Aggies Fall In Overtime To 4-Seed San Diego State, 73-69

Aggies Fall In Overtime To 4-Seed San Diego State, 73-69

SPOKANE, WA - Marvin Menzies and the Aggies came agonizingly close to pulling off the third upset of the day in Spokane. Instead, they'll have to settle for yet another heartbreaker Spokane. "Yeah, it's depressing is what it is," said head coach Marvin Menzies in the post game press conference. "To be able to fight that hard in the second half and get right there and then not get over the hump in over time. I just thought we drew up some really good stuff and unfortunately, we just missed some right at the basket."

Three times the Aggies have been sent to Spokane and three times the Aggies have gotten a little bit closer to victory. In 2007 the Aggies lost to Kevin Durant and Texas by 12, 79-67. The Aggies led that one 58-57 with 7:10 left. In 2010 the Aggies squared off with Michigan State and lost 70-67. In that game the Aggies were down by just one with 20 seconds left after a Troy Gillenwater three pointer and had a chance to tie at the end of regulation.

This time the Aggies trailed at halftime by 12 and were quickly down 14 points as San Diego State's Josh Davis hit a jumper 16 seconds into the half. The Aggies would outscore San Diego State 18-6 over the next six minutes to cut the lead down to just two points. The Aggies played aggressively on offense and the run was sparked by a 4-0 run by Daniel Mullings on a pair of free throws and a layup. After a JJ O'Brien three pointer pushed the lead back to 13, Sim Bhullar would get a layup followed by a Daniel Mullings three point play. Mullings would add a jumped to cut the lead to six and with 15:00 left Chili Nephawe got a layup to cut the lead to four. Dwayne Pollee II hit a three to push the lead back to seven but a layup from Sim Bhullar and a three pointer from Kevin Aronis would trim the lead to two with 13:35 left to play.

The Aztecs would push their lead out to a seemingly comfortable margin at 50-42 and maintained an eight point edge with 5:00 led to play, a near certainly for an Aztec victory. SDSU had not lost a game when leading with five minutes left over the past 118 games and when Winston Shepard got a layup with 3:52 left and Daniel Mullings turned the ball over just seconds later, things did not look good for the Aggies trailing by 10 with just under three minutes left to play. However, the Aggies would not go quietly and a dunk from Sim Bhullar with 2:40 cut the lead to single digits, Kevin Aronis stepped up and hit a three pointer with 1:17 left to play to trim SDSU's lead to five at 56-51.

The Aggies would start the foul game against the Aztecs who were a 65 percent free throw shooting team this season. Dwayne Polee II would hit two free throws to put SDSU back up by seven at 58-51 but a dunk from Renaldo Dixon cut the lead back to five at 58-53. After Pollee missed the front end of a one-and-one, Mullings would get to the basket and was fouled and made both free throws to cut the lead to three with 31 seconds left. The Aggies would foul against and SDSU's Xavier Thames would hit two free throws to put the Aztecs up 60-55. Renaldo Dixon would get a lyaup with 19 seconds left to bring the Aggies to within two at 60-57.

The Aggies would force a turnover on the inbounds and with 15 seconds left the Aggies would draw up a shot for Kevin Aronis. The shot would miss but Daniel Mullings would scrap for a rebound and kick the ball out to Aronis who would bury a game-tying three from about 25 feet out with about six seconds remaining. "I think Daniel got the rebound and he had great court awareness to know that we needed a three down in the end seconds," said Aronis in the postgame press conference. "So, I know, I think we made a little eye contact and I just was spotting up and he found me and I think I dribbled to the left and made the shot."

San Diego State's Xavier Thames would drive the length of the court and miss a layup. The putback would go in but after the buzzer sending the game to overtime.

The Aggies would quickly fall behind by five points in overtime as SDSU scored the first five points of the overtime period to go up 65-60, however, just as the Aggies had done in regulation they clawed back. A Renaldo Dixon three pointer, just his fourth of the season, cut the lead to two. SDSU would go back up by four but a three point play from Chili Nephawe with 1:41 left to play cut the lead to one at 67-66. That would be as close as the Aggies would get the rest of the way. SDSU would go back up by four at 70-66 with 18 seconds left and after a Daniel Mullings layup cut the lead to two, the Aggies would could Dwayne Polee II. He would miss the first and make the second giving the Aggies life with just six seconds left in overtime but SDSU head coach Steve Fisher would have the Aztecs foul the Aggies before they could get a shot off. Daniel Mullings would go to the line with just under three seconds left making the first. Mullings would intentionally miss the second but the rebound would carom outside the reach of the Aggies and SDSU's grabbed the ball. The Aggies would foul one final time and Polee II would make both free throws making the final score 73-69.

The Aggies were led by Daniel Mullings' 18 points. He finished the night 6-of-13 from the floor and scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half and overtime. Sim Bhullar finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting despite being in foul trouble nearly the entire first half. He went into halftime with three personal fouls but did not foul out until overtime. Bhullar had 12 points and five rebounds in the second half and did not score in overtime before fouling out.

Kevin Aronis scored 12 points in his final game as an Aggie hitting four three pointers including the big shot that sent the game to overtime. He also added five rebounds and played a career-high 42 minutes. Renaldo Dixon, also saddled with early foul trouble, finished with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and hit a three pointer in overtime. Ian Baker finished with three points and DK Eldridge played 20 minutes and failed to score.

Mountain West Player of the Year Xavier Thames scored a game-high 23 points but was 1-of-7 from three point distance, however, he finished 10-of-12 from the free throw arc. Josh Davis finished with the game's only double-double recording 10 points and 14 rebounds. Dwayne Polee II finished with 15 points, five of the points coming from the free throw line in the final minute of regulation and final ten seconds of overtime.

The rebounding battle was nearly even with the Aggies grabbing 41 rebounds including 14 offensive boards. The Aztecs grabbed 40 with 10 coming on the offensive glass. The Aggies had just 13 turnovers against the Aztec pressure and forced 11 turnovers including the key turnover late in regulation that gave the Aggies the ball back down by three with under 10 seconds remaining.

The Aggies were just 12-of-20 from the free throw line, 60 percent. SDSU finished the game 21-of-27 percent from the free throw line, 77.8 percent, well above their season average of 65 percent.

The Aggies finish the season with a 26-10 record tying the 2012 team for the second most wins in a single season. The Aggies return their entire starting five losing seniors Kevin Aronis and Renaldo Dixon to graduation.

COACH MARVIN MENZIES: Just want to thank the Lord for this opportunity to coach these guys. Great group of players. Great staff. Also, want to take a minute to just also make note that we played tonight for Sam Lacey who passed away at 66. You guys may know he was probably if he's not the greatest, one of the greatest of all time to play at New Mexico State in that Final Four team of 1970. And left behind three daughters and a host of other family members. They had a memorial service for him today, so. We can go ahead and start with questions.

Q. Sim, talk about the way this team responded on this kind of stage today?
SIM BHULLAR: I think tonight we showed a lot of heart. The same situation in the WAC tournament. We were down nine at the half and guys were in the locker room and everybody's heads were up. We all talked about it, the fight's never over until the clock hits zero, so we just came out in the second half and played our hearts out and we took it into overtime. It showed the team has resilience. This is a big thing for us to come back from down 12 at halftime. Especially at this time of year, I think it's a big thing for us.

Q. Talk about what this says about New Mexico State. Sim, you're coming back, Kevin, you're a Senior.
SIM BHULLAR: Definitely shows that we got a deep team. Guys are ready to contribute. We got all five starters coming back. Really going to miss Kevin and Renaldo. Kevin was our guy, man. He knocked down a shot whenever we needed him, and Ben was the big guy in the middle. Whenever I went down with an injury, he really stepped up. Really going to miss those guys and it's going to be tough to replace them next year, but hopefully we can.
KEVIN ARONIS: I think with the other guys that are coming back, they're pretty young, and definitely with a good summer offseason hard work, I think that they can definitely make some noise next year.

Q. Kevin, you guys are used to having a pretty dominant player in Daniel and what he can do on the court. But, today you had to face Xavier Thames, another dominant guard. Can you talk about what he did that was dangerous and what it's like to play against him?
KEVIN ARONIS: Well, he's a complete player, so he can beat you in multiple ways. I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part, him making pretty tough 2 point jumpers. I think he definitely earned it and had a good game.

Q. Kevin, talk about the three at the end of regulation. It seemed like you got two really open looks for off of the inbound play and then just off of a loose ball there?
KEVIN ARONIS: Well, the inbounds play was, I don't remember if I made it, but I think it was a yeah, I think Daniel got the rebound and he had great court awareness to know that we needed a three down in the end seconds. So, I know, I think we made a little eye contact and I just was spotting up and he found me and I think I dribbled to the left and made the shot.

Q. Were you surprised how I mean you were, you hit some open shots like were you surprise that were you were able to get those open shots tonight? And did you feel like you needed to make some 3's to kind of open things up?
KEVIN ARONIS: Yeah, I think the three ball kind of would have gave us a little extra offense against their very good defense. I think, if we hit a few 3's, I think it would kind of help us out a little bit. So, I was really hunting for my shot. I got a few open looks and a few tough ones, but I think we did a pretty good job of getting me some good looks.

Q. Sim, it looked like early in the game the post guys were getting the ball knocked away from you like was that just  did you guys have to kind of get used to the way the game was called or just being stronger with the ball early on in the game?
SIM BHULLAR: I'm not sure how to answer that. I guess it was kind of both. The referees were trying to let us play a little bit and it was us holding the ball strong and going up too and finishing strong. I think we had a tough time with that, but we really picked it you know in the second half and it just showed the way we were finishing in the post.

Q. This is the second time you played here and you almost got the upset. I'm sure there's no moral victories for you, but two tough games. I thought it looked like at times you were going to get this one too, tonight.
COACH MARVIN MENZIES: Yeah, it's depressing is what it is. To be able to fight that hard in the second half and get right there and then not get over the hump in over time. I just thought we drew up some really good stuff and unfortunately, we just missed some right at the basket. We had a lot of little chippers that guys normally make and like you said, this is a big stage and it's a different dynamic out there with the experience and having guys that can really step up when they need to, like Daniel did in the second half.

So it's disappointing, but I'm really, really proud of my guys. I just told them how much I love them and what every coach says, I guess, the last game of the year. But, our Seniors and Kevin and Benzo we call Renaldo Dixon, Benzo, they're going to be great kids and great contributors to society and I think my job is done with them and now just be their friend the rest of the way.

Q. Can you talk about from that first five win season with Steve to here you're coaching against him in the NCAA tournament, just was that satisfying what that journey was like?
COACH MARVIN MENZIES: I enjoy every win that the Aztecs have, except tonight. I really feel a part of that whole journey and whew it's pretty obvious, I guess, huh?

So you know, the losing, I really wanted to bring this home for Las Cruces, you know. We have got a dynamic support system and great fans and the administration, everybody, is all on the same page. And it really helps to grow a program when you have leadership like we have and support like we have.

So, it's just amazing how much you put into something when you find a career and not a job. So when you talk about  and that's why it hit me, because I'm thinking when I was at... excuse me one second.
I didn't think I would do this. When I was at San Diego State, I used to sleep in the office. My wife hadn't moved down yet and our heart and soul went into the dream that they're now living. So, obviously, to go from getting our butts kicked every game to turning it  to going 20 plus wins and making the NIT and the NCAA, and just watching the recruits that I brought in flourish. That was just so rewarding, you know. When you go from program to program you leave, you don't disassociate, obviously.

So, it's just tough, man, it's tough. I knew it would be a bitter sweet loss, but I just didn't think it would be this emotional, so.

But, heck, we had a great season, man, we won, we're champions, God, this is going to be national, huh?

Q. Everybody's asleep.
COACH MARVIN MENZIES: Yeah, thank God. They got that YouTube thing going now days, don't they? So I kind of screwed up. But, hey, I love my job, man, I love being the head coach at New Mexico State, I really do. And I loved every minute I spent at San Diego, you know? So long answer to a short question.

COACH MARVIN MENZIES: See, now you know how to get out of an interview, just cry.
(Laughter.) Thanks, you guys.