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The Daily Aggie :: 11/29/12

A tale of two games and a tale of two finishes. That's what last night's rivalry games yielded. At the Pan Am the Aggie women rallied from two separate 15-point deficits in the first half and an 11 point deficit in the second half to stun previously undefeated UTEP 69-68. The Aggies were able to play the game at a faster tempo and they were also deadly from three (10-of-22 for 45 percent). Stephanie Gilbreath broke out of her slump and finished 7-for-20 from the field including two absolutely huge three pointers late in the game. Daniesha Williamson was clutch from the free throw line (10-for-12) including two free throws with 12.1 seconds remaining to give the Aggies the lead for good and defensively Kelsie Rozendaal was fantastic on the final play of the game stealing the entry pass into the post and holding on to it until the final buzzer. Inexplicably the Miners, with plenty of time left on the clock just stood around and didn't foul Rozendaal.

In a word, it was a clutch performance by New Mexico State. It was an early statement win for the Aggies and second-year head coach Mark Trakh as well. Two things really stood out near the end of the game. The Aggies executed offensively down the stretch. UTEP took a two point lead with just over two minutes left. Gilbreath answered with a three to give the Aggies the lead. UTEP answered with a three but Gilbreath knocked down another three to give the Aggies the lead back. UTEP scored on a fairly short shot to regain the lead but the Aggies were able to get Williamson to the free throw line. Execution in key, critical moments really by both teams but moreso by the Aggies and it resulted in a win.

On the flip side, the Aggie men's team saw another late lead slip away. Leading 54-50 with just about a minute left in the game, the Aggies had two turnovers in their final three possessions. UTEP scored the final five points of the game, including a pair on free throws on an iffy call against Chili Nephawe but at the same time on the road you have to expect the 50/50 calls to go against you. The biggest issue for New Mexico State was turnovers. Twenty of them to be exact, leading to 22 UTEP points. In a low scoring game when you give away half the points the opposing team scores you have no one to blame but yourself.

In a close game like that you can point to many things that could have swung the game your way, three missed bunnies by Sim Bhullar in the first half, only four points from senior Bandja Sy, It should be noted that Daniel Mullings played and will continue to play with a broken jaw (suffered against Niagara). Mullings finished with seven points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals and deserves major props for playing under such circumstances. It was fairly obvious that the injury limited his playing ability. There were a few times that Mullings drove into the paint but dished the ball off instead of finishing the drive like he might normally do. No doubt that was a self-preservation type move either consciously or subconsciously and you absolutely cannot blame him for that.

When the Aggies look back on this loss it'll be one that they certainly wish they had back. It was a very winnable game and quite frankly, one in which the Aggies were the better team but allowed UTEP to just kind of "hang around" as they did against Niagara.

The Aggies don't have much time to lick their wounds as they host Southern Miss on Saturday. It's another opportunity for the team to notch their first quality victory of the season. USM is 6-0 with wins over Western Kentucky, Georgia and Denver and much like last year is a team that looks to be tourney bound.

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/28/12

The Aggie men's and women's basketball teams return to action tonight when they both take on I-10 rival UTEP. The men travel to El Paso while the women host the Miners in the Pan Am. The Aggie women tip off at 6:30 p.m. (MT) and for the ladies it'll be a stiff challenge against a team that has once again raced out of the gate. The Miners are 5-0 with notable wins over Arizona and Arizona State. UTEP really likes to slow the pace averaging just 61 possessions per game while the Aggies would like to push tempo averaging 69 possessions per game. The issue for New Mexico State is scoring. The Aggies not only need to make this an up tempo game, they need to score efficiently. Right now the Aggies, despite being a high possession offense, are averaging just 0.736 points per possession which means if the pace at what the Miners want to play at, the Aggies may not reach 50 points and it's awfully tough to win basketball games when you don't break the 50-point barrier. The good news for the Aggies is that UTEP is not really a three point shooting team. They have just two players taking threes and if the Aggies can get hot from three they might be able to force the Miners out of their gameplan which is to get it the paint to their 6'4" senior forward Kristine Vitola.

UTEP is averaging 66 points per game, the Aggies just 52 points per game. This will be a battle of wills tonight and whichever team can impose its style of play on the other will likely come out victorious. Defensively the Aggies have been strong so if they can hold the Miners under 60 points tonight they've got a great shot at winning this game.

Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. (MT) and the game can be seen on AggieVision and streaming online via ESPN3.com

As for the men's team it's another opportunity for the Aggies to prove themselves against a quality opponent and also a chance for the Aggies to show that they can play well on the road, something which has eluded them so far this season. The Aggies played well for the first 10 minutes of the Oregon State road game and then played about even with the Beavers in the second half. The Aggies' offense was terrible against Bucknell and then the Aggies coughed up a huge lead against Niagara on the road.

Much like the women's matchup this will be a battle of contrasting styles. The Miners are a slower paced team averaging almost 73 possessions per game while UTEP averages just 63 possessions per game. The Aggies have played well defensively the past two games and held Louisiana-Lafayette to just 30 percent field shooting from the floor.

Three keys to tonight's game for the Aggies are one, to get off to a good start in the first half. In the previous five meetings in El Paso the Aggies have held a halftime lead just once and they've fallen behind by double-digit margins in the first half in three of the five games (a fourth they trailed by as many as nine) and the fifth they led by two at halftime and lost by eight.

Second, the Aggies need to be able to adjust offensively to whatever crazy defense Tim Floyd decides to throw at the Aggies tonight and third, if the Aggies are able to build a big lead tonight, keep the foot on the gas and don't let up.

This is a game we really feel like the Aggies can and will win. We've seen how well the Aggies can play when they play at a faster tempo and can force teams to play at a speed that they're not accustomed to playing at. The Aggies thrive off of turning missed shots on the defensive end into easy buckets on the offensive end and that's something they'll need to do tonight.

If the Aggies can make UTEP play at the Aggies' pace then it should be a win for NMSU. If the Miners are able to slow the game down and make it a half-court affair, it could be a tough night for NMSU as we've not yet seen the Aggies be able to handle running their half-court offensive effectively early in the season, although, that's something we do expect the Aggies to do better later in the season.

Finally, there's the question surrounding the health of Daniel Mullings. Obviously the coaching staff won't put Daniel in a position where him playing may do more harm than good but if he does play tonight (which we're assuming he will) it will be interesting to see how aggressively he continues to play and also how aggressively and/or physical the Miners play with him (i.e. going after him on offense, running him into screens, etc., maybe an extra bump or two on the way to the basket, nothing malicious but perhaps just a little extra focus on him from a physicality standpoint).

A win tonight by the Aggies would certainly give the team a boost as they enter this stretch of difficult non-conference games to close out the year and it would also give the Aggies some confidence that they can play well on the road, something that will be key to them winning a WAC regular season and tournament title.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MT) tip-off and can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network with streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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Calling All Aggies :: End Of An Era

Written By: Steve Macy, NM State Associate Athletic Director

On Saturday night, I watched as San Jose State beat Louisiana Tech in the last nationally-televised WAC football game. It was surreal, sad and emotional as I shared text messages with former and current WAC commissioners, former SJSU AD and former La Tech AD. We all watched from afar, but our thoughts were similar in realizing that something great was ending.

I worked in the WAC office from 1994-2007, before moving to Las Cruces. There were some great times, but also some trying. I will never forget the day of the announced creation of the Mountain West and the split of the league of 16 into two eight-team conferences. Nor will I forget when Nevada and Fresno State elected to leave the WAC, rather than building it with BYU as a member.
But, I will also more fondly remember watching LaDainian Tomlinson make light of the UCLA defense in the Sun Bowl, enjoying three teams ranked in the top 12 in 1994, the incredible inaugural WAC football championship game in Las Vegas between two ranked teams (#5 BYU vs. #24 Wyoming) in 1996, an SI cover for Fresno State and David Carr, and of course, the first WAC team to play in a BCS game was one of the greatest games ever played, as Boise State beat Oklahoma in overtime at the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 11/21/12

The Aggie volleyball team plays for a WAC championship this afternoon against Idaho after knocking off top seed Utah State last night. The Aggies avenged two regular season losses to the UtAgs. After a tight first set, the Aggies dominated the final two sets and as we noted yesterday after the win over Denver, it was as well as we've seen New Mexico State play in a while. The Aggies continued to serve tough as nails which was something that was a key for them getting out to such a hot start early in the season. The Aggies served up nine service aces, three from Stephanie Ziegler, two from Meredith Hays, two from Ciara Brown and two from Taylor Livoti who continues to serve it ridiculously tough from the service line (five aces in the last two matches).

Preslie Alexander is also having a bit of a resurgence in the WAC tournament. She's had 14 kills in the past two matches and committed just two attack errors. The Aggies also played well defensively with 48 digs in three sets (16 digs/set) and finished with six blocks.

The Aggies will face an Idaho squad that swept the Aggies just one week ago in Las Cruces. The Vandals come into the championship match riding a wave of momentum as well. Idaho has won six in a row and eight of their last ten matches and had a big time rally in their semifinal match against host UTSA yesterday. The Vandals were down 2-1 in the match and trailed 11-6 in set five before rallying for a 16-14 win. It's the first championship match for the Vandals since joining the WAC.

They key for the Aggies tonight is to just keep doing what they've been doing the past two matches. Serve it tough, pass well on serve receive and play good defense. The Aggies have a few players on this squad who have been in conference championship matches before so that should help provide somewhat of an advantage for the Aggies as nobody from the Vandals squad has played in a conference title match.

The Aggies also catch a little bit of a break facing Idaho in that had they faced UTSA there would have been a decided homecourt advantage for the host school. Instead it will be the Aggies, despite being the lower seed, who should have a bit of a crowd advantage given the proximity to Las Cruces and a fair number of fans who have traveled to watch the Aggies as well as alumni in the area.

The match is scheduled for a 3:00 p.m. (MT) tip-off and can be seen on ESPNU and streaming online on ESPN3.com. The match will also be broadcast on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces with Jay Sanderson calling the action.

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/20/12

The Aggie volleyball team swept 5-seed Denver yesterday evening in the opening round of the WAC tournament. The Aggies played as well as we've seen them play in a while. With the exception of some passing issues on serve receive in set three against Denver's Michele Swope, the Aggies passed well and the final numbers bear that out. Desiree Scott finished with 10 kills on 16 swings with no attack errors, Lauren Loerch had 11 kills with just two attack errors on 19 swings, Meredith Hays had nine kills, Nathalie Castellanos had eight kills, Bradley Nash had seven kills on 17 swings with just one attack error, Preslie Alexander had six kills and both setters had kills (freshman Taylor Livoti with two kills and Ciara Brown with one kill).

Speaking of Livoti, the Aggies trailed in set two 6-2 but it was the tough serving of Livoti that rallied the Aggies and spurred a big point run that gave the Aggies a lead that they would not relinquish. Livoti served six straight points and had three service aces in a four point span. The Aggies scored 10 points on Livoti's service in the match and that combined with tough serving by Meredith Hays in set three, the Aggies were able to rally from deficits of 18-11 and 22-15 in the third set and move on to the semifinals.

Thinking about it a little bit late last night, this feels very similar to the situation the Aggie men's basketball team faced in the 2009-10 season when they made their run through the WAC tournament and won. The team lost its final two regular season matches, got beat handily in both of the regular season meetings by the team they would have to face in the semifinals (Nevada) and then persevered and won the championship game over a higher seed. That's what challenge faces the Aggie volleyball team the rest of the way in this tournament. Tonight they face Utah State, a team that beat them twice this season and should they win tonight, they'll face either Idaho or UT San Antonio, the two teams that they lost to in the final two matches of the regular season.

If the Aggies play like they did last night and pass the ball well and involve just about everyone on the floor, play strong defense like they did last night and serve tough they'll have a great shot at winning tonight. The other big key tonight is the play of Meredith Hays. The sophomore has struggled mightily against Utah State this season, the UtAgs have keyed on her and it's worked to perfection with Hays hitting negative in both matches this season. If Hays has a good match we really think the Aggies will win tonight.

The Aggies and Aggies are slated for a 5:30 p.m. (MT) first serve and the match can be viewed on WAC.tv (subscription required).

The Aggie women's basketball team is back in action tonight as they head up I-25 to take on Rio Grande Rival New Mexico. The Lobos are a much improved team this season and are off to a 3-0 start with wins over Northern Arizona, Texas Tech and Houston Baptist. The Aggies are also an improved team with more scoring punch on the roster (their 14-point first half against UC-Santa Barbara notwithstanding). The Aggies are still waiting for USC transfer Stephanie Gilbreath to get untracked. Gilbreath has gone 3-for-15 (LMU) and 4-for-16 (UCSB) scoring 12 and 11 points respectively.

The Lobos have four players averaging double-digit scoring led by senior Caroline Durbin.

This should be a fairly evenly matched game with the winner likely the team that reaches 60 points first. The Aggies need to keep the game close at halftime. The Aggies will also be facing a hostile crowd in The Pit something that many of the players on the team have never experienced. It is one of the more impressive atmosphere's in women's college basketball and something that the Aggies will need to neutralize.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MT) tip-off with Live Stats available via the UNM athletic website.

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/19/12

The Aggie men's basketball team suffered a tough loss yesterday against Niagara. The Aggies had leads of 22 (4:33 1H), 16 (halftime) and 19 (with 13:31 left). Niagara had a definitive gameplan coming out of halftime -- get the ball to the rim aggressively. In the second half the Purple Eagles had 10 made baskets on layups or dunks, five trips to the line that were the direct results of getting the ball in the paint and seven more missed layups or dunks (three of those came in a sequence late in the game which kept the Aggies within one at the point, 84-83).

The ease with which Niagara got into the paint and to the rim was disconcerting and it's something the Aggies are really going to need to shore up before their next stretch of non-conference games.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Aggies didn't look comfortable in the second half trying to run their half-court offense. Around the under eight minute media timeout the Aggie offense really stalled and their possessions over the next six minutes looked like this: missed layup, turnover, three of four made free throws, turnover, turnover, turnover, missed layup, turnover. That was really where the game was lost. The Aggies led by nine at the start of that stretch and at the end of that stretch they trailed by six, a point differential of 17.

It wasn't all gloom and doom for the Aggies, they did have an outstanding first half and their execution in the final two minutes, including their final two possessions was excellent. The Aggies got a great look for Daniel Mullings at the rim down by one and then down by three at the end of the game, Bandja Sy had an open look at a three that just rimmed out.

It was a tough loss but hopefully it will result in a lesson learned for this young basketball team to keep their foot on the gas.

The Aggies will have a brief respite on Wednesday night when they take on Northern New Mexico and then they have a week off before heading down to UTEP they face the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns on Friday.

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/18/12

We start off today with a hearty congratulations to Aggie senior cross country runner Courtney Schultz who finished 59th at the NCAA Cross Country national championship meet yesterday. Courtney ran the 6K in a time of 20:28.2. The 59th place finish was the best ever by an Aggie, besting her 88th place finish from a season ago. It's the final race for Schultz as an Aggie cross country runner. She's had an amazing career at New Mexico State as we've chronicled many times but as this is the last time we'll get to write about her (until she's inevitably inducted into the NMSU Athletics Hall of Fame) we'll provide a quick rundown again. Freshman of the Year in 2009, WAC Athlete of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2011, WAC Cross Country Individual champion in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and runner up in 2012. NCAA Mountain Division All-Region in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and NCAA Championship participant in 2011 and 2012 as well as WAC Cross Country Athlete of the Week several times throughout her career. Again, Congratulations Courtney on a fantastic Aggie cross country career.

Courtney Schultz :: Bib 270

The Aggie men's basketball team dropped a contest against Bucknell yesterday afternoon losing 62-49. It marked the first time since the 2010-11 season that the Aggies failed to break the 50-point barrier in a game (a 59-49 loss at Utah State). The Aggie offense struggled shooting just 29.2 percent for the game (14-of-48) and it was the worst shooting performance for the Aggies since the 2009-2010 season when the Aggies shot 28.6 percent in a 79-58 loss to UTEP in the Pan Am on December 1st.

On the bright side, the Aggies held Bucknell to just 62 points and on most nights that is going to be good enough for the 'W'. Unfortunately, yesterday was not one of those nights. Daniel Mullings was one of the lone bright spots for the Aggies as he finished with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He was 6-for-10 from the line and he hit a pair of threes. He also had six boards, three assists and a steal and did not commit a turnover. In fact, the Aggies as a team only had 10 turnovers.

As we expected, Bucknell slowed the pace of the game down and held NMSU to just 63 possessions (the team normally averages over 70 possessions per game). Ultimately it was an early 14-0 run by Bucknell that gave them the lead for good. The Aggies were leading 8-4 but fell behind 18-8 and never again held the lead in the game. The Aggies got as close as four in the second half but the Bison held the Aggies at arms length around a double-digit lead over the final 8:41 of the game as the Aggies just couldn't hit a shot.

The Aggies also struggled at the free throw line going 15-of-26 which is 57.7 percent. If the Aggies are having trouble scoring from the field they're going to have to be better at the charity stripe than that. The Aggies, just as they did last season, are going to get to the line fairly consistently each game and in games where the offense is struggling, the stripe is where they're going to have to get it done.

Today the team takes on host Niagara at 2:00 p.m. (MT). The Aggies need to at least get a split out of this road trip. The Eagles, like the Aggies, come into the game at 1-2 with both teams losing to Bucknell and Oregon State. The Purple Eagles play at a faster tempo which will help the Aggies. Niagara averages 75.2 possessions per game so the winning team should be in the high 70's perhaps even the low 80's. The Aggies should have a distinct advantage on the glass in this one as well as a decided advantage getting to the charity stripe. The Purple Eagles have gotten to the stripe just 72 times while the Aggies have been 84 times. Right now nearly 30 percent of the Aggies' offense is coming from the free throw line while just 18 percent of Niagara's points are coming from the stripe. Again, the Aggies must be efficient here.

Niagara also doesn't turn the ball over much averaging just nine turnovers per game which is outstanding considering the number of possessions per game they average. That could be a key factor for the Aggies if they can turn Niagara over and convert some of those into easy transition buckets.

One thing is for certain, the Aggies need to get their offense on track before this next stretch of games which sees them face UTEP, Southern Miss, South Alabama and UNM in back-to-back games.

Today's game is scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. (MT) tip-off and can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network and streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/17/12

Aggie cross country senior Courtney Schultz will race for the final time today at 10:00 a.m. (MT) when the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championship meet is run. For Schultz it's a chance to fulfill her goal of becoming an All-American. For that to happen she'll have to finish in the Top 40. At the midway point in last year's race she was in the Top 30 and stood 34th with 1,000 meters to go before running out of gas.

No matter what happens today it will mark the end of an illustrious career for Schultz who will go down in history as one of the greatest athletes in New Mexico State history and should be a sure first ballot hall of famer.

Today's race will be streamed live on NCAA.com.

The Aggie men's basketball team is back in action this afternoon as they take on Bucknell in the 2K Sports Classic. The Bison, a team noted for taking down big name opponents in the NCAA Tournament, is off to a 3-0 start with wins over Purdue, fellow giant killer George Mason and Niagara who the Aggies will face on Sunday.

This will be another big test for the Aggie big men as they go up against 6'11" senior center Mike Muscala who logged one of the finest stat lines you'll see all season. Muscala finished with18 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots.

The Bison are an efficient team offensively (as are the Aggies) and against Niagara the Bison overaged a whopping 1.35 points per possession. The Bison have been hot shooting the ball from deep over the past two games as they went 7-for-12 against George Mason and 9-of-18 against Niagara. The other thing that sticks out is the Bison have shot the ball well from the free throw line and they've gotten there quite a bit shooting 76 free throws in three games (25.3 per game) converting 77.6 percent. As was the case last season the Aggies are also getting to the free throw line at a high rate, through two games averaging 29 free throw attempts per game and connecting on 69 percent. That should make the free throw battle a wash on paper which means the Aggies may need to find an advantage somewhere else.

The Bison are a smaller team than the Aggies with Muscala really the only Bison player with size. This is where the Aggies could find their advantage, in the paint. The Aggies can throw big bodies at the Bison all game long and perhaps wear them down physically. The Aggies should hold an advantage on the boards and offensive rebounds will be key given the Aggies' size advantage inside.

This is a chance for a very good resume building win for the Aggies. We expect Bucknell to try to slow this game down and keep it in the mid to upper 60's. If the Aggies can force tempo in this game they have a very good chance of winning this game. If the game is played at a slower pace, that would likely favor the Bison.

The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. (MT) tip-off and can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network with streaming audio also available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/13/12

Aggie hoops is in full swing now as both the men's and women's teams have each played a game. The Aggie men fell 71-62 to a good Oregon State team that happened to have a hot player on Sunday night. The biggest takeaway from the game on Sunday night was that the Aggies are going to be a good team this year. There were a lot of first game jitters and mistakes that will get cleaned up as the season moves along and this team will be hard to beat come conference play.

This biggest concern at this point is going to be the play at point guard. Neither K.C. Ross-Miller nor Daniel Mullings looked particularly comfortable at the point in the game against Oregon State but again, it was just the first game of the season and we expect Ross-Miller to start playing better as the season progresses. Terrel de Rouen looked pretty good during the minutes he played although the Aggies would be better served with him not taking three point shots and we're not necessarily referring to the three point shot that he took late. We're actually okay with the mindset, although in that situation he probably should have continued his drive to the basket and either tried to get fouled or kicked it back out to one of the three point shooters who was on the floor (Aronis was trailing de Rouen on the play and likely would have been wide open at the top of the key had Terrel continued to the basket).

It's also pretty clear right now that Tyrone Watson is probably the most important player on the floor for the Aggies right now. The team looked much more at ease when he was on the floor and he's probably the team's best ball handler.

One big positive to take away from the game was that the Aggies were able to maintain their composure on the road and battled back in the game. This was a game that could have gotten away from the Aggies but instead they never let the lead get over 14 points and cut the deficit to just six late.

Former Aggie Justin Hawkins provided his thoughts on the first game on Jason Groves' blog:
The Aggies will be fine. We have a lot of returning players but they all have new roles this year. We must continue to attack the rim and get to the line which has been a staple of the aggie teams for a few years now. Also we much continue to hit the glass hard. We will not be a three point shooting team thats not who we are but we have guys that can make enough shots to keep the other team honest. We have size and are athletic so we really don't need to shoot that many threes anyway. KC looked a little nervous but we have to remember this is his first game in a long time with him sitting out cause he transferred and his knee injury but trust me he will b fine. TDR looked good. Needs to slow down some but he can be good. Daniel played hard as usual. Tyrone was solid as usual. Big guys need to post harder and demand the ball inside and get easy buckets, but they have to make their free throws when they get fouled. Banja played ok in my opinion. I like to see him be aggressive and take the ball to the basketball. He is one of the most athletic players in the nation. He just needs to come to a two foot jump stop and jump over evrybody and finish when he gets in the lane.

Overall we played ok but we will get better as season goes on and guys settle into their roles. Coach's teams normally get better as the season goes on anyway.

The Aggie women kicked off their season last night hosting Loyola Marymount. The Aggies, much like the men did on Sunday, got out to a quick lead but then struggled to close out the half going from a seven point lead to a seven point deficit by halftime. The Aggies fell behind by nine in the second half but battled all the way back to send the game to overtime. They fell behind by four quickly in overtime but again battled back and pulled out the one-point win.

The takeaways from last night's game were that the Aggies have definitely improved from a scoring standpoint. The team has players that can score this year both inside and outside but it was two returning players, Jasmine Rutledge and Kelsie Rozendaal who are going to be the big keys for this team and in particular Kelsie Rozendaal. She finished with a career-high 22 points and chipped in 11 rebounds. Jasmine Rutledge had 12 points and eight rebounds. Transfer Danesia Williamson also had 19 points but also had seven turnovers which is something that was a major bugaboo last season and definitely needs to get cleaned up as the season goes on. The team finished with 28 turnovers which is about twice as many as we'd like to see.

One thing is for certain, this is going to be a very entertaining team to watch play and they're only going to get better and could surprise in the WAC this year after getting picked near the bottom of the league.

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/11/12

The New Mexico State men's basketball team's season kicks off tonight as the Aggies take on Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. The game will be televised on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. (MT). Tonight's game will be a stiff challenge for this new group of Aggies. Not only are the Aggies facing the daunting task of replacing three career 1,000-plus point (and in Wendell McKines' case, a 1,000-plus rebound) players, all three were starters. You may think the toughest player to replace from last year's squad would be Wendell, however, we believe the toughest job will be replacing point guard Hernst Laroche. He was a four-year starter and owns the career starts and career-minutes played records at New Mexico State and he was a consistent, steady player for the Aggies from his freshman year all the way through his senior year.

You throw on top of that the challenge of opening on the road in a hostile environment against a team that returns four starters from a 21-win team along with the fact that said team played their season opener two nights ago (and was impressive in their victory) it's going to be a tough game for the Aggies to win. Can they win? Absolutely, however, it's not going to be easy. First, the Beavers love to play an up-tempo game. They won't be afraid to run with the Aggies. They won't likely get rattled easily by the Aggies' defensive pressure. Last season the Beavers averaged over 74 possessions per game, three more than the Aggies. In Friday night's victory over Niagra, they had an unreal 84 possessions. That's the most of any of the 20 teams that have played so far this season and that resulted in the Beavers scoring 102 points.

The Beavers were also lights out offensively and one player in particular to keep an eye in today's matchup is 6'10" sophomore forward Eric Moreland. He finished with 14 points and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in 28 minutes of action. Ironically, Moreland originally committed to UTEP (transferring after Tony Barbee took the job at Auburn) so he could have been a player the Aggies saw on a yearly basis. As a team Oregon State shot 56.7 percent from the field, 58.1 percent from inside the arc and 54.2 percent from outside the arc. Last season the Aggies struggled at times with teams that shot the three ball well, we'll see if that's a factor this season.

The good news for the Aggies is that defensively, Niagara shot 47 percent from distance against the Beavers and that figures to be an improved area on the Aggies' offensive side of the court. However, Niagara shot just 31 percent from inside the arc, a number that the Aggies will have to do much better at if they want to win the game.

If the Aggies are to win tonight three things need to happen. The Aggies need to pound the offensive backboards. The Beavers gave up 18 offensive boards in an exhibition game and 15 against Niagara on Friday night. Second, the Aggies need to avoid the silly turnovers. This figures to be a very fast-paced game and turnovers are going to happen, however, the Aggies need to avoid making dumb turnovers (bad passes or lazy passes, etc). They also need to have good shot selection which is something Coach Menzies was a little critical of in the exhibition win over Western New Mexico. If there's one thing that will kill a team more against an up-tempo team it's taking bad shots. Bad shot selection leads to easy transition buckets for those types of teams and taking bad shots is just as bad as turning the ball over. Third, the Aggies need to take advantage of their size advantage. The Aggies are one of the biggest teams in the country and they need to use that to their advantage.

We're very interested to see how the new pieces fit together, in particular the point guards, Sim Bhullar and junior college transfer Kevin Aronis.

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