Saturday, March 10, 2012
Aggies win and will play….Louisiana Tech
The New Mexico State Aggies will be in the WAC Championship game tonight at 10 p.m. to take on….Louisiana Tech?
That's right, the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs beat No. 1-seeded Nevada in the WAC semifinals 78-73 to move onto the title game — NMSU beat Hawaii earlier in the night 92-81 to also advance to Saturday's championship.
First off, like the Aggies, Louisiana Tech has been playing good basketball over the past month of the season.
While the Aggies have won eight of nine, Louisiana Tech has won seven of eight — with both teams falling at Nevada as their lone losses. You're not going to find two WAC teams playing better basketball at the moment. It's actually been a great WAC Tourney with compelling games across the board, although it has held true to form that two hot teams are in fact meeting in the finals.
The Bulldogs are well coached and are playing with house money right now.
That, and NMSU is 2-0 against Louisiana Tech this year. While it's been a rallying cry that it's hard to beat a team three times in a row during a season — something we talked about for NMSU's benefit in anticipation of them facing Nevada again for a WAC title — now the shoe's on the other foot. That psychological edge is actually flipped, and the Aggies could be considered the hunted now, as opposed to the other way around.
Yet, while I'll reserve to make my final pick for the game until later Saturday leading up to the contest, here's why I like NMSU at the moment.
First off, they match up well with Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs like to run — it should be a fun and entertaining championship game — as do the Aggies (although NMSU's transition defense was a weakness in their Friday win over Hawaii).
The Aggies also have a serious advantage inside — the only team in the WAC that truly matches up with NMSU was in fact Nevada, who is obviously now eliminated.
I really also think the Aggies have simply come too far and have worked too hard. This is their season — a one-game season. And what scenario would you have rather had going into the WAC Tourney? Playing No. 7 Fresno State, No. 3 Idaho and No. 1 Nevada? Or No. 7 Fresno State, No. 6 Hawaii and No. 5 Louisiana Tech? As written in a previous blog post prior to Friday's game, things have shaped up well for NMSU as things have unfolded in this tournament.
And I just have to believe the Aggies leadership contingency — namely senior Wendell McKines — is not going to allow the team to lose here. I really think this team — McKines' team — is on a mission right now and would be tough to beat no matter who would be standing in their way on Saturday.
Again, this is my feeling now. I will confirm before tip off later today.
And some thoughts from the Aggies win over the Warriors….
First off, I thought this was a great game — very entertaining, up and down action.
The Aggies were leading 22-2 to start things off although, ironically, such a deficit seemed to get the Warriors loose and they began playing better. They came back and made a game of it.
Yet every time the Warriors would knock on the door, NMSU would make winning plays — similar to the night before against Fresno State only Friday's game against Hawaii was tighter.
No play epitomized this fact — nor was bigger — than Hernst Laroche's four-point play that took a 65-64 Aggie lead and made it 69-64. If Laroche missed that shot, Hawaii gets the rebound and they have a chance to take the lead. Instead, Laroche hits the 3-pointer, is fouled and drains the free throw. HUGE. Aggies back up five.
And, when it was all said and done, NMSU still won the game by double digits.
As stated above, the problem for the Aggies was transition defense.
Even when NMSU would score a basket, Hawaii would get into their transition offense — which invariably seemed to end in either a layup or dunk attempt.
The Aggies played great defense against Fresno State in the opening round of the tournament, but fell off some against UH.
Just want to say this about Tyrone Watson: he does so many intangible things that might not even show up in the box score.
Ultimately, Watson is better when he's playing within himself and not forcing jump shots, but just look at his ability in the halfcourt offense, when the Aggies are facing a zone defense.
Watson can penetrate that zone and is a very good interior passer — a fine passer for a small forward.
He defends, seems mature and brings his lunch pale. He's made clutch free throws throughout the year.
He's a valuable — and unique — player for the Aggies.
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