The Daily Aggie

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The Daily Aggie :: 12/14/12

The Aggie men's basketball team is on their way to Albuquerque as they prepare to take on the Lobos in the Rio Grande Rivalry on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies are 5-4 on the season while UNM is a perfect 10-0 and ranked as high as 17th (AP) and 20th (Coaches) in the polls. The Aggies will have their hands full trying to stop the Lobos and will be trying to do so a bit shorthanded. Head coach Marvin Menzies announced yesterday at his weekly press conference that junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe is doubtful for the game after undergoing surgery on an injured wrist (believed to be a ligament injury). That means that 7'5" freshman Sim Bhullar will see a lot of action at center. That should also open the door for more playing time for Renaldo Dixon, a player who doesn't get a ton of playing time but generally has looked solid when he does get an opportunity.

If the Aggies are going to upset the Lobos tomorrow they're going to have to bring their proverbial 'A' game. On paper this is a pretty big mismatch. If you listened to our podcast this week with Teddy Feinberg we noted a few statistical items that have us feeling a bit uneasy about this game. If you did not, you're in luck because we're going to spell it out on paper here for you. To preface this, we looked solely at what these two teams have done as road (NMSU) and home (UNM) teams to get a feeling for what their averages are.

First off, we can all agree that the three point arc is going to be a big key to this game. The Lobos rely heavily on the three ball while the Aggies do not but have also been able to lock down opponents from deep. The Lobos are averaging 18.5 three point attempts per home game while making 6.8 per game. That's 20.3 points per game that the Lobos are generating from deep. Conversely, the Aggies are averaging 11.4 three point attempts per game on the road and making 3.4. That's 10.2 points per game from deep for the Aggies on the road. If the two teams play to their averages that's a 10.1 point advantage for UNM.

Another key to this game will be free throw shooting. The Aggies have consistently been one of the nation's leaders in both free throw attempts and makes, however, this year UNM is doing even better than the Aggies are in that category. At home the Lobos are averaging 28.5 free throw attempts per game and are hitting at a 74.2 percent rate. That's 21.1 points per game from the stripe. The Aggies are averaging 21.1 free throw attempts per game on the road which is a good amount. However, the Aggies have been a poor free throw shooting team on the road (and neutral) converting just 63.2 percent. That's 13.3 points per game from the stripe. Again, if the two teams play to their averages, the Lobos will have roughly and eight point advantage (7.8 point to be exact).

From inside the arc the Aggies and Lobos are pretty even both in terms of attempts per game and conversion rate. The Lobos at home this year have attempted an average of 51.5 two point shots per game and are converting at a 43.6 percent rate. That's 44.9 points per game. The Aggies on the road this year are averaging 50.4 attempts inside the arc and hitting at a 42.3 percent clip good for 42.3 points per game so just a 2.6 point advantage or essentially a bucket and a half.

Another big area of concern for the Aggies is turnovers. The Aggies' turnover numbers have been about the same both home and road (actually worse at home). The Aggies are averaging 17.6 turnovers per game, 17.0 on the road. UNM has been able to convert their opponents turnovers at roughly 1.13 points per turnover. If the Aggies turn the ball over at their average and UNM converts at their average that's 19.2 points off of turnovers that UNM will get. On the other hand, the Aggies have been equally efficient at converting opponent's turnovers (1.12 points per turnover), however, this Aggie team is only turning teams over 12.5 times per game (12.4 on the road) and UNM is only averaging 13.3 turnovers per game (in all games). If those numbers hold the Aggies will score 14.9 points. That's a 4.3 point difference.

If you add all of that up the Lobos would hold a 24.8 point advantage if both teams played to their road/home averages. Fortunately for the Aggies games aren't played on paper or in calculators. Games are played on the court. That being said, the Aggies can't walk into The Pit and play their "average" game and hope to win. The Aggies will have to play at the highest level that they've played all season and hope that their defense, which has been solid this year, can keep UNM from hitting their home averages.

There are going to be some intriguing matchups across the court tomorrow but three in particular stand out. One, 7'5" freshman Sim Bhullar going up against UNM's 7'0" redshirt sophomore Alex Kirk. Second, Bandja Sy against UNM's Tony Snell (stopping/containing Snell will be a big key to an Aggie victory) and third, Daniel Mullings or Tyrone Watson on UNM's Kendall Williams.

The Aggies will also need to get outstanding play from the point guard position. The Lobos have a veteran in Hugh Greenwood and would figure to hold an advantage at that spot just due to experience and through nine games this season the Aggie point guard play has been inconsistent. Going back to the turnover issues for the Aggies, one thing they seem to have had an inordinate amount of trouble with in certain games is getting the ball past midcourt off the inbounds. Teams have been able to double-team and pressure the man receiving the inbounds pass forcing the Aggies into turnovers. The team cannot afford to turn the ball over in the backcourt or it will likely turn into easy baskets for the Lobos (and easy baskets get the crowd involved).

Can the Aggies beat the Lobos? Absolutely, any team can beat any other team on any given day but as we noted before the Aggies will have to "Play Up" as it were in order to beat UNM.

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The Daily Aggie :: 12/05/12

It's gameday once again as the Aggie women's basketball team takes the short drive down I-10 to take on rival UTEP. The last time the Aggies and Miners met the Aggies were handing UTEP their first loss of the season. Since then UTEP played fellow WAC member Texas State winning 88-81 getting a 29/11 performance out of Kayla Thornton. They also got 22 points out of Anete Steinberga and it appears that the duo has stepped up to the plate in taking over for injured Kristine Vitola who blew out her knee prior to the NMSU/UTEP game.

Clearly tonight the Miners will be looking for some revenge against the Aggies who also have not lost since defeating UTEP and are a somewhat surprising 5-2 on the year.

Through about a third of the season both the men's and women's teams have developed identities, both of which are not necessarily good, however, not necessarily bad but they are certainly polar opposites of each other. The women's team has become the team who falls behind big early and then rallies late to either nearly win or win (rallying from seven down at halftime in the first game to win, nearly rallying from 13-down and then most recently back-to-back wins after trailing by 15). The men's team on the other hand builds early leads only to see them melt away (losing a 22-point first half lead, almost losing a 17-point first half lead, losing a 4-point lead) making a comfortable situation into a nail-biting one.

Obviously if the Aggie women can get off to better starts and the Aggie men can learn to close better, both teams will be much better off and it will save both coaches will a few gray hairs.

Tonight New Mexico State will need to start better than they have the previous two wins. They can't keep falling behind by such large deficits in the first half and expect to come back and win. Quite frankly the Aggies would not have won at Southern Utah had the Thunderbirds not gone 0-for-7 from the free throw line down the stretch and they were also lucky against UTEP in that after Kelsie Rozendaal stole the entry pass on UTEP's final possession that the Miners just stood around looking dumbfounded instead of playing out the game and immediately fouling Rozendaal. There would have likely been around three or four seconds left to play under that scenario. Can the Aggies sweep the Miners? Yes, they've got the talent to do so but they've got to get out to a better start out of the gate if they're going to win tonight.

Tonight's game between the Aggies and Miners is scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. (MT) tipoff can Live Stats will be available for the game via the UTEP athletic website. Radio coverage will be available on KSNM AM 570 with streaming audio available on Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie men's team picked up their first road win of the season holding on for a 58-52 victory. As we noted earlier the Aggies nearly lost this game after jumping out to a huge lead in the first half. South Alabama led 4-2 but then the Aggies ripped off a 21-2 run and led 23-6 at the under eight minute media timeout. Then the Aggies gave up a 19-8 run to end the half and it was just a six point hafltime lead. The Aggies held South Alabama at bay for the majority of the second half but the lead did get down to two points twice. The Aggies were able to do just enough defensively coming up with a pair of turnovers and the Aggies hit free throws when they needed to (something they struggled with all night long) as K.C. Ross-Miller and Bandja Sy went 3-for-4 over the final 16 seconds to eek out the win.

The Aggies are fortunate to not have lost this game considering three facts. First, they were an abysmal 9-for-18 from the free throw line and it was guys who are normally good free throw shooters who were missing free throws (Bandja 3-for-6, Mullings 0-for-2, Tyrone 1-for-4 although Tyrone gets a bit of a pass considering he was playing with the flu and it should be noted that South Alabama was equally unimpressive from the stripe finishing 9-for-17). Second, the Aggies committed 17 turnovers though according to the box score South Alabama was only able to convert those into six points (it felt like more). Third, the Aggies allowed 15 offensive rebounds to a team that was MUCH smaller than the Aggies, though again, South Alabama could only convert that into nine second chance points.

Those three areas, in particular the turnovers, will need to get cleaned up over the next 11 days before the Aggies make the journey up I-25 to The Pit. One thing we can guarantee is if the Aggies shoot 50 percent from the free throw line, turn the ball over 17 times and give up 15 offensive rebounds against UNM, the final score won't be pretty.

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The Daily Aggie :: 12/04/12

The Aggie men's basketball team is back in action tonight looking to pick up a second straight quality win and their first road win of the season. The Aggies are 0-4 on the road but had it not been for a couple of late minute collapses they could easily be 2-2. South Alabama started out with a big win on the road defeating Florida State in Tallahassee but since then have gone just 3-3 with questionable losses to Monmouth, Tennessee State and Georgia State (who was crushed by 18 against fellow WAC member LA Tech). They've since rebounded with a pair of wins in Sun Belt play defeating the two Florida schools (FAU and FIU) but one has to wonder which team the Aggies will see tonight. Will it be the team that defeated FSU or will it be the team that lost three in a row.

One common factor in the Jaguars' losses were their lack of efficiency shooting the three ball. South Alabama gets 40 percent of its scoring from deep but in those three losses they shot just 37 percent, 29 percent and 29 percent respectively but in their wins over the three Florida schools the Jaguars shot 37, 54 and 60 percent with the 60 percent coming against FSU.

Thus far the Aggies have done a decent job guarding the three point arc with teams shooting just 29.6 percent against them. The Aggies haven't been much better shooting the three ball at 30.4 percent but that's not where the Aggies want to do their damage. They want points in the paint, points in transition and points from the free throw line.

One matchup that will be intriguing to watch tonight will be the interior defense. South Alabama averages six blocks per game, 14th best in the country. The Aggies average 4.6 blocks per game, 66th best in the country (although we expect that number to keep getting better).

Another thing to watch is the foul situation. The Jaguars also do not foul much with their opponents only getting 19 percent of their total points from the free throw stripe while the Aggies love to get to the line recording nearly 29 percent of their points per game at the charity stripe.

Tonight will be another battle of wills. Can the Aggies keep South Alabama from getting hot from deep? Can South Alabama keep the Aggies off the free throw line? Can Sim Bhullar author up another impressive performance?

One player to watch will be South Alabama's Augustine Rubit. He's averaging 19.1 points and nine rebounds per game this season 52.2 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free throw stripe hitting 38-of-42 attempts. Only Tyrone Watson from the Aggies has been to the charity stripe more often (twice more but he's also played one more game).

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MT) tip-off. Live Stats will be available via the South Alabama athletic website and radio coverage will be available via the Aggie Sports network and streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required) and for free on WNSP.com (South Alabama feed).

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The Daily Aggie :: 12/01/12

It's gameday Aggie fans! It's the start of final month of the year and it's a busy day in Aggie sports. Aggie volleyball wrapped up their season last night with a disappointing loss to BYU. The Aggies were swept by the Cougars losing 25-8, 25-17 and 25-14 and really struggled throughout much of the match with ball control which had been a bit of an issue throughout the season. They also struggled a lot with what appeared to be communication issues. A few balls that dropped that should have been dug, a few times players ran into each other and some miss-timing on sets to players as well. Unfortunately it wasn't representative of the how well we know Aggie team can play. That being said the future looks exceptionally bright for the Aggies as they return everyone, save for senior defensive specialist Madison Hardy. A offseason of practice together, particularly working with the lineup that the Aggies won the WAC tournament with plus some seasoning for their outstanding freshman class should mean big things for this team. The experienced gained last night will undoubtedly fuel them to another NCAA tournament run next year and hopefully help them advance past the first round.

We'll have more on the volleyball team next week but for now we offer up our congratulations on a great and exciting season.

On the flip side of things the Aggie football team finishes a disappointing season today at Texas State. The Aggies are 1-10 and have suffered through one of the most miserable seasons in recent history (Coach Walker's first year and Hal Mumme's first year come to mind as contenders for that dubious title). Despite the terrible record and the lack of competitiveness on the field the Aggies, save for one game this season, have never quit fighting.

An example of that resolve and lack of quit in the team we were told that earlier this week someone dropped by the football offices and saw a pair of defensive players in the team's poring over game film. Teams that have quit don't do that and anyone who believes this team has given up is sadly mistaken and doesn't know the team nor do they know the fire and fight that Coach Walker has and has instilled in his program.

The Aggies will take the field today at 2:00 p.m. (MT) and try to end the season on a high note by beating Texas State. It's the final regular WAC football game of the year and it's also the last WAC conference football game perhaps ever in history. Despite all the struggles this year the Aggies have a chance to do something that nobody else in the league except for Texas State has a chance to do this year and that is go down in history as winning the final conference game ever in the WAC.

Texas State is 3-8 on the year and started out hot with a big-time win over Houston in the season opener. The team was sitting pretty at 3-3 after six game but have fallen off a bit over the last five games culminating with a bitter loss to their rival UT San Antonio. Can the Aggies take advantage of a potential hangover by the Bobcats? Perhaps. One thing is for certain, the Aggies need to "let it all hang out" today on the field both offensively and defensively. In particular on offense we don't want to see a conservative gameplan nor do we want to see conservative or bland play calling from the Aggies.

Defensively, the Aggies have played well better over the last half of the season and in some cases, good enough to win but they haven't gotten any help from the offense. Can the defense put it together one last time in hopes that the offense comes through for them? We'll find out today.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. (MT) and the game can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network with streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required). Live Stats are available via the Texas State athletic website.

The Aggie men's and women's basketball teams are also back in action today as the women are on the road to take on Southern Utah and the men return home after a tough loss to UTEP to take on another Conference USA foe in Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles swept the Aggies last season winning in the semifinals of the Great Alaska Shootout and then several days later winning at Southhern Miss. In both games the Aggies struggled at the end of the game to grab a defensive rebound and gave the Golden Eagles extra opportunities to win the game.

The biggest keys to tonight's game for the Aggies are one, limiting turnovers. The Aggies have been a turnover machine this season which is something we feared could happen with the departures of good ball handlers in Hernst Laroche and Wendell McKines. Turnovers were the primary reason the Aggies lost to UTEP on Wednesday as they committed 22 turnovers giving UTEP 20 points. Second, rebounding Southern Miss' offensive misses. It's something that plagued the Aggies in two games last year against the smaller Golden Eagles and it's something that the Aggies must, must, must focus on this year especially if it's a close game. Third, tempo, tempo, tempo. The Aggies cannot get dragged into these slowed down half-court games. It doesn't suit the Aggies. New Mexico State likes to get out and run creating easy buckets off of defensive rebounds and forced turnovers.

Southern Miss would like to keep this game in the 60s while New Mexico State would be better served if this game were in the mid 70's or even low 80's. Southern Miss isn't great from behind the arc but they're serviceable. If this game is close and comes down to free throw shooting, USM has a decided advantage. They're a stellar free throw shooting team with four players above 80 percent and three more above 70 percent.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MT) tipoff and can be seen on AggieVision and streaming online on ESPN3.com. The game can also be heard on the radio on the Aggie Sports Network with streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie women's basketball team looks to continue their winning ways today when they face Southern Utah. The Aggies are fresh off an exciting 69-68 come-from-behind victory over I-10 rival UTEP and almost as importantly for the Aggies, Stephanie Gilbreath appears to have broken out of her season-long shooting slump.

Southern Utah knocked off the Aggies last season in Las Cruces, one of the Aggies' many last second losses and the Thunderbirds are 2-3 on the season with wins over New Orleans and Southern Oregon but losses to Nicholls State, Texas Tech and Utah. This should be a high-scoring affair with both teams pushing the pace. Southern Utah averages 68 points per game and is allowing 67. Just one Thunderbird is averaging double-figures in scoring and that is guard Hailey Mandelko at 13 points per game. The Aggies have a pair of double-digit scorers in Daniesha Williamson (14.7) and Stephanie Gilbreath (13.6) and Kelsie Rozendaal is just shy averaging 9.5 points per game.

The Aggies need to get off to a better start offensively. Despite SUU not having any quality wins this season the Aggies can't afford a slow start offensively. Defensively the Aggies have been pretty solid allowing just 57 points per game this season. If the Aggies do start slow offensively they'll need to rely on their defense to keep the game within reach until the offense does get going (which we saw on Wednesday night against UTEP).

Tipoff for this game is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. (MT). There will be no radio coverage for this game but Live Stats will be available through the Southern Utah athletic website and free streaming video is available through the Big Sky network.

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/30/12

It's game day Aggie fans! Aggie volleyball faces No. 12 national seed and first and second round host BYU tonight at 7:00 p.m. (MT) and even better news, if you can't be there you can watch the match on BYUtv!

So what of tonight's match? What are the Aggies' chances against the Cougars? A couple of quick stats to throw out there. The Cougars haven't lost at home all season and while this is a NCAA Tournament match, it's essentially a home match for BYU (think Aggie basketball hosting the WAC Tournament in '06-'07 and '07-'08). Second, the Cougars tied for the regular season title in one of the top three volleyball conferences in the country. Only the B1G and Pac-12 got more teams into the tournament than the West Coast Conference's six. Third, the Cougars have a 6'7" outside hitter who is one of the best players in the country in Jennifer Hamson. She's hitting .361 on the season with 410 kills averaging just over four kills per set. Teams have tried to stop her all season long and only three have succeeded and you can bet the Aggie coaching staff has watched film on those three matches numerous times. Tennessee was able to hold Hamson to just nine kills on 43 swings and a .116 hitting percentage, George Washington held her to seven kills on 21 swings and a .143 hitting percentage and San Francisco had the most success against her holding her to nine kills on 32 swings and forcing her into seven attack errors for a season-low .063 hitting percentage. The problem is that none of those three teams won. If you take away Hamson the Cougars still have middle blocker Alexa Gray who is hitting .314 on the season and averaging 3.36 kills per set and middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant who is hitting .379 and averaging 1.90 kills per set.

The Aggie defense will need to play at the very least as well as they did this past weekend in San Antonio and if they can, they'll need to potentially find another gear.

The good news for the Aggies is that they've got plenty of weapons on offense themselves and if their passing is as good as it was in the tournament and in particular as good as it was against Idaho they've got a great shot at pulling the upset. Why is that? The Aggies demonstrated a very balanced attack against Idaho with two players finishing with 13 kills, two with 11 kills, one with ten and one with five and none of them had more than four attack errors.

Hitting for a high percentage will be key because you know that BYU will certainly hit for a good percentage. They've not been held under .200 all season long and are averaging .313 as a team this season.

The other big key will be to serve it tough. Try to limit BYU's options on offense as much as possible and try to make them as predictable as possible.

The Aggies have the talent and the capability of pulling off the upset tonight. They've faced some top teams this season and have proven that they can play with them and we're looking forward to seeing what the Aggies can do tonight.

First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (MT) and will follow the first match which is scheduled for a 5:00 p.m. (MT) first serve between Oklahoma and Arizona State. As noted before the match will be televised on BYUtv (check your local listings) and you can also follow on the radio in Las Cruces on KSNM AM 570 with streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required). Live Stats will also be available via the BYU athletic website.

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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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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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