Mexico have continued and flourished without regard to conference affiliations. I know of no non-conference pairings other than Aggies-Lobos and Aggies-Miners that are always played twice every year, home-and-home. On Wednesday, Andrew Bolte did a nice job of introducing the 800GP to the Rio Grande Rivalry between the Aggies and the New Mexico Lobos. This evening is the first installment of the Battle of I-10, New Mexico State versus Texas-El Paso.   Continue Reading This Post >>