The Miners had their first taste of college basketball's new rules on Saturday night, and things didn't turn out in their favor. Coach Tim Floyd stressed that the loss was more a product of "pititful" defense, rather than fouls or officiating, but its clear this team will have to figure out exactly how to adjust to playing a new style of defense.
UTEP had three players rack up two fouls each just minutes into the game, and as a team they would finish the night with a total of 30 personals. Despite being down just four points at the half, New Mexico State would open a lead of as big as 18 on three different occasions in the second half, and would eventually walk away with the 86-73 victory.
The Aggies would get on the board first, and after the two teams traded buckets in the opening minutes, they would use multiple runs to open leads of 9 points and 7 points well into the first 20 minutes. Each time, the Miners would scrap and claw their way back into the game, and found themselves down just four after a fairly poor performance in the first half.
McKenzie Moore would score the first four points of the second half to knot the game at 37, but the Aggies would fire back with 8 of the next 10 points to push their lead back up to 8 at 47-39 with 15:37 to play.
The Miners would answer back with 6 straight of their own to get the game back to a two point difference, but that would be as close as the Miners would come the rest of the way.
New Mexico State would quickly push the lead up to 9 at 56-47, and they would only continue to open things up as the second half went on. They would eventually own leads of 80-62, 82-64, and 84-66, and the Miners would be unable to overcome the deficit.
The Miners would actually shoot a red hot 60.9% from the field in the second half, but it just wasn't enough as the Aggies shot a blazing 72.2% en route to the 86-63 victory.
Daniel Mullings, who finished with 26 points on 9-14 shooting, led the way for the Aggies on the night. The 7'5 Sim Bhullar was the only other NMSU player in double figure scoring, going for 11 points and 6 rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. Four others finished with 9 points apiece.
Freshman Vince Hunter led the Miners in scoring, going for 16 points and 3 rebounds on just 4-5 shooting and 8-12 free throws in only 20 minutes of play. Julian Washburn finished with 15 points, and McKenzie Moore chipped in with 12.
Coach Floyd had this to say following the loss:
"I thought the game was established in the first three minutes. We had seven fouls in the first three minutes of the game, which put them in the one and one, and they were able to go utilize that. They just drove us and took it by us and we continued to foul...Their guards were good in transition, their big guys whooped us on the glass, and this is a good Aggie team. We knew it coming over here, and we just didn't have any answers for them."
New Mexico State dominated not only on the scoreboard, but also on the stat sheet. They out-rebounded the Miners 37-23, they out-shot the Miners 56.8% to 46%, and they attempted 47 free throws to the Miners' 34.
It was clear that on this night, the Aggies were the better team. The Miners were scrappy and hung in for as long as they could, but in the end they just had no answer for anything NMSU brought to the table.
They'll have to regroup and get ready for their next contest, at home, against West Alabama. That contest tips in less than 48 hours, as they'll host the Tigers at 2:00 p.m. Sunday in the Don Haskins Center.
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