LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – The New Mexico State Aggies will put their six-game win streak to the test on Thursday night in Orem, Utah in a matchup with the Utah Valley Wolverines. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. MT and the game will air on ESPN+.
• Winners of six in a row, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team seeks to remain the only team in the WAC without a loss in league action when they begin a three-game road trip Thursday night with a battle against Utah Valley at the UCCU Center.
• Tip-off in the 13th all-time matchup between the Wolverines and Aggies has been set for 7:00 p.m. with ESPN+ and the ESPN app set to carry the clash around the globe. Play-by-play and narration on that platform will be provided by Mychal Clanton and Sed Bonner respectively.
• Making his umpteenth trip to the Beehive State is US Bank/NM State Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Nixon who will narrate the action locally on 99.5 FM KXPZ.
• 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 (Alamagordo), 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.
THE STORY SO FAR
• January in Las Cruces goes by a different name: Jans-uary. Since he took over at New Mexico State, third-year head coach Chris Jans is 16-1 (.941) as the Aggies’ bench boss in the month. For his career, Jans owns a 22-4 (.846) record in the month. That’s the second-highest winning percentage in the month of January by an active NCAA Division I head coach and only Gonzaga’s Mark Few (.894) possesses a better winning percentage in the month.
• As they start their three-game WAC road trip, the Aggies are in possession of one of the most potent starting fives in the nation when it comes to shooting the basketball. New Mexico State’s starting five of Ivan Aurrecoechea, Evan Gilyard II, Johnny McCants, Trevelin Queen and Jabari Rice are shooting a collective 54.2-percent (65-of-129) from the field in WAC contests.
• Speaking of Rice, the redshirt sophomore out of Houston, Texas, is the reigning WAC Player of the Week. Monday afternoon Rice received his first weekly award from the WAC after helping the Aggies to a pair of triumphs last week. Through that two-game span, Rice averaged 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting .500 from the field.
• After a difficult non-conference slate, senior guard Terrell Brown has looked exactly like the dangerous scoring threat he did in 2018-19. In WAC action, Brown has put up shooting splits of .520/.444/.750 and is averaging 12.3 points per game. This comes after Brown shot just 11-of-65 (16.9-percent) from long range through the Aggies’ non-conference slate.
• The Aggies rank among the top 50 nationally in seven statistical categories heading into Thursday night’s matchup including three-point field goal attempts (17th, 480), three-pointers made (17th, 165), scoring defense (22nd, 60.6 opponent points per game), rebounding margin (29th, +7.2), assists (43rd, 263), three-pointers per game (46th, 9.2) and scoring margin (48th, +10.2).
• Head coach Chris Jans is just nine wins away from reaching an even 100 for his NCAA Division I head coaching career.
• Jans possesses an impressive 37-3 (.925) record in games played inside the Pan Am Center as the Aggies’ head coach.
• The Aggies haven’t trailed in the last 96:32 of game time. The last time New Mexico State was behind on the scoreboard came when they were at a 43-42 disadvantage at California Baptist with 16:58 left in the second half back on Saturday, Jan. 4.
• Since Jans and company took over in Las Cruces prior to the start of the 2017-18 season, New Mexico State owns a 30-3 (.909) record in WAC games. Only Gonzaga (37-1, .974) out of the West Coast Conference (WCC) has a higher in-conference winning percentage through that same span. Vermont (30-3, .909) is tied with NM State for the second-highest in-league winning percentage since 2017-18 while Virginia (36-4, .900) ranks fourth.
• Senior guard Clayton Henry suffered a season-ending hand injury during the Aggies’ practice on Tuesday, Dec. 31. He missed the team’s first 14 games with a torn ligament in his right hand suffered during a preseason workout.
• After scoring nine points in eight minutes in the Aggies’ WAC opener at California Baptist on Saturday, Jan. 4, senior guard AJ Harris missed the remainder of the game with an ankle injury. That same injury is expected to sideline him for the rest of the 2019-20 season.
• New Mexico State is the only squad in the nine-team WAC who has not suffered a league loss in 2019-20.
• The Aggies’ 12 total wins are tied with California Baptist for the most by a WAC team to this point.
• Dating back to last season, the Aggies have won 21 consecutive games against WAC adversaries. That’s the longest in-conference winning streak in all of NCAA Division I hoops. In WAC regular season games, the Aggies have recorded 18 consecutive wins – two shy of tying the league record of 20 set by Utah during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.
• Inside the Pan Am Center, the Aggies have reeled off 19 consecutive victories against WAC foes dating back to the 2016-17 campaign.
• New Mexico State is tops in the WAC in NET Ranking (110), the ESPN BPI (91) and the KenPom rankings (95).
• More often than not, the Aggies have started WAC play on the right foot. New Mexico State is 15-2 (.882) all-time in WAC openers. Now in his third season in charge in Las Cruces, head coach Chris Jans owns a 2-1 (.667) showing in WAC openers and is 3-1 (.750) all-time in league lid-lifters as an NCAA Division I bench boss.
• Depth is again a key to the Aggies’ success in WAC play. Currently, five different New Mexico State players are averaging 11 or more points per game and topping that list is senior guard Trevelin Queen (16.3 ppg) who has put up shooting splits of .567/.500/.875 in WAC tilts.
• In each of their three WAC games thus far, the Aggies have seen three different players lead the team in scoring. The same player hasn’t led the Aggies in scoring in back-to-back regular season games since Eli Chuha did so in wins over Grand Canyon (Feb. 9) and Utah Valley (Feb. 14) in 2019.
THE ROAD TO SUCCESS
• With a win, the Aggies would move to the .500 mark in true road games for the first time this season.
• New Mexico State is 1-0 in true road gams in 2020 after losing three of the four it played to close out the 2019 portion of its schedule.
• A .500 mark in road games would be more in line with what the Aggies are used to under head coach Chris Jans. Now in his third season in Las Cruces, Jans is 20-7 (.741) in true road games as the Aggies’ bench boss.
SCOUTING UTAH VALLEY
• Stanford Cardinal fans, Los Angeles Lakers followers and Minnesota Timberwolves backers remember the name Mark Madsen with varying degrees of fondness and the Mad Dog is a little over halfway through his inaugural season in charge at Utah Valley. Madsen and his troops are back in the UCCU Center for the first time in 2020 and are hoping to put the brakes on a two-game skid when the Aggies enter the facility.
• All three of the Wolverines’ home wins this season have come against non-NCAA Division I opponents and Utah Valley is embarking on a quest for its first WAC home win since March 9, 2019 – a 76-61 triumph over CSU Bakersfield.
• Senior forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke has turned the Wolverines into one of the nation’s premier shot-blocking squads this season. The Houston, Texas, product ranks 10th among all NCAA Division I men’s basketball players with 49 total rejections and as a squad the Wolverines’ 100 blocks are the ninth-most in the land.
• Defensive rebounding is also a strength of the Wolverines who lead the WAC with 26.89 per game.
• After missing a good chunk of the Wolverines’ non-conference schedule, Utah Valley’s leading scorer Isaiah White (14.8 ppg), has been back in action over his team’s last seven games. Not only does White top the Wolverines’ charts in scoring, he’s their leading rebounder as well (8.5 per game).
• Originally an SFA commit, Brandon Averette jumped ship to Oklahoma State when Brad Underwood became the Cowboys’ head coach prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. After spending his first two collegiate seasons in Stillwater, Okla., Averette transferred to Utah Valley where he is putting in 13.1 points per game in a team-leading 32.2 minutes per outing.
• Casdon Jardine serves as the Wolverines’ deadliest three-point shooter, coming in with a mark of 43.2-percent (41-of-95) from long range. That has played a big part in him averaging 11.2 points per game.
LAST TIME OUT vs. UTAH VALLEY | Feb. 14, 2019
• Even it the game hadn’t been played on Valentine’s Day, Aggies hoops fans everywhere would have likely fallen in love with the performance Eli Chuha put on. The senior turned in a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double and was one of five Aggies who racked up 11 or more points in an 84-77 triumph over Utah Valley inside the Pan Am Center.
• Making up the other half of the Aggies’ potent inside-outside combo was senior JoJo Zamora who put forth a 5-of-7 effort from three-point range en route to 17 points of his own.
• Held to just two points in the opening frame, Chuha victimized the Wolverines time and time again through the final 20 minutes of action by totaling 19 of the Aggies’ 45 markers (42.2-percent) in the second half.
• Chuha’s second-half takeover was made possible in part to the play of Zamora in the opening frame. The senior netted all 17 of his points through the first frame.
• A second-half surge at the foul line helped the Aggies win the day, too. New Mexico State went 14-of-18 from the charity stripe through the final frame and went 7-of-8 from that distance over the final 1:10.
• Bench scoring played a large part for both teams. The Aggies finished with a slim 37-34 edge in that department over the Wolverines.
• The win was the Aggies’ 10th in a row as well as their second-straight against the Wolverines. It marked the third consecutive season in which New Mexico State reeled off 10 or more wins in a row.
LAST TIME OUT
• A vintage Terrell Brown performance was what the Aggies received last Saturday inside the Pan Am Center as the senior guard racked up a game and season-high 18 points to help lead his team to a 74-71 win over Kansas City.
• New Mexico State put up a scalding field goal percentage of 61.7 for the game. That’s the best single-game field goal percentage by the Aggies in the Chris Jans coaching era and was aided by a 77.3-percent (17-of-22) showing in the opening stanza.
• Redshirt sophomore guard Jabari Rice came up with the Aggies’ first double-double of the season by amassing 13 points and a career-best 10 rebounds. The Houston, Texas, product also dished out a career-high six assists to help New Mexico State register helpers on 20 of its 29 made field goals.
• The win was the Aggies’ 14th in a row over the Roos and kept Kansas City without a win in the Pan Am Center in the all-time series.
COMING UP NEXT
• The next stop on the Aggies’ three-game WAC road trip is the Pacific Northwest as New Mexico State heads to Seattle, Wash., for a Saturday night league showdown with Seattle U. Tip-off between the Aggies and the Redhawks is set for 8:00 p.m. MT from the Redhawk Center.