NMSU notebook: Inside game now a strength

NMSU notebook: Inside game now a strength

Published Jan. 16, 2012 1:21 p.m. ET

Just two seasons ago, New Mexico State was in love with the 3-point shot, shooting more -- by far -- than any team in the WAC. That team featured guards Jonathan Gibson and Jahmar Young and averaged 22.8 3-pointers per game.

Now, NMSU is all about getting the ball inside and dominating the paint. That works, too.

Here's an example: The Aggies had a 38-21 rebounding edge against Idaho on Saturday, when they took only 10 shots from behind the arc in an 80-68 victory. New Mexico State's focus on getting inside -- either by the pass or through guards driving -- resulted in 32 free throw attempts, 20 more than the Vandals.

That also is emblematic of this New Mexico State team, one that doesn't settle for jumpers, even against a zone, like Idaho tried. The Aggies, through Jan. 14, had made more throws (419) than anybody in the WAC had attempted.

"We went to our strength, which was inside," forward Tyrone Watson told the Las Cruces Sun-News after beating Idaho. "They allowed us to shoot, but we still penetrated and attacked. We just were more dominant inside."

NMSU (13-5 overall, 3-0 in the WAC) has emerged as the primary threat in the conference to Nevada -- both teams have wins over Utah State. The Aggies scored 52 points in the paint in their 80-60 win over Utah State.

"We have strengths," coach Marvin Menzies said in the Sun-News. "And a lot of our weaknesses are things that can be improved on."


-- New Mexico State had 18 turnovers against Idaho on Jan. 14 after the Aggies committed only six vs. Utah State. The game before that, NMSU had 20 turnovers at Louisiana Tech. Coach Marvin Menzies has made ball security an emphasis in practice, hoping to get a more consistent performance in that aspect of the game. "The treadmill is an amazing tool when used properly," he told the Las Cruces Sun-News. "The guys were punished severely in practice when they turned the ball over. I think they got the message. It was just a matter of concentrating and making it an emphasis."

-- New Mexico State has often battled Utah State for WAC supremacy in recent seasons. NMSU's 20-point win over the "other" Aggies on Jan. 12 was its largest margin in the rivalry since the 2007-08 season, when the Las Cruces Aggies posted a 100-70 victory.

-- New Mexico State improved to 20-3 in the series with Idaho with its victory on Jan. 14. The Aggies are 12-0 vs. the Vandals in Las Cruces.

BY THE NUMBERS: 66.8 -- Free-throw percentage for New Mexico State, ranking only sixth in the WAC. While the Aggies shoot far more free throws than anybody in the league (419 of 627), they are leaving a few points on the table each game by not making a higher percentage.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "As long as we play hard and play within ourselves, I feel as though the sky is the limit." -- Senior F Wendell McKines, as quoted in the Las Cruces Sun-News.


-- Freshman G Daniel Mullings scored a team-high 17 points against Utah
State on Jan. 12, and he followed with six points and seven rebounds
against Idaho two nights later. He has played well since stepping into
the starting lineup for Christian Kabongo, who was suspended before
leaving the program. Mullings' efforts have been critical to the keeping the season on track,
as the Aggies are down to a seven-man rotation. Mullings, who entered
the week averaging 7.5 points, should keep getting better as the season
goes on.

-- Junior F Bandja Sy made No. 6 on ESPN's Top Ten plays on Jan. 12 with his monster dunk late in the game against Utah State. It was an overall strong game for Sy, who had eight points and a career-high-tying nine rebounds.

-- Senior PF Wendell McKines was making his case for WAC Player of the Year, entering the week second in the league in scoring (18.3 points per game) and first in rebounding (10.7).

-- Freshman G Terrel de Rouen suffered a torn ACL in the home win over McNeese State on Dec. 21 and is out for the season. He's a local kid from Las Cruces who appeared in half of the team's first 12 games, averaging 2.2 points and filling some backup point guard minutes.