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.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg


Anonymous said...

When Nevada's best player is out guarding our best shooter, that shooter needs to give up the ball or call a timeout. Didn't happen. Menzies could have called a timeout form the bench and didn't do it.

So what if Nevada set up a defense. At least taking a shot and making it or getting in position for a rebound is better than watching the ball fly over Watson's head. No shot is no chance.

Yeah, the Aggies have a good opportunity in the tourney. But then again, so do Nevada, Utah State, Idaho, and the rest.

Why not mix the lineup against Nevada. Put McKines at center, Watson at forward. Put Sy out there with Hearnst and Mullings. We'd have some speed and hustle and possible throw something Nevada isn't expecting.

One other thing about Rahman is he doesn't ball fake very well on shots. He's so predictable that a 6'7" player could block him.

Anonymous said...

I aggree with that suggested line-up---I have been thinking the same thing most of the season.

Anonymous said...

My take;

Whiteout looked great on TV.

McKines taking a swing at the Nevada player warranted being ejected even if it didn't connect. Hopefully he will be suspended by the WAC for the Tournament. McKines is a thug and shouldn't even be considered for WAC POY..

Anonymous said...

Actually, McKines didn't take a swing at the player. Look at the replay. His hand is open; it was more of an emotional flail that wasn't aimed at anyone. The refs reviewed at it and saw the same thing.

The WAC is not going to do anything because there is no reason to. Period.

So, whatever team you are a fan of, look out because big Wen is going to be on the court scoring points and rebounding and adding his energy to the team.

Too bad for you.


Anonymous said...

One more thing, McKines WILL be the player of the year.


Anonymous said...

Move on... U sound like a fool! McKines is easily the best player in the league and Should get POY without question! His gesture was similar to when a player throws their arms up! Emotion is part of the game! If wen tried swinging I'm sure he would have connected! U want him suspended so he don't dominate ur favorite team whoever that may be! Go cry on another blog....

Anonymous said...

If we had a coach who had a clue, I agree a TO should have been called. My guess is Laroche and the others did not call one because of lack of confidence in MM. Nevada's coach would have called a D that outclassed whatever MM called for. Otherwise, for a senior point guard, its a no brainer - call the TO!
Aggie Glare