IRVINE, Calif. — Short of a tournament title, New Mexico State’s men’s basketball team got so much of what it wanted out of its Diamond Head Classic performances in Hawaii.
Thursday night on the mainland, however, the 11-3 Aggies are facing what could be the classic trap in the final nonconference game on the schedule.
First-year coach Chris Jans takes his team to UC Irvine — 5-10 with a 172 Ratings Percentage Index that won’t do much for the Aggies.
But it figures to be a tough matchup just because of travel alone. NMSU took a red-eye Monday night to Los Angeles following its 77-72 defeat to Southern Cal earlier in the day in the Diamond Head finale. Three games in four days in Honolulu — including wins over Davidson and then-No. 6, unbeaten Miami — proved the Aggies have the wherewithal to compete against some major players from major conferences.
Since Monday, the priority has been to get some rest and prepare to avoid undoing what good was done in Hawaii. The Aggies were to use Wednesday as a normal prep day while getting to their shootaround and game plan this morning.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Jans told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “… We had a hard time matching dates with them (UC Irvine) and this was probably the best option that we had. We ran with it and time will tell if it was a good decision or not.”
New Mexico State came into Wednesday with a 39 RPI that doesn’t figure to get better as the season goes on with the arrival of the Western Athletic Conference schedule.
NMSU leads the all-time series with the Anteaters 29-9 but needed overtime to beat them last year at the Pan Am Center, 85-79.
New Mexico State at UC Irvine
8 p.m., BigWest.TV (free streaming)
99.5 FM (Las Cruces), 1150 AM (ABQ)