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.
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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