The Daily Aggie :: 0/17/13

The New Mexico State men's basketball team faces WAC rival Utah State tonight for the final time in the Pan Am at least for the foreseeable future. As it always is, it's an important game for the WAC race. The Aggies are 4-2 in league play, two games behind Utah State and Louisiana Tech in the loss column and a game behind Denver in the loss column. The Aggies also have the same number of losses as both San Jose State and UT Arlington. As we noted prior to the Idaho game, this stretch of games is going to determine whether the Aggies are going to contend for the regular season title. Because of the loss to UT Arlington in the opening game of WAC play, the Aggies must roll through this next set of three games with a 3-0 record or risk potentially falling behind Louisiana Tech and Utah State by three games and Denver by two (depending on their result against SJSU) particularly with trips to Denver and Utah State still to come later in the season.

With Utah State it's the same story this year as it seems to be every year. A gaudy record but question marks with regards to just how good a team they are. The UtAgs are 14-1 but it's against one of the weakest schedules in all of college basketball. USU is led by Preston Medlin who is averaging 16.1 points per game. He's hitting nearly 40 percent of his three point shots and almost 53 percent of his two point shots. Jarred Shaw and Kyisean Reed come in averaging 12.7 and 12.5 points per game respectively. As Jason Groves of the Sun-News has pointed, the Aggies match up well with Utah State and the Aggies can bother Utah State with their length defensively. The UtAgs are very efficient on offense as always. They're tops in the league in field goal percentage, second in two point field goal percentage, first in three point field goal percentage, assists per game, they're tops in assist to turnover ratio and they're tops in the league in offensive points per possession.

Defensively however, the Aggies can take advantage of USU. The UtAgs are just a mediocre defensive team by the numbers. Team are shooting 41.5 percent against them (5th), 46.5 from inside the arc (5th) and 33.4 percent from outside the arc (7th). Utah State is second last in the league in turnovers forced per game and opponent turnover rate.

One area that USU is good at is rebounding percentage. They lead the league at 56.5 percent on the season although in conference play they've dropped to 50.6 percent which is middle of the pack.

For the Aggies to win this game they'll need to rebound well, limit USU's second chance opportunities, defend for all 35 seconds of the shot clock and take the ball inside against USU. The Aggies hold an advantage in both size and athleticism and the Aggies need to take advantage of that as they've done in games past.

One other side note. Utah State comes into the game on a 13-game winning streak. New Mexico State has been a streakbuster for Utah State over the years. The Aggies have snapped Utah State win streaks of 17, 10, 7, 6 and 5 games.

As we noted on this week's podcast, we think New Mexico State wins tonight by ten or eleven points.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MT) tip-off and can be seen on AggieVision and ESPN3.com.

The Aggie women are also back in action and are on the road this week to take on Utah State and San Jose State. The Aggies have their work cut out for them as both of these teams can put the ball in the basket which is something New Mexico State has struggled with this season. Utah State has scored at least 70 points ten times this season including three 80+ point games and two 90+ point games. San Jose State, which not quite as high-scoring, has scored 98 and 103 points in separate conference games this season.

USU is led by Devyn Christensen who is averaging 20.6 points per game and isn't shy about shooting it. She averages 19 shots per game and has deep three point range. Jenna Johnson at 13.9 points per game and Jennifer Schlott at 13.5 points per game are second and third in scoring for USU.

As you can imagine, the lady UtAgs play at a fast pace averaging over 80 possessions per game. They're not great defensively though ranking at the bottom in most defensive statistics.

As has been the case in a lot of the Aggies' games so far in conference it's going to be a battle between the Aggies' defense and the opponent's offense. If New Mexico State can keep this game in the 60's it really favors them, however, if they get into a track meet with Utah State it's going to be tough for New Mexico State to match USU's offense.

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