LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico State men’s basketball team has had its way with UTEP of late. UTEP has reloaded and looks capable of getting even.
The Aggies (4-2) host UTEP in first of two Battle of I-10 games today, having won four out the last five against the Miners.
“We’ve done pretty well against them recently,” NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. “But they restocked and reloaded quite well. The (UTEP coaching staff) did a great job in recruiting and have put some big-time athletes on the floor.
“This would be a good win, regardless of rivalry or not. Either way, this would just be a very rewarding win.”
UTEP is coming off a 99-90 double-overtime victory over Colorado State to win the Corpus Christi Coast Classic last weekend and is 6-0 for the first time in 15 years. Senior guard Earvin Morris scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half as the Miners rallied from a 47-30 halftime deficit.
Morris, a 6-foot-4 guard, shoots 52 percent from the field and averages 17.4 points per game, just under the team-best 17.7 by Wallace State (Ala.) Community College transfer Lee Moore (6-4 junior guard). And Oregon transfer Dominic Artis (6-3 junior guard) leads the team in assists (6.0, to go with 11.4 points per game).
New Mexico State has had dominant play from 6-9 sophomore post Pascal Siakam, who leads the nation in field goals (63) while ranking second in scoring (26.8) and 11th in rebounding (11.8).
The Aggies will look to take care of the ball better than they did in their last game, when they turned it over 19 times in a 66-64 overtime loss to Air Force in Colorado Springs on Saturday. But Menzies feels that his team’s confidence isn’t shaken.
“You go into this 2-4 rather than 4-2, you maybe have a different mindset. But I think they’ll respond and come out and play better basketball than they did Saturday for sure.”
WOMEN: If the 6-0 Aggies feel they are one of the nation’s best teams that nobody knows anything about, they can do a little bit about that today at Arizona against the 4-1 Wildcats.
Coach Mark Trakh’s team is coming off an 87-53 win over of Northern Arizona on Saturday in the Aggies’ Thanksgiving tournament. Brianna Freeman, the reigning Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week, has a team-leading 13.8 points per game and is one of four Aggies who average in double figures.
Of New Mexico State’s six wins, only one has been by fewer than 11 points. But only one has been on the road.
Arizona returns three starters from last year’s 10-20 team. Malena Washington averages a team-high 10.3 points per game.
Redshirt freshman Taryn Griffey, daughter of ex-major leaguer Ken Griffey Jr., is averaging 10 points per outing.