Time to get physical; Aggies look to rebound in Pit vs. Lobos - Albuquerque Journal

Time to get physical; Aggies look to rebound in Pit vs. Lobos

Aggies center Will McNair and Lobos point guard Jaelen House fight for a loose ball during last week’s UNM win in Las Cruces. The two teams go at it again Monday night, this time in the Pit. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

Jack Nixon is a sportscasting legend in these parts.

But if Chris Jans never has to hear him call another Aggie basketball game over the air waves again, that’d suit the fifth year New Mexico State head coach just fine.

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Stuck at home last Tuesday on the night of the UNM Lobos/NMSU Aggies rivalry game due to COVID protocols that cost him 10 days and two games away from his team, Jans was like most people across the state who were left scrambling for ways to follow the game after a power outage wiped the live video stream off the “air.”

He settled in on listening to Nixon do what Jans described as a “remarkable job” calling the game courtside from his flip phone. Unfortunately for Jans, not being able to see or having any control over the action simply wasn’t that enjoyable for the head coach, especially considering the outcome of the game — a 101-94 Lobos rivalry victory.

“That that was painful, to be honest with you.,” Jans said. “Because, you know, in your mind, you’re trying to think about how he’s calling the action and what actually happened. And it was just … As I look back, I wish I wouldn’t have listened to it. I mean, I had no control anyway. It was very frustrating.”

Monday, Jans will be back on the bench and the Aggies (6-2) look to rebound — literally and figuratively — against the Lobos (5-3) at 7 p.m. in the Pit.

Last week’s game was the first time in seven rivalry contests since Jans took over at NMSU that UNM outrebounded the Aggies (39-35 with a 13-8 advantage in second chance points).

It was unexpected considering rebounding has been the biggest weakness for UNM this season.

Lobos coach Richard Pitino has emphasized in recent weeks “hitting” opponents when a shot goes up, not just running to the ball.

“I liked the block outs last game more so than the actual rebounding,” Pitino said, but acknowledged his team is a long way from being a consistently good rebounding squad. “Our fours and fives should be getting a lot more rebounds than they’re getting.”

Jay Allen-Tovar led UNM with 11 boards while the Aggies were led by guard Teddy Allen’s nine.

In the previous six games in the series under Jans, NMSU outrebounded UNM on average 41.5-29.3 and had the edge in second-chance points 17.8-8.7.

“At this point, this team, for whatever reason, hasn’t shown the ability to perform like (past NMSU teams) in the rebounding part of the game,” Jans said. “… We just haven’t been able to get them to wear it. We haven’t been able to get them to buy into it. And ultimately, it’s on me. I mean, I’m the one that sets the tone.”

FINALLY: Lobo guard Saquan Singleton currently holds the record for most games played by a Lobo without ever playing a home game at 25.

The 6-6 senior from Bronx, New York, played in 22 games in the 2020-21 season when the Lobos played entirely outside of New Mexico due to state health restrictions. He has played three games this season — two in Las Vegas, Nevada, and one in Las Cruces — since being cleared by doctors last month following a bout with COVID and a heart abnormality.

Assuming Singleton checks into Monday’s game, the top of that list will include three of his teammates from last season who have all since left the program after playing 20 games outside of the state: Bayron Matos, Rod Brown and Valdir Manuel.

HAUNTED HOUSE: Maybe it wasn’t déjà vu, but it’s understandable if any Aggie fans thought there was something familiar about UNM’s Jaelen House going off against NMSU.

House, the Arizona State transfer, scored 31 points, hit 10-of-11 free throws, had five assists and one turnover for UNM on Tuesday.

His dad, Arizona State’s all-time leading scorer Eddie House, rallied the Sun Devils to an 83-77 win on March 15, 2000, over the Aggies in the opening round of the NIT in Tempe, Arizona. The elder House had 32 points, hit 10-of-13 free throws, had four assists and three turnovers.

Eric Channing led NMSU with 21 points and a freshman named Brandon Mason scored two points off the bench (Mason now coaches youth basketball in Albuquerque but has been on staff at both NMSU and UNM in recent years).

MILLER’S TIME: Fans may think they were telling Jans something he wanted to hear since last week’s loss to the Lobos, a game he wasn’t present for due to COVID protocols.

Jans said some people made comments like the Aggies would have won if he was present instead of interim coach James Miller. That doesn’t sit well with the coach.

“I cringe when I hear that. That is so unfair to the guys that were left to try to coach the team during practice, during film sessions during the games,” said Jans, who noted he’s been a DI assistant longer than he’s been a head coach and he knows the relationship an assistant is asked to have with players is very different than the one head coaches have, and one that is hard to just switch on and off for two games.

He added: “I don’t know if there’s anyone out there that I would have rather had taken the reins over when I had to be out for 10 days.”

Monday: New Mexico State at New Mexico, 7 p.m., 770 AM/96.3 FM (Abq.), 99.5 FM (Las Cruces), themw.com (streaming)


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