#13 NMSU practices in preparation for #4 San Diego State

New Mexico State

POSTED: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 8:12pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 10:17pm

The No. 13 seeded New Mexico State men’s basketball team takes on No. 4 seed San Diego State, Thursday, March 20 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament at 7:57 p.m. (MT) in the Spokane, Wash. The game is scheduled to air over the radio waves on the Aggie Sports Network with ‘Voice of the Aggies’ Jack Nixon giving the play-by-play action and will also air on truTV. Live stats are available free of charge at www.NMStateSports.com. In-game score updates are given on Twitter @NMStateAggies.

Looking Ahead
Should the Aggies win the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the team then faces the winner of No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 12 North Dakota State. That game is set to air just before the Aggies take on SDSU, March 20, on truTV. Oklahoma goes into the postseason with a 23-9 season record, while NDSU is 25-6. NM State would meet one of these teams on Saturday, March 22 in Spokane, Wash.

Post-Game Interviews
Fans and media can access post-game video interviews with head coach Marvin Menzies and selected players after each game on-line at www.NMStateSports.com by clicking on the game recap.

About the Aggies
NM State finished the regular season with a 23-9 overall record. After completing the regular season with a 12-4 record in the Western Athletic Conference, the Aggies headed into the WAC Tournament as the #2 seed. NM State defeated Seattle, Bakersfield and Idaho to win their conference tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee placed the Aggies in the West region as the #13 seed where they will face #4 seed San Diego St. in the second round.

The Aggies finished the regular season winning two straight and won eight of their last 10 games regular season games. The two losses during that stretch came at the hands of Idaho (Feb. 6) and Utah Valley (Feb. 27) both on the road. NM State fell by six points to Idaho and to Utah Valley in overtime by five.

NM State, who is currently on a five-game winning streak, put together three winning streaks of four or more wins, including two seven-game win streaks, during the regular season. The first win streak (7 games) started with a win over Tennessee State on Nov. 9, 2013 and ended when NM State was defeated 85-83 at Colorado State on Nov. 30, 2013. The second win streak (7 games) began when the Aggies defeated Drake 81-69 in overtime, Dec. 14, 2013 and ended when they lost to Chicago State, 86-81 on the road. The final win streak ended at four games with wins over Seattle (Feb. 8), Kansas City (Feb. 13), Chicago State (Feb. 15) and UTPA (Feb. 20).

NM State is averaging 77.2 points per game this season while shooting 49.1 percent from the field. They are shooting well from behind the three-point arc as well, hitting 37.3 percent of their three point attempts. The NM State defense is holding its opponents to 40.1 percent from the field and out-rebounding opponents by an average of 37.3 per game to 32.3 per game (+5.0 rebounding margin).

Junior guard Daniel Mullings leads all scorers on the squad with 16.8 points per game and is also the defensive leader on the team with 64 steals on the season. Mullings is also second in the WAC in steals per game with 1.88 per game. He also has 119 assists on the year and is top ten in the league in that category.

Sophomore center Sim Bhullar returned to the court Thursday, Jan. 30, after missing six straight games due to a foot injury, leads the team and the WAC in blocked shots with 99 blocks on the year. Junior Tshilidzi Nephawe is the team leader in rebounds with 274 on the year and Bhullar is right behind him with 228. Nephawe is second on the team and the WAC in blocked shots with 51, which includes a career high six blocks against Idaho, Jan. 11.

Senior Guard Kevin Aronis leads the Aggies in three-point shooting percentage hitting 44.2 percent of shots beyond the arc and is No. 3 in the WAC in three point shooting percentage.

Senior forward/center Renaldo Dixon made 11 consecutive starts, which ended on Feb. 15, against Chicago State and is averaging 25.0 minutes per competition. He is posting 8.4 points per game and grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game.

Looking Back
NM State defeated Idaho by a score of 77-55 on March 15, 2014, for the Western Athletic Conference Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Prior to defeating Idaho in the finals of the WAC Tournament, the Aggies came away victorious in two close games against Seattle by a score of 70-68 on March 13, 2014, and Bakersfield by a score of 69-63 on March 14, 2014.

Junior guard and Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Daniel Mullings, led the Aggies in scoring with 15.7 points per game during the WAC Tournament. He also served as a floor general and got after it on the defensive end, leading the Aggies in assist (14) and steals (5). Sophomore Center, Sim Bhullar, also was an effective presence on the interior. Bhullar averaged 14 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game on his way to earning WAC Tournament Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year.

The Aggies shot a blazing 44.8 percent from the three-point line while holding their opponents to 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. NM State averaged 72 points per game, which was 10 points better than the 62 point per game they allowed. They also crashed the boards effectively as they averaged 35.7 rebounds per contest and only allowed 28.7, outrebounding their opponent by a margin of (+7) in the three game stretch.

The Aggies are making their 21st NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. NM State has a 10-22 record in the Big Dance with a Final Four appearance in 1970. This will be the third straight NCAA Tournament appearance for NM State and the fourth in the last five years. This is the third time the Aggies have made back-to-back-to-back tournament appearances. The Aggies went to four straight NCAA Tournaments, twice, back in 1967 to 1970 and then again from 1990 to 1993. The trip to Spokane, Wash., will be the third for the Aggies, playing in the tournament in Spokane back in 2007 and 2010. The last win for the Aggies in the tournament was in 1993 against Nebraska, as NM State won 93-79. NM State is 0-5 in the last five appearances in the Big Dance and 2-8 in the last ten.

(20 Appearances, 10-22 Record, 1 Final Four)
1952 St. Louis - L, 53-62
Texas Christian - L, 44-61
1959 Idaho State - L, 61-62
1960 Oregon - L, 60-68
1967 Houston - L, 58-59
1968 Weber State - W, 68-57
UCLA - L, 49-58
New Mexico - W, 62-58
1969 Brigham Young - W, 74-62
UCLA - L, 38-53
Weber State - L, 56-58
1970 Rice - W, 101-77
Kansas State - W, 70-66
Drake - W, 87-78
UCLA - L, 77-93
St. Bonaventure - W, 79-73
1971 Houston - L, 69-71
1975 North Carolina - L, 69-93
1979 Weber State - L, 78-81 OT
1990 Loyola Marymount - L, 92-111
1991 Creighton - L, 56-64
1992 DePaul - W, 81-73
Louisiana-Lafayette - W, 81-73
UCLA - L, 78-85
1993 Nebraska - W, 93-79
Cincinnati - L, 55-92
1994 Oklahoma State - L, 55-65
1999 Kentucky - L, 60-82
2007 No. 11 Texas - L, 67-79
2010 No. 12 Michigan State - L, 67-70
2012 No. 17 Indiana - L, 66-79
2013 No. 13 Saint Louis - L, 44-64
2014 No. 5 San Diego State - ???

Aggies all-time versus San Diego State
NM State and the Aztecs will meet for the first time in postseason play on Thursday. The two schools have played each other, however, on four different occasions during the regular season. The Aggies played San Diego State in four-consecutive years, from 1998-2001, under legendary NM State coach Lou Henson.

The Aggies finished 3-1 against the Aztecs during the home-and-home series, picking up two wins at home while going 1-1 in San Diego. The first meeting was held on Dec. 22, 1998, on San Diego State’s home court with NM State winning 66-55. The following year, on Nov. 30, 1999, the Aggies made it two in a row by defeating the Aztecs 66-49 inside the Pan American Center. San Diego State picked its first win of the series on Nov. 21, 2000, after beating NM State 62-77 in California. The Aggies won the most recent matchup between the two schools on Nov. 24, 2001, a 94-79 win in Las Cruces.

12/22/1998 San Diego NM State 66-55
11/30/1999 Las Cruces NM State 66-49
11/21/2000 San Diego SDSU 62-77
11/24/2001 Las Cruces NM State 94-79

Scouting the Aztecs
The San Diego State Aztecs, who are ranked 11th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 13th in the AP Poll, finished the season with an overall record of 29-4, including 16-2 in Mountain West Conference play, 15-1 at home, 10-2 on the road and 4-1 in neutral sites.

This will be the 10th appearance for the Aztecs in the NCAA Tournament, including a school record fifth-consecutive trip to the big tournament. The consecutive streak includes a Sweet 16 appearance in 2011.

Overall, San Diego State has made nine-straight postseason appearances. Head coach Steve Fisher will be making his seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament as the leader of the Aztecs and his 11th overall postseason appearance since becoming San Diego State’s head coach in 1999.

Prior to coming to San Diego State, Fisher won a national championship as interim head coach at Michigan in 1989 and also led the Wolverines to two-consecutive championship game appearances in 1992 and 1993, losing to Duke and North Carolina respectively.

The Aztecs were the MW regular season champions at 16-2 in conference play and lost to New Mexico in the MWC Tournament championship game. San Diego State had a lead with just over a minute to go in the game but wound up losing to the 20th-ranked Lobos, 64-58.

Two of the four Aztec losses came at the hands of New Mexico. The other two losses came to No. 5 Arizona in Tucson and at Wyoming during conference play. San Diego State defeated three top-25 teams including wins over 18th-ranked Creighton and No. 25 Marquette at home and a 61-57 win inside Allen Fieldhouse over Kansas, which was ranked 16th at the time.

Defense has been the calling card for the Aztecs throughout the season. San Diego State led the MW in opponent’s point per game (56.6), opponent’s field-goal percentage (38.4), opponent’s 3-point field goal percentage (28.7), steals (147) and steals per game (4.5).

On the offensive side, the Aztecs averaged 70.6 points per game while shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range. San Diego State also averaged 37.8 rebounds per game and shot 65.3 percent from the free-throw line.

At the conclusion of the MW regular season, the Aztecs garnered both the coach and player of the year for the conference as Fisher was named the MW Coach of the Year while senior guard Xavier Thames, who led the conference in steals, was named the MW Player of the Year. Thames, who was also on the MW first team and all-defensive team, led a group of six San Diego State players to earn MW accolades at the conclusion of the season.

Thames was undoubtedly the leader of the Aztec team. The 6-3 guard led San Diego State in scoring (16.8 points/game), 3-point field goal percentage (38.7), free-throw percentage (82.7), assists (105) and steals (55).

Sophomore forward Winston Shepard was the only other Aztec to average double-figure points, finishing with a 12.1 points per game average. Senior forward Josh Davis led the team in rebounding at 9.7 rebounds per game while 6-10 sophomore Skylar Spencer finished with a team-high .570 shooting percentage and 82 blocks.

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