Aggie Comeback Falls Short Against No. 21 Utah State

Tshilidzi NephaweThe New Mexico State men's basketball team dropped their fourth consecutive game losing 58-54 to No. 21 Utah State on Wednesday night. The loss dropped the Aggies to 8-7 overall and fell out of contention for the 2-seed and a double-bye in next week's WAC tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.

The Aggies trailed by six at halftime and struggled from the floor shooting 37.5 percent and just 2-of-7 from the free throw line. Hernst Laroche scored the first basket for the Aggies to give them a 2-0 lead and a jumper from Tory Gillenwater gave the Aggies a 4-2 lead. Utah State would take an 8-6 lead on a pair of free throws from E.J. Farris with 13:36 as neither team's offense could find a rhythm early. Utah State would go up by 14-9 after a layup from Pooh Williams with 8:29 left in the first half but the Aggies would go on a 6-0 run to take a 15-14 lead on a jumper from Tshilidzi Nephawe. Utah State would regain their five point cushion on a layup from Tai Wesley with 2:33 left in the half. The Aggies would get a free throw from Tyrone Watson with 1:24 left in the first half and Utah State would score on a jumper from Brockeith Pane to take a 27-21 lead into the halftime break.

New Mexico State would fall behind by nine early in the second half as a Tai Wesley layup would give the UtAgs a 33-24 lead with 15:59 left to play. The Aggies would answer with a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 33-29 with 12:02 left in the game. USU would get a three pointer from Brian Green to go up 36-29 but Gordo Castillo would hit back-to-back threes and Tyrone Watson would get a layup to give the Aggies a 37-36 lead with 9:51 left to play.  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 03/02/11

Showdown. Aggies vs. Aggies. There's certainly much more at stake in the short term for New Mexico State than there is for Utah State. The northern Aggies have a number one seed wrapped up, they had that sewn up a couple weeks ago. For New Mexico State a 2-seed is at stake. The Aggies can make it easy on themselves and win both games this week and assure themselves the 2-seed. If they split this week, things become much more difficult and they have to rely on other teams to lose and bottom half of the standings teams to win. In the long term, speaking in terms of NCAA tournament bids, this game may be more important for Utah State. This is more than likely their last hurdle in the regular season. We don't really see them tripping up at Louisiana Tech so a win tonight would almost guarantee them a 15-1 regular season conference record. That coupled with their win over St. Mary's in the Bracketbusters plus a likely run to the conference title game should assure them of an at-large bid. New Mexico State already knows they have to earn an NCAA bid the hard way by winning the conference tournament. It's something they've done twice in the past four seasons and they've gotten to the conference championship game three of the past four seasons. The question is whether they will have to win two, three or heaven-forbid, four games in a row to do so.

Keys to the game? The Aggies have to play better defense than they have the past three games. They also need to get much better production from their big men. We've chronicled the struggles of Hamidu Rahman and Tshilidzi Nephawe over the past couple days so we won't rehash those ugly details.

The Aggies did a relatively good job defensively against Utah State in the first meeting and if not for a massive 18-0 run in the first half, the Aggies could have very easily won that game in Logan.

One new (or at least new to us since we don't watch USU regularly) is the driving ability of Utah State point guard Brockeith Pane. We didn't notice it that much in the first meeting but we did notice it quite a bit the last time Utah State was on t.v. against SMC. He was very aggressive in penetrating the lane which coincidentally is something the Aggies are struggling to defend right now. San Jose State and Hawai'i (especially Hawai'i) had good success getting inside against the Aggies with their guards. The Aggies will need to shore that up tonight.

A couple of injury notes to pass along, Troy Gillenwater (thumb) and Hamidu Rahman (calves) did not practice on Monday. Their statuses will be a game-time decision although we can't possibly imagine Troy or Hamidu missing this game.

The Aggies have been hearing all weekend long how badly they stink and yes, we're guilty of piling on, although we've been harping on the Aggies' rebounding and transition defense all season. The question is how will New Mexico State respond? They're at home, their backs are against the wall and they're playing their two biggest rivals this week to close out the regular season and a 2-seed and double-bye is on the line. How will the Aggies respond?

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 9:00 p.m. (MT) tipoff and can be seen on ESPN2 in glorious High Definition.

On to today's links...  Continue Reading This Post >> Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 03/01/11 A big road win on Saturday at Nevada, your team's back was against the wall and you fought back and notched a very good road win.
Darin Spence: Yeah no question about that. It's much much bigger than what we realized at the time just because of what we had to go through in the week. It was our third game in that week and two on the road. It wasn't a very kind stretch for us. We practiced Sunday, Kaitlyn Soto gets hurt. We turn around and play Fresno [Monday] we play a tough game there and then we didn't practice again until Wednesday night, played at Utah State who's playing as well as anybody in our league and plays differently than anybody else. We're short on guards again, could have played a little bit better but still competed. Then after that game we were pretty drained and just a beat up team. We didn't even practice before we played Nevada. We had a little shootaround that morning and I think played probably our best game of the year. Kaitlyn came back and played and gave us some good minutes. Madi was sick, she's been sick. Jasmine Lowe played really well and everybody else kind of fit in and did their piece and got a huge win. It was just a great atmosphere there. Nevada had a good crowd, they had a lot of fun things going on, it was just a fun atmosphere and our kids competed and played their backsides off and it was a great win for us.  Continue Reading This Post >>

AggieVision :: New Bats, Same Offense

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - NM State head coach Rocky Ward talks about the difference in change from aluminum bats to the new BB-Core bats used in NCAA Division I baseball. He is teamed up with seniors Wes Starkes and Ryan Aguayo to give a demonstration and show what kind of a difference the new bat is making.

The video was taped and produced by Aggie Vision and a complete schedule of baseball games to air this season can be found at   Continue Reading This Post >>

Gaston De La Torre Earns WAC Golfer Of The Week

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

ENGLEWOOD, CO - New Mexico State’s Gaston De La Torre has been named the Verizon Western Athletic Conference Golfer of the Week for February 21-27.

De La Torre, a junior from Brush Prairie, Wash. (Hockinson HS), won his first career collegiate golf tournament with a score of 9-under par (72-67-68-207) at the Rice Intercollegiate, February 21-22. He trailed by one stroke entering the third and final round before shooting a 68 to win by three strokes and set a new tournament scoring record.

He also helped the Aggies notch their first team title of the season as New Mexico State won by three strokes and beat 14 other teams in the field. It is the first time in his career that De La Torre has won a WAC golfer of the week or month award.

The Aggies will be back in action on March 7-8 at the Fresno Lexus Classic in Fresno, Calif.

The Daily Aggie :: 03/01/11

Welcome to March Aggie fans! March means March Madness is right around the corner. There was a little madness last night on the women's side at Nevada handed Louisiana Tech their first conference loss. Shorthanded no less as senior post player Shavon Moore, Nevada's second leading scorer and a good rebounder, was lost for the season in the game against the Aggies. Nevada out-rebounded LA Tech 46-22. All that makes the Aggies' victory over Nevada this past weekend all that more impressive. Unfortunately for the Aggies, Nevada's upset win secures the 4-seed for Nevada. New Mexico State and Idaho will battle for the 5th and 6th seeds over the final two games as Idaho invades the Pan Am on Thursday.

Despite the fact that New Mexico State can't earn a bye, the Aggies can still finish at 8-8 in league play and can head into the WAC Tournament with a head of steam where they've been able to reach the tournament finals three of the five seasons they've been in the WAC.

Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal unveiled his picks for the postseason All-WAC teams and we're noticing a little trend. Chris begrudgingly placed Troy Gillenwater on the First Team. You can't argue with his rationale as he states: It’s tough to put Gillenwater on the first team because he missed six games with injuries and doesn’t play defense. But he did average 19.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg. but he is now the second media person to bring up Troy's status as a First Team All-WAC player. We don't have any doubt that Troy will make the First Team, especially being the second leading scorer in the league and his value to the Aggies is unquestioned and the last time we checked, playing defense wasn't necessarily a requirement for earning all-conference accolades (unless of course you want to be on the All-Defensive team).

We also agree that Adrian Oliver should be the WAC Player of the Year, even though he won't earn it as Tai Wesley will almost assuredly earn that honor. Oliver is unquestionably the best player in the league and as we noted last week before the Aggies' meeting with SJSU, Adrian Oliver has scored over 30 points five times now (including the 36 he scored against New Mexico State). The Spartans are 5-0 in those games. By contrast, Troy Gillenwater as scored 30-plus points three times this season but the Aggies are just 1-2 in those games.

As Murray states, Tai Wesley is the best player on the best team but Oliver is the best player in the league. Period.

On to today's links...  Continue Reading This Post >>

Alex Newman Named WAC Softball Pitcher Of The Week

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

DENVER, CO - New Mexico State softball sophomore Alex Newman earned Pitcher of the Week honors from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for her performance last weekend leading NM State to the UTEP Invitational title, the league office announced Monday.

The honor is the first of her career for Newman. It marks the first league honor of the young season for the Aggies. It is the first Pitcher of the Week honor for NM State from the WAC since former hurler Kim Watson earned the award on April 13, 2009.

The sophomore from Rio Linda, Calif., made two starts and four appearances in El Paso, all resulting in wins. After her four decisions in the Sun City, Newman now boasts an unblemished 8-0 record in 2011.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Ryan Aguayo Named WAC Hitter Of The Week

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

DENVER, CO - Senior shortstop Ryan Aguayo earned Verizon Wireless Western Athletic Conference Hitter of the Week for the week of Feb. 21-27, as announced by the WAC office, Monday, Feb. 28.

The Pico Rivera native helped the Aggies to a 5-0 record last week with wins over in-state rival New Mexico and Buffalo. He had a stellar week at the plate with a .611 batting average as he went 11-for-18, with two perfect games.

"Aguayo has been working hard at our system since the day he arrived here," head coach Rocky Ward said. "He is the type of player every coach wants on his team because he leads by example and is also a very humble person."

Aguayo set a career-high in game one of the double-header, Feb. 27, when he tallied eight RBI. He had a perfect game at the plate going 4-of-4 with two home runs and one walk.   Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 02/28/11

It's a big week for the Aggie men's and women's basketball team as the regular season comes to a close. Both the men and women are still fighting for byes in the conference tournament and we listed the scenarios for the Aggie men last night. Let's just put it this way, the Aggies need to win both games this week. If they lose both games this week, it is entirely possible that they end up the 5-seed and having to win four games in four days, something that at this point seems like a very very very tough task (two games in two days seems much more doable).

As for the women, it's equally as simple, although they will need a smidgen of help from LA Tech and Fresno State. Should the women win both games this week they would more than likely earn the 4-seed and a first round bye. They'll need Fresno State and LA Tech to defeat Nevada, something that is much more of a certainty today than it was on Saturday. The Wolf Pack lost their second leading scorer Shavon Moore to a knee injury (most likely a career-ending ACL injury) in the Aggies' 63-59 victory.

New Mexico State can finish 8-8 in conference play with a win over Idaho on Thursday and a win over Boise State on Saturday. The Aggies owe Idaho. Big time. They've lost six straight to the Vandals and have had leads late in at least three of the last four games.

The Aggies crushed Boise State earlier this season in Boise but the Aggies have not had much success this season the second time around against teams they've previously defeated. The Aggies defeated UTEP in overtime in El Paso but lost the rematch. The Aggies defeated Hawai'i by 16 in Honolulu but lost the rematch in Las Cruces. The Aggies defeated Utah State by four in Las Cruces but lost the rematch in Logan. The lone exception has been the San Jose State series in which the Aggies won by six in San Jose and then won by 25 in Las Cruces.

The Aggies will need to buck the trend this week if they want a first round by and a fourth place finish. Considering the fact that the Aggies have lost six of the last eight conference games it would be an amazing accomplishment, although not unprecedented as the Boise State men are poised to earn a 2nd place finish despite losing six of seven in the middle of the WAC season.

As for the men, things need to change and things need to change quickly. The status of Troy Gillenwater's thumb is of concern for the Aggies as he's put together two lackluster games in a row (a quiet 18 points at SJSU and just six at Hawai'i after suffering the thumb injury). The Aggie interior presence is non-existent right now and that is not just on the offensive end where they Aggie big men put up a bagel over the weekend, a combined 0-for-18, just 17 rebounds and 12 personal fouls.

The SJSU and Hawai'i bigs out-played the Aggie bigs by the tune of 47 points and 44 rebounds for the four big men from San Jose (Matt Ballard and Will Carter) and Hawai'i (Bill Amis and Vander Joaquim) to 0 points and 17 rebounds for Hamidu Rahman and Tshilidzi Nephawe. In fact, Vander Joaquim had almost as many rebounds in the game on Saturday as Rahman and Nephawe had the entire road trip. That has to change for the Aggies and it has to change immediately. The Aggies cannot out-shoot teams. Gordo Castillo is the only true "shooter" that the Aggies have and he was limited to 20 points in the two games combined and with Gillenwater's thumb a major concern, Gordo's scoring needs to go up in these final two games.

The deficiencies of the Aggie interior are not solely limited to the offensive end either. More times that we care to remember there was a wide open lane to the basket against Hawai'i. Of the first 16 points the Warriors scored, all eight buckets were either layups for dunks and there were probably six to eight missed layups by the Warriors where they got all the way to the basket but did not finish (probably due to being surprised they made it all the way uncontested).

The biggest frontcourt in the WAC needs to start playing like they're the biggest frontcourt in the WAC. That means rebounding, blocked shots and stopping drives to the basket.

The other issue that has plagued the Aggies much of the conference season is their transition defense. The Aggies repeatedly got beat down the floor off of both missed and made shots. If you're a coach on the opposing team, your scout on the Aggies right now is to push the ball off of makes and misses because there's a better than 50/50 chance that you're going to beat two or three Aggie defenders down the floor.

Heading into the WAC tournament last year the Aggies' two biggest concerns were... rebounding and defense. The Aggies somehow figured out a way to shore up both of those in time for the WAC tournament. They'll need to do the same this year. If they don't, their season will end and it won't end the way any of them or us want it to.

On to today's links...  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: New Mexico State Seeding Scenarios

Coming off another disappointing road trip the Aggies have slipped from second to third behind Boise State who has one game remaining. Boise State had a midseason swoon in which they lost six of seven games but have rebounded with five in a row including four straight conference games to move into second place. The Broncos finish up with a home game against San Jose State and can finish 10-6. There are two games left for the Aggies and they face Utah State and Nevada at home. They can finish 10-6 and if they do, they'll earn the 2-seed due winning the tiebreaker with Boise State. The two teams split their regular season meetings but the Aggies would earn the 2-seed in this scenario because they would have spit with Utah State while the Broncos were swept by USU.

The armageddon scenario for the WAC would be the one in which Hawai'i and Nevada both win their final two games to finish 9-7, New Mexico State splits and finishes 9-7 (beating Utah State and losing to Nevada), Idaho defeats Fresno State to finish 9-7 and Boise State loses to San Jose State to finish 9-7. That would render a 5-way tie for second place.

The first tiebreaker when there are more than two teams tied is to look at each teams' head-to-head record against the teams they are tied with. In this scenario the records would be as follows:

Boise State: 5-3 (swept Idaho, split with Nevada, New Mexico State, Hawai'i)
New Mexico State: 4-4 (swept Idaho, split with Boise State, Hawai'i, swept by Nevada)
Idaho: 4-4 (swept Hawai'i and Nevada, swept by Boise State and New Mexico State)
Nevada: 4-4 (swept New Mexico State, split with Boise State and Hawai'i, swept by Idaho)
Hawai'i: 3-5 (split with Boise State, Nevada and New Mexico State, swept by Idaho)

In this scenario Boise State would earn the 2-seed by virtue of finishing with the best head-to-head record among the four other teams they're tied with. Hawai'i would be seeded 6th because of a 3-5 record against the other four teams.

Here's where it gets tricky. NMSU, Idaho and Nevada would each sport a 4-4 record against the other four teams with NMSU sweeping Idaho, Idaho sweeping Nevada and Nevada sweeping New Mexico State. According to Jason Erickson, the WAC's men's basketball media relations director, in that case then the three teams' records against the team starting from first place down would examined (in this case Utah State). Since Idaho and New Mexico State both split with the Utags and NMSU split with Boise State and Idaho was swept, NMSU would earn the 3-seed, Idaho the 4-seed and Nevada the 5-seed (UI would own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Nevada).

The Aggie men control their own destiny. Win out and they earn the 2-seed if they don't then things look like this:

2-seed: Aggies win out
2-seed: Aggies defeat USU, lose to Nevada, BSU loses to SJSU, Nevada loses to LA Tech

3-seed: Aggies defeat USU, lose to Nevada, BSU loses to SJSU, Nevada defeats to LA Tech, Idaho loses to Fresno State
3-seed: Aggies defeat USU, lose to Nevada, Nevada defeats LA Tech, Idaho defeats Fresno State, BSU defeats SJSU
3-seed: Aggies lose to USU, defeat Nevada and BSU loses to SJSU (BSU wins tie-breaker due to sweep of Fresno State)
3-seed: Aggies lose to USU, defeat Nevada, BSU defeats SJSU

4-seed: Aggies defeat USU, lose to Nevada, Nevada defeats LA Tech, Idaho defeats Fresno State (Aggies own head-to-head tiebreaker with Idaho)
4-seed: Aggies defeat USU, lose to Nevada, Nevada defeats LA Tech, BSU loses to SJSU, Idaho defeats Fresno State
4-seed: Aggies lose to USU and Nevada, Nevada defeats LA Tech, Idaho loses to Fresno State

5-seed: Aggies lose to USU and Nevada, Nevada defeats LA Tech, Idaho defeats Fresno State

That's our best guess of the scenarios. There's probably a scenario or two that we missed but that's about the gist of it. Hopefully the Aggies just win out and avoid all this mess.

You can examine the tiebreaker rules after the jump.  Continue Reading This Post >>