PHOENIX, AZ (KTSM) — The New Mexico State (NMSU) men’s basketball team is set to return to the floor for their third non-conference game of the 2020-21 season. The Aggies will travel to California to matchup against Cal State Northridge (CSUN) on Monday afternoon inside the Matadome.
Monday’s tilt with the Matadors (3-3) will be the Aggies’ (2-0) first game since Dec. 1, a 92-54 win over Benedictine Mesa. Shortly thereafter, NMSU was forced to suspend team activity following two positive cases of COVID-19 within the Aggies program.
Dating back to last season, NMSU has won 21 consecutive games, tied for the longest win streak in program record. A win on Monday would set a new benchmark.
Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. MT. The game will air on Big West TV.
• Following a layoff of 26 days, the NM State men’s basketball team finally returns to the court Monday (Dec. 28) afternoon as the Aggie do battle at Big West foe CSUN. Tip-off inside The Matadome is slated for 3:00 p.m. MT.
• Due to COVID-19 protocols in place at CSUN, no fans will be admitted inside The Matadome. Those who wish to follow along, however, may do so in multiple ways. The third all-time meeting between the Aggies and Matadors will be streamed online at BigWest.tv.
• Over the airwaves, longtime NM State play-by-play man Jack Nixon will narrate the action from The Matadome on Zia Country 99.5 FM in Las Cruces.
• Listeners outside of the Las Cruces area can access Nixon’s call on the Aggie Sports Network’s affiliate stations which include 103.5 FM KNMZ (Alamogordo), 1150 AM KNMM (Albuquerque), 1240 AM KAMQ (Carlsbad), 1380 AM KHEY (El Paso), 1230 AM, 94.9 FM KYVA (Gallup) and 107.1 FM KMDS (Las Vegas). Fans not in any of those areas can also find his broadcast via the TuneIn app which is available nationwide.
FAST BREAK POINTS
• Monday’s matchup with the Matadors will serve as the Aggies’ first game since taking on Benedictine Mesa on Dec. 1, 2020, at The PHHacility in Phoenix, Ariz. NM State was forced to pause all basketball activities on Saturday, Dec. 5, as a result of one positive COVID-19 test within its Tier One group which includes players, coaches and staff members.
• The Aggies returned to the practice court on Wednesday, Dec. 16, following their 11-day layoff.
• The 26 days between regular season games represents the second-longest break between consecutive in-season showdowns in program history. Over 100 years ago in the 1912-13 season, NM State had a 27-day break between regular season games. The Aggies dropped a 45-9 decision at the El Paso YMCA squad on Dec. 21 and didn’t return to the court until Jan. 18, when they played at El Paso High School and scored 35-34 victory.
• Of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams who have not opted out of the 2020-21 season, only 13 have played fewer games than the Aggies at this point of the year. NM State is one of 14 teams who have played exactly two games in 2020-21 while Cal State Fullerton and and IUPUI have played just one. Eleven teams – American, Alabama State, Boston, Bucknell, Fordham, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola (Md.), Merrimack and Siena – have yet to play a game so far this year.
• Redshirt junior forward Mayan Kiir is available for the Aggies for the first time since enrolling at NM State in January of 2020. The 6’9 product of Bradenton, Fla., was positively affected by the NCAA’s decision to make all transfers eligible for the 2020-21 season beginning Dec. 18, 2020.
• At his third NCAA Division I institution, senior forward Donnie Tillman currently stands as the Aggies’ leading scorer at 16.0 points per game (fourth in the WAC). Redshirt senior guard Clayton Henry isn’t far behind Tillman as he averages 15.5 points per game – the sixth-best average in the WAC.
• Installed as the team’s starting point guard prior to the start of 2020-21, senior guard Evan Gilyard II owns the nation’s 44th-best assist-to-turnover ratio with a mark of 3.00.
• Redshirt senior forward Johnny McCants is closing in on a milestone as he needs just three more rebounds to get to an even 500 for his career. The Las Cruces, N.M., product has generated the Aggies’ lone double-double so far this year and currently ranks 36th in the nation in rebounding (9.5 per game) and 49th in the land in defensive rebounding (6.5 per game).
• Redshirt junior guard Jabari Rice suffered a foot injury on Tuesday, Dec. 1, in the Aggies’ win over Benedictine Mesa that will keep him sidelined for a period of six-to-eight weeks. Elsewhere, sophomore guard Kalen Williams (foot) and junior guard Jason King (ankle) have been nursing injuries of their own. The two members of the Aggies’ backcourt are on the mend and have been participating in practices.
AGGIES ON THE NATIONAL LEADERBOARD
• NM State ranks among the top 35 NCAA Division I teams in the nation in a handful of statistical categories including rebounding margin (fifth, +14.5), scoring margin (18th, +22.0), scoring offense (20th, 87.5) and rebounds per game (32nd, 42.0).
NM STATE vs. CSUN | THE SERIES
• The Aggies and Matadors have matched wits on just two other occasions on the hardwood prior to Monday afternoon. NM State owns a 2-0 all-time record against CSUN with both of the games being played in Las Cruces, N.M.
• NM State head coach Chris Jans is 1-0 all-time against CSUN after leading the Aggies to a 92-57 victory over the Big West institution at the Pan Am Center in Las Cruces, N.M., on Dec. 19, 2018.
• The inaugural meeting between the Aggies and Matadors came in 1990. On Nov. 26 of that year, head coach Neil McCarthy led NM State to a 120-62 thrashing of CSUN as part of a 5-0 start for the Aggies.
• In each season (1990-91 and 2018-19) the Aggies and Matadors have crossed paths, NM State has advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
NM STATE vs. CSUN | THE LAST TIME OUT (DEC. 19, 2018)
• Five Aggies came up with 10 or more points, Keyon Jones slung in seven three-pointers to finish with a team-high 21 and the Aggies blasted CSUN, 92-57, in their final home game of 2018.
• It was NM State’s bench which shined brightest in the rout. The Aggies’ reserves amassed 73 of the squad’s 92 points (79.3-percent) with AJ Harris (11), Ivan Aurrecoechea (10), Eli Chuha (10) and Robert Brown (10) coming up with double-digit scoring outings.
• Eventual Big West Player of the Year Lamine Diane recorded 25 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Matadors who moved to 0-2 all-time against the Aggies.
• Though Diane’s double-double led the Matadors, NM State finished with a +15 (40-25) edge on the glass. Chuha led the charge in that area, finishing with a team-high nine boards.
• Jones’ long-range assault started in the first half when he drained four triples to help the Aggies jump out to a 47-26 lead at the break.
• The second matchup between the Aggies and Matadors also marked Trevelin Queen’s second outing in an NM State uniform. After not scoring a point in his Aggie debut, Queen put in nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in his 11 minutes of action.
• NM State’s 15 three-pointers in the victory represented its second-highest total in a game during the 2018-19 season.
• Ten of the 15 Aggies who saw action in the runaway win netted points and no player logged more than 20 minutes.
• The 21 assists dished out by the Aggies were the second-highest total in a single game in 2018-19.
LET’S GO STREAKING
• The Aggies’ dominance – both overall and in the WAC – as of late has resulted in any number of impressive winning streaks for the squad.
• 34 | Dating back to the 2018-19 season, the Aggies have won 34 consecutive games against WAC opposition – the nation’s longest active run against league foes.
• 31 | In regular season WAC tilts, NM State has reeled off 31 consecutive triumphs – the longest streak in the history of the league and the longest active run in the nation. The Aggies’ run of 31-straight regular season conference wins is the fifth-longest in the 21st century, too. NM State’s current run of consecutive regular season conference wins this century has been surpassed only by Davidson (43 from 2007-09), Gonzaga (40 from 2018-20), Memphis (33 from 2006-10) and SFA (32 from 2013-15).
• 25 | Inside their home venue of the Pan Am Center, the Aggies have racked up 25-straight triumphs over WAC opposition. That’s the nation’s second-longest winning streak in conference home games bettered only by South Dakota State’s 27 consecutive home victories over Summit League adversaries.
• 21 | NM State’s current 21-game winning streak is the second-longest among all NCAA Division I squads at the moment and is tied for the longest in the history of the program. The Aggies have not found themselves in the loss column for 374 days – just a shade over one calendar year. That’s the longest stretch of consecutive days without a loss by an NCAA Division I men’s basketball team since Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV squads went 388 days without taking an L from 1991-93.
• 16 | NM State has won its last 16 WAC road games. The Aggies’ streak of conference road wins is the longest in the nation at the moment.
• 9 | NM State has won each of their last eight road games – a streak that’s the fifth-longest in the nation at the moment.
SCOUTING THE MATADORS | ROSTER | SCHEDULE | STATISTICS
• Mark Gottfried’s guard-heavy squad will go gunning for its first victory over the Aggies Monday afternoon. Sitting at 3-3 and hoping to put an end to a two-game losing skid, CSUN boasts the formidable backcourt duo of junior Texas A&M transfer TJ Starks (18.2 ppg) and Lance Coleman II (15.7 ppg).
• Starks and Coleman II have the green light from downtown, too, as they have combined to launch 79 of the team’s 151 (52.3-percent) three-point field goal tries. Starks is hitting triples at a rate of 48.4-percent (15-of-31) while Coleman II’s accuracy rate sits at 33.3-percent (16-of-48).
• When taking a look at the national leaderboard, Starks ranks among the top 100 players in the nation in a multitude of categories including three-point field goal percentage (31st), steals per game (70th, 2.17), three-pointers per game (81st, 2.67) and points per game (89th).
• On the interior, freshman forward Alex Merkviladze mans things to the tune of 10.2 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game. Facilitating things all around is Darius Brown II who tops the Matadors’ charts in both minutes per game (31.0) and assists per game (4.8) while leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (9.67).
• Fifteen Matador players have seen action in 2020-21 so far, but only nine of them have taken part in all six of the team’s contests.
COMING UP NEXT
• As it stands currently, the Aggies’ next showdown is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, when the three-time defending WAC champions head to St. George, Utah, for their league opener at Dixie State. There is hope, however, that more non-conference games will be scheduled for the Aggies between now and Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.