Friday, March 2, 2012
Thoughts following NMSU's road loss to Nevada
In Thursday night's Aggies loss to Nevada, a 65-61 defeat in Reno, NMSU looked like the team we saw at times earlier this season.
I don't think Nevada changed its scouting report one bit for this one.
They packed it in and dared the Aggies to shoot the ball over their zone defense, where at times there were five white jerseys in the paint.
While NMSU hit 7 of 18 3-point attempts, many of their open looks came in transition — not in the halfcourt game — and the Aggie offense in general wasn't as balanced as it's been in recent weeks, when they've shot the 3-ball better.
The Aggies won on the glass in the first half and, at that point, things were looking promising for NMSU. They were down 43-36, although Nevada shot the ball very well and, again, NMSU was taking care of business on the backboards. The Wolf Pack clearly made that a priority at halftime. After pulling down 12 offensive rebounds in the first half — an astounding number — NMSU had six in the final 20 minutes of play.
Center Hamidu Rahman was ineffective and I can understand why.
Rahman has a predictable offensive game — he goes right, doesn't fake, and goes up. Such a tactic works against 6-foot-7 post defenders, but not against Nevada's Dario Hunt — who had six blocks on the evening.
Malik Story was uncontious in the first half, hitting from DEEP 3-point territory — Story caught fire and was knocking them down from beyond NBA range.
Lets just say it, you can't guard against that, particularly in a zone defense.
Much has been made about the final 20 seconds of the game, when, with the Aggies trailing 63-61, the team ran an offensive play that ended in Hernst Laroche panicking and throwing the ball away with one second to go.
Should the Aggies have called a timeout on the play?
Lets just start out by saying, calling a timeout there is circumstantial. Of course, you could call one. But it also would have allowed Nevada to make a defensive adjustment, get settled in their alignment and come up with a plan of their own. There is no guarantee the Aggies would have had success if they elected to call a timeout on that particular play.
With that being said, I would have liked to see them call one. The team is on the road and, generally, you don't call one when your team knows what it's doing — which the Aggies clearly didn't. Laroche panicked when Hunt came out to defend him on the perimeter, and the play broke down. At that point, call the timeout.
There was also a questionable timeout called by the Aggies with just over a minute remaining when, down four, they had Wendell McKines on the right side, 10-feet from the hoop, one-on-one with his defender. McKines hit a jump shot, but the Aggies called a timeout right before the play. NMSU actually scored coming out of the timeout — a Tyrone Watson pass caromed off a defender and right to Daniel Mullings, who was able to dunk the ball. It was a lucky play, but it worked out and covered another possible error.
Game management is obviously key, and the Aggies had some questionable moves in this area.
With all this being said, I still like the Aggies chances in a rematch against Nevada in the WAC Tournament Championship game — if both teams get that far.
That isn't a guarantee at this point either, although I do believe if both clubs come out focused — if they aren't looking ahead at each other — than they should beat their WAC competition and find each other in a rematch.
It's not a question of who's the better team — Nevada has proven they are, and if both clubs played 10 times the Wolf Pack would likely win six, seven, eight of those games.
Yes, NMSU would get some wins in there too, though, and are already 0-2 on the season against the Wolf Pack — in other words, the percentages work more in the Aggies favor. It's hard to beat a team with comparable talent three times in a row. If it was just a random night in March, Nevada could very well be the pick, but that won't be the case here.
Again, if a rematch were to go down, the two teams would meet for a third game in three nights. Will the Wolf Pack — a team with limited depth — be able to shoot at a high rate from 3-point territory? It will be tougher.
Meanwhile, we know the Aggies game — they're going to pound it inside regardless, and are big, strong a physical.
And lets look back at Thursday's game. The Aggies had some costly turnovers and went seven minutes without scoring — almost 10 without a field goal. They hit 5 of 11 free throws in the first half. And they were still in it with a chance to win late.
They didn't give up and fought back from a late deficit. Deep down, this has to feel good for this team — they weren't blown out and must know they can beat the Wolf Pack.
Also, there's the possibility the game could mean more to the Aggies. Nevada had a 16-game winning streak this year, had a 13-1 conference record and won the WAC outright. They have a shot at an at-large berth into the Big Dance. Meanwhile, for the Aggies it will be clear. Either win and go to the NCAA Tournament, or lose and go to the NIT.
In other words, I think the Aggies could have an emotional edge going into the game.
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