I think it’s safe to say Thursday night’s New Mexico State 64-51 win over Utah State University was arguably — or better yet, probably — the best performance of the season for the Aggies.
It was really about their defense, which was outstanding. The Aggies got easier shots throughout the night than the UtAgs and that fact showed in the two teams' respective shooting percentages: NMSU hit 57 percent of its shots, while USU shot at a 39-percent clip. The Aggies have been a good defensive team the past two years and this season they rank fourth in the WAC in defensive scoring (63.6 points per game) and second in field-goal percentage defense (40 percent). It’s been the most consistent element of this Aggie team during the 2012-13 campaign.
The point is, if the Aggies continue playing with that type of defensive mentality the rest of the year, they’ll win their fair-share of road games and have a chance every night in this conference. And, lets not mistake the fact that it's not an impressive basketball conference. There are a handful of decent teams, but NMSU has an opportunity to make a major run here. They’ve won five-straight games and host San Jose State on Saturday night. Denver comes to town next Wednesday (certainly this doesn’t figure to be an easy game for the Aggies).
Then it’s to Texas State and Texas-San Antonio (two teams NMSU handled at the Pan American Center two weeks ago), a home contest against Idaho, another home affair against Seattle, and then a road game at San Jose State. There figures to be some wins here in the Aggies future.
The one thing we can say: The team has been winning games and it’s coincided with the continued progression of 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar. Defensively, he was a force on Thursday (six blocks) as nothing came easy for Utah State. While he finished with five points, he still was a factor in forcing 15 fouls on the UtAgs. Yes, he’s been really coming along, and if he keeps it going at this rate, the freshman’s future is a bright one.
It’s also worth pointing out the recent improved play of point guard K.C. Ross-Miller.
Ross-Miller scored 16 points at Idaho and followed that up by scoring 10 (4 of 6 shooting) against USU, knocking down some big shots in the process.
Lets face it: The Aggies haven’t gotten very good point guard play this year. But this also goes back to the fact the team had a solid, four-year player in Hernst Laroche at the position and many could have become accustomed — perhaps even spoiled — by his steady play.
Ross-Miller is still a young player — a sophomore — and is probably on track in terms of his progression (he played 11 games during the 2010-11 season as a freshman at New Orleans). And, yes, he has played better of late.
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