The Daily Aggie :: 12/22/10

The Aggie men's basketball team won their fourth straight game defeating Louisiana 82-76 last night. The Aggies gave up double-digit leads in the first half and again in the second half but found a way to pull out the game as Hernst Laroche found freshman Tshilidzi Nephawe for a slam dunk to put the Aggies up by four and then Tyrone Watson who managed to not foul out despite picking up his fourth with just under eight minutes left, stole the ball from the Cajuns and dished it off to Hernst Laroche for an easy layup to end the game.

There were signs of good defense but there were also signs of not so good defense. The Cajuns came into the game averaging 66 points per game, they scored 10 above that average. On the flip side, the Aggies forced 23 turnovers and turned them into 33 points. Unfortunately there were a few too many open three point looks and way too many easy drives to the basket (particularly in the first half when there was a stretch where the Cajuns scored on seven straight possessions and five of the seven were layups and one one of the possessions had a missed layup but the Cajuns were fouled on the layup and at least three of the layups right down the middle of the lane).

The Aggies also played a little sloppy on offense at times which contributed to the Cajuns being able erase the first half deficit. Bad offensive decisions led to bad defensive possessions on the other end during the latter stages of the first half.

The Aggies were also out-rebounded by a wide, wide margin (-25) and gave up an astounding 23 offensive rebounds. In fact, the Cajuns had as many offensive rebounds as the Aggies had total rebounds, 23.

That being said, at the end of the day the Aggies won. It wasn't pretty but senior leader Gordo Castillo stepped up his game, got some big buckets, hit 4-of-7 three pointers and scored 20 points. Since coming back from his injury, Castillo has found his shooting stroke. He's scored nine, 17 and 20 points and has done so while shooting 13-of-23 (56.5 percent) from the field and 9-of-15 (60 percent) from three point distance.

We noted a couple weeks ago that the Aggies to that point in the season did not have a true three point threat with nobody hitting above 36 percent of their tries, however, Gordo Castillo has found his stroke (he's now hitting 40.7 percent of his three) and obviously he won't continue to hit 60 percent of his threes but if he can settle in somewhere between 43 and 47 percent for the season (we'd even be okay with a higher percentage), the Aggies would greatly benefit from that and would win their share of games, particularly when Troy Gillenwater, Hamidu Rahman and Wendell McKines are able to return.

Up next is a mammoth matchup against St. Mary's. The Gaels are by far one of the best teams the Aggies will have faced this season and potentially the rest of the season. The Aggie defense will have to be strong against a team that shoots over 50 percent from the field and has a couple of deadly three point shooters of their own.

The Aggie women's basketball team takes home court tonight for the final time in 2010 as they host perennial women's basketball power Utah. The Utes come into the game tonight with a 5-7 overall record but have played a very difficult schedule against teams from the Pac 10, Big 10 and SEC as well as a game against one of the very best mid-major women's basketball programs, Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The Utes are a big team with four frontline players at 6'3" or taller and another at 6'0". Their guards also don't lack for size with three checking in at 5'11" or taller. They have four players averaging double-figures in scoring with junior guard Janita Badon leading the way at 12.8 points per game. Fellow guard Iwalani Rodrigues is averaging 12.3 points per game and 6'4" freshman forward Michelle Plouffe is averaging 12.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Rodrigues is also a serious threat from deep as she is hitting 50 percent of her three point attempts (29-of-58) and Rachel Messer is hitting 41.9 percent of her threes (18-of-43).

The Aggies will need to continue to play solid defense and as Coach Spence mentioned in this week's interview, they need to avoid the offensive lulls that have seen them either give up leads or fall behind by 10-12 points.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces with streaming audio and video available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

On to today's links...

Aggie Men's Basketball
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News recaps the Aggies' narrow victory.

The Louisiana athletic website recaps the Aggies' win.

Aggie Women's Basketball
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News previews tonight's game.

The Utah athletic website previews tonight's game.

Aggie Softball
The WAC Softball Blog examines the schedules in the WAC and deems the Aggies' as having the best home slate.

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