Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's New Mexico State Monday night at Walt McPherson Court

New Mexico State is coming off a 79-66 Saturday road victory in Fresno that was effectively over at halftime when the score was 40-22. The Aggies were selected by both the media and the WAC coaches to finish in third place this season but had been shut out on the road prior to Saturday, being 0-6.

Coach Marvin Menzies (aided by the NMSU athletics site)

In his first year at the helm of the New Mexico State men’s basketball team, head coach Marvin Menzies led the Aggies to their first regular season WAC title. NMSU was co-champions after posting a 12-4 league record, which is the best mark in three seasons in the conference. Menzies also directed the Aggies to their second consecutive appearance in the WAC Tournament title game...

...The 2007-08 edition was a veteran team with five seniors....

...Menzies became the 24th coach in the history of Aggie basketball, June 29, 2007, after spending two seasons as an assistant coach under Rick Pitino at Louisville...

...Prior to joining the Cardinals’ staff, Menzies spent one year at UNLV under former Atlanta Hawks coach Lon Kruger (2004-05). With the Running Rebels, Menzies helped sign an incoming class that was rated fourth in the nation.

Before his time at UNLV, Menzies worked at Southern California for a season as an assistant coach (2003-04) under current Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Henry Bibby.

Menzies had a four-year tenure at San Diego State (1999-03).

Season to date

Nov 15 UC Riverside 79 - 52 (W)
Nov 18 @ Southern California 60 - 73 (L)
Nov 21 Pepperdine 90 - 66 (W)
Nov 30 @ Long Beach State 77 - 82 (L)
Dec 03 @ Kansas 79 - 100 (L)
Dec 06 @ North Texas 83 - 85 (L)
Dec 11 Sacramento State 76 - 65 (W)
Dec 14 UTEP 90 - 78 (W)
Dec 17 Prairie View A&M 88 - 74 (W)
Dec 20 @ UTEP 69 - 84 (L)
Dec 23 @ New Mexico 62 - 76 (L)
Dec 28 Loyola Marymount 104 - 62 (W)
Dec 30 New Mexico 66 - 68 (L)
Jan 03 @ Fresno State 79-66 W

The expected NMSU starting five

C Hamidu Rahman 6-11 freshman 7.8 ppg., 4.6 rpg.
F Wendell McKines 6-6 sophomore 12.9 ppg., 8.9 rpg.
G Jahmar Young 6-5 sophomore 17.2 ppg., 3.9 rpg.
G Jonathan Gibson 6-1 junior 15.6 ppg., 2.0 rpg.
G Hernst Laroche 6-5 sophomore 4.5 ppg., 2.2 rpg., 4.5 apg.

Rahman -- He is a redshirt freshman with the expected ups-and-downs of an initial season. To date, he has made 11 starts in 14 games, playing just below half of each contest. Rahman is taking around four shots a game and making 63% of his attempts. What's intriguing is his rebounding differential -- there almost isn't any. He has nabbed 32 defensive rebounds versus 28 at the offensive end. He's not getting blocked out.

McKines -- He played at Richmond High in the East Bay so there will be a contingent of fans in the stands rooting for him. One of the quickest jumpers at the college level, he's good for a couple of spectacular slams and plays a game. His numbers this season indicate better ball skills and more range to his shot -- he has 23 assists and a likewise number of turnovers and he's 6-14 shooting from long range. McKines went for 18 points, 12 boards and six assists against Fresno.

Young -- He is the leading Aggie candidate for WAC All-League honors if he can duplicate in conference what he has accomplshed in non-league play. Currently at 48% shooting overall and 44% from three-point range, Young is the top creator on offense and led the Aggies with 25 points against the Bulldogs.

Gibson -- Gibson has been disciplined a couple of times this season -- penalties not congruent with someone who should be the leader on the team as a junior and the most veteran player. He's shooting a sharp 45% and 44% from the floor and long distance respectively but his 31/26 assist-to-turnover ratio needs to get better. Gibson leads the Aggies with 20 steals.

Laroche -- Call this kid the leading candidiate for the WAC Surprise of the Season as he currently leads in assist/turnover ratio (2.90) during New Mexico State's non-conference slate. He has started every game and is averaging 30 minutes of play -- this after coming in late from Canada. He's also one of the few NMSU backcourters who looks for the pass first. His shooting numbers are solid.

Troy Gillenwater -- He started early on but has been coming off the bench of late. Count him as another solid freshman, he's shooting and rebounding well and leads the team in blocked shots. Gillenwater has been positioned at center at times and usually can hold his own if he isn't up against some physical behemoth. he notched eight points and an equal number of rebounds against Fresno State.

Robert Lumpkins -- Another redshirt freshman, his numbers aren't all that impressive but he's long and lean and should be a solid member of the Aggie rotation in future seasons.

Terrance Joyner -- A newly eligible freshman, he's more a scorer than a true point but it's his creative ability that will pay dividends down the road.

Gordo Castillo -- Call him the NMSU designated shooter -- he shot 4-5 overall and 2-3 from three-point land against Fresno.

As a Team

*** NMSU is shooting 47% overall as a collective while holding opponents to just below 42%.

*** The Aggies are close to shooting 41% from trey land -- a remarkable overall number.

*** Unlike previous seasons, New Mexico State is being out-rebounded -- opposing teams are grabbing 40 a game to 35 for the Aggies.

*** Although Menzies' squad has 20 or so more assists than opponents it's the similar Aggie deficit in turnovers that has hurt the team.

The complete NMSU roster (by position)

Tray Britt G 6-3 195 Jr.
Jahmar Young G 6-4 160 So.
Hernst Laroche G 6-1 170 Fr.
Makhtar Diop G 6-0 165 Fr.
Jonathan Gibson G 6-2 180 Jr.
Terrance Joyner G 6-2 175 Fr.
Aaron Castillo G 6-4 180 So

Kelly Merker F 6-4 190 Sr.
Robert Lumpkins F 6-6 190 So.
Wendell McKines F 6-6 224 So.
Troy Gillenwater F 6-8 230 Fr.
Tyrone Watson F 6-5 220 Fr.

Hamidu Rahman C 7-0 240 Fr.
Chris Gabriel C 6-11 240 Fr.

What else

*** NMSU needs consistent shooting along with consistent ballhandling in order to prevail. Against Fresno State, the Aggies shot 49% overall, 50% from three-point range (7-14) and notched a remarkable 21 assists in 31 baskets. Only 10-20 free throw shooting marred the effort.

*** What may or may not be important is the 20 fouls whistled against New Mexico State to 14 for Fresno State Saturday night. San Jose State was out-free throw attempted 29-12 Saturday night by Louisiana Tech.

*** Watch the matchup between 6-5 Jahmar Young and 6-7 Tim Pierce as Pierce has the height and long arms to bother Young defensively.

*** The Aggies don't have the inside scoring force Louisiana Tech displayed although Rahman and especially McKines and Gillenwater can score. Foul trouble for the Spartan bigs should not be an issue against New Mexico State.

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