No love lost between Aggies, Lopes

NMSU

PHOENIX, AZ (KTSM) – With the WAC regular season championship already in hand, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team will look continue their dominance over their conference rival on Thursday night at GCU Arena, the Grand Canyon Antelopes.

KTSM 9 Sports will be on the road with the Aggies to bring you highlights, as well as pre and postgame reaction.

OPENING TIPS
• With a WAC regular season title in hand, the WAC Tournament number-one seed sewed up and riding the nation’s second-longest active winning streak, the rv/—NM State men’s basketball team sets out on its final WAC road swing of the 2019-20 regular season this week. The first stop on that two-game stretch is Phoenix, Ariz., where the Aggies will invade the GCU Arena for a showdown with Grand Canyon. 
• Tip-off has been set for 7:00 p.m. with the 17th all-time meeting between the Aggies and Lopes set to be broadcast nationwide on ESPN3 and the ESPN app. Barry Buetel and Scott Williams will handle play-by-play and analysis. 
• Over the airwaves it’ll be US Bank/NM State Athletics Hall of Fame member Jack Nixon handling narration. Nixon’s broadcast can be found locally in Las Cruces, N.M., on 99.5 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 (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.

THE SERIES | NM STATE vs. GCU
Overall vs. Grand Canyon | 14-2 (.875)
In Las Cruces, N.M. | 8-0 (1.000)
At the Pan Am Center | 8-0 (1.000)
In Phoenix, Ariz. | 3-2 (.600)
At GCU Arena | 3-2 (.600)
At neutral sites | 2-0 (1.000)
Last meeting | GCU 52, at NM State 72 | 2.1.20
Last NMSU win | 2.1.20 | 72-52
Last NMSU home win | 2.1.20 | 72-52
Last NMSU road win | 2.9.19 | 67-64
Last GCU win | 2.11.17 | 83-71
Last GCU home win | 2.11.17 | 83-71
Last GCU road win | none
Largest margin of victory (NMSU) | 32 | 89-57 on 3.16.19
Largest margin of defeat (NMSU) | 12 | 83-71 on 2.11.17
Current Streak | NMSU won seven
Last five games | 5-0 (1.000)
Last five home games | 5-0 (1.000)
Last five away games | 3-2 (.600)
Last 10 games | 9-1 (.900)
Last 10 home games | 8-0 (1.000)
Last 10 away games | 3-2 (.600)
NM State points | average | 1,215 | 75.9
GCU points | average | 1,013 | 63.3
NMSU scoring margin | +12.6
Jans vs. GCU | 7-0 (1.000)
At the Pan Am Center | 3-0 (1.000)
At GCU Arena | 2-0 (1.000)
Jans vs. Majerle | 7-0 (1.000)
Majerle vs. NM State | 2-13 (.133)
Jans on 2.27 | 0-0 (.000)
NMSU all-time on 2.27 | 16-12 (.571)

POLL POSITION
• In Monday’s edition of the AP Top 25 Poll, the Aggies received a pair of votes, putting them 38th in the land of the 41 teams either ranked or receiving votes. 
• It’s the second time this season that NM State secured votes in the weekly poll. Last week the Aggies also received a pair of votes in the poll.
• Last season, NM State appeared in the receiving votes section of the AP Top 25 poll on four occasions – February 25, March 4, March 11 and March 18.
• This marks the Aggies’ 16th appearance in the receiving votes section of the AP Top 25 poll under third-year head coach Chris Jans. In Jans’ inaugural season (2017-18) in Las Cruces, the Aggies piled up 66 votes in the February 12 edition of the poll – the most by the team in the 21st century.

LET’S TALK TITLES
• Thanks to their win over UTRGV last Saturday night in Las Cruces, NM State locked up its third consecutive WAC regular season title. 
• NM State has now won three consecutive WAC regular season crowns and five of the last six.
• In all, the Aggies have won six WAC regular season titles since joining the league in 2005-06. All of NM State’s WAC regular season crowns have been won since 2007-08. 
• Since the program was initiated in 1905, NM State has won a total of 19 regular season conference championships. 
• Prior to this season, Presley Askew and Jerry Hines were the only NM State head coaches who had won three consecutive regular season titles. Askew led the Aggies to three straight Border Conference regular season from 1959-61 while Hines helped the Aggies claim three in a row in the Border Conference in 1937-39. 
• By wrapping up the 2019-20 WAC title last Saturday, current NM State head coach Chris Jans has won three consecutive WAC regular season crowns.
• That puts Jans in rarified air as he is one of only seven current NCAA Division I head men’s basketball coaches who have won league titles in each of their first three seasons at an institution. He’s joined on that list by Nathan Davis (Bucknell, 2016-18), Mark Gottfried (Murray State, 1996-98), Anthony Grant (VCU, 2007-09), Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington, 2015-17), Steve Prohm (Murray State, 2012-14) and Brad Underwood (SFA, 2014-16).
• In the history of New Mexico State men’s basketball, just eight players have won three-straight league titles. That list includes current Aggies Shunn Buchanan, AJ Harris and Johnny McCants as well as Pecos Finley (1937-39), Frank Kozeliski (1937-39), Kiko Martinez (1937-39), Billy Joe Price (1959-61) and Morris Wood (1937-39). 

LET’S GO STREAKING
• The Aggies’ dominance in the WAC as of late has resulted in any number of impressive winning streaks for the squad. 
• NM State’s current 16-game winning streak is the second-longest among all NCAA Division I squads at the moment. That streak represents the fifth-longest one in the history of Aggie hoops and makes head coach Chris Jans the producer of two of the five longest unbeaten runs in NM State lore. 
• Dating back to last season, the Aggies have won 31 consecutive games against WAC opposition – the nation’s longest active run against league foes. 
• In regular season WAC tilts, NM State has reeled off 28 consecutive triumphs – the longest streak in the history of the league and the longest active run in the nation.
• NM State has won each of their last six road games – a streak that’s the seventh-longest in the nation at the moment. 
• Inside their home venue of the Pan Am Center, the Aggies have racked up 24-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. 
• NM State has won its last 13 WAC road games. Thanks to BYU taking down second-ranked Gonzaga last Saturday night, the Aggies’ streak of conference road wins is the longest in the nation at the moment. 

SOPHOMORE SLUMP
• Something that second-year players across the nation hope to dodge, the sophomore slump has not been noticeable in Jabari Rice’s game this season. 
• After averaging just 3.4 points last season as a freshman, Rice is putting in 13.5 points per game this season to become the Aggies’ leading scorer. 
• Over his last seven games, Rice has been averaging 17.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game to jump into the role of the team’s leading scorer at a clip of 13.5 ppg.
• Through the longest double-digit scoring stretch of his collegiate career, Rice has put up shooting splits of .480/.421/.829.
• Just a handful of players in the nation have increased their scoring load by 9.5 or more points per game from their freshman year to their sophomore year and Rice is among that group. The full listing is below. 
Bryce Hamilton | UNLV | 4.3 to 15.5 | +10.2
Jabari Rice | NM State | 3.4 to 13.5 | +10.1
Tyler Stevenson | Southern Miss | 3.3 to 13.0 | +9.7
Joe Bryant, Jr. | Norfolk State | 2.4 to 12.0 | +9.6

SCOUTING GRAND CANYON | ROSTER | SCHEDULE | STATISTICS
• Back home after dropping both games on their road trip to Seattle U and Utah Valley last week, the Lopes find themselves in a three-way tie for the two seed in the upcoming WAC Tournament. 
• Grand Canyon possesses two of the top four scorers in the WAC with Alessandro Lever and Carlos Johnson headlining the Lopes’ offense. Lever’s 16 points per game rank second in the WAC and he stands as one of the league’s best shooters with a field goal percentage of 53.7-percent. 
• Johnson has been putting in points at a rate of 15.4 per game – a mark which is second-highest on the team and the fourth-best in the nine-team WAC.
• Taking care of the basketball has been of the utmost importance for Thunder Dan and his crew this season. Grand Canyon commits just 11.2 turnovers per game – the 32nd-fewest in the nation and the second-fewest in the WAC. Their 310 total throwaways are the 29th-lowest total among all NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams. 
• On the defensive end, Jovan Blacksher, Jr., has turned into one of the nation’s best in terms of coming away with steals. His 46 are a top-100 total in college basketball this season as well as the second-highest total in the WAC. Blacksher, Jr., also corrals 4.96 defensive rebounds per game to lead the team. 
• Manning the Lopes’ point, Blacksher, Jr., is also passing out assists at a rate of 3.6 per game. 

LAST TIME OUT vs. GRAND CANYON | FEB. 1, 2020
• Behind a perfect shooting night from Johnny McCants – who finished with 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double – the Aggies demolished Grand Canyon, 72-52, in front of the second-largest crowd in the history of the program. 
• McCants also dished out a game-high five assists – as did Evan Gilyard II – to help the Aggies claim their seventh-straight victory over the Lopes. 
• Jabari Rice drilled four of the Aggies’ 12 three-pointers en route to a game-high 18 points.
• Carlos Johnson put in 15 for the Lopes who managed to gold a 6-5 lead over NM State 2:39 into the game. From there, however, it was all Aggies. 
• McCants started an 8-0 NM State run that put the home team ahead for good with a the first of his three three-pointers. 
• Down on the block it was a battle between Ivan Aurrecoechea and the Lopes’ leading scorer in Alessandro Lever. Aurrecoechea won that battle handily, netting 14 points while helping hold Lever to just five – 11 fewer than his season average. 
• In all, the Aggies passed out 17 assists on 27 made field goals and held a 37-27 (+10) edge in rebounding over their WAC adversaries from Phoenix. 
• Nine of the 11 Aggies to see the court against Grand Canyon came up with at least one point and over their last two meetings with the Lopes the Aggies have connected on 29 three-pointers. 

LAST TIME OUT | NM STATE 78, UTRGV 62 | FEB. 22, 2020
• After receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in 2019-20, the NM State men’s basketball team got off to a slow start but used an 11-0 first half run to take control and earn an eventual 78-62 victory over UTRGV. 
• The come-from-behind win locked up the Aggies’ third consecutive WAC regular season title and was fueled by a balanced scoring effort that saw Jabari Rice go for 20 while Terrell Brown came off the bench to chip in 18 more. Between Brown and Rice, seven of the team’s 12 three-pointers were represented. 
• After pushing its lead to 18 in the first half, NM State saw its edge shrink to four, 52-48, with 11:19 left. Rice helped right the ship, though, by drilling two triples during a 10-0 Aggie run that helped put the Vaqueros away. 
• By winning the WAC regular season crown, the Aggies captured three-straight regular season titles for just the third time in program history. As members of the Border Conference, the Aggies posted three-peats in 1937-39 and 1959-61. 

COMING UP NEXT
• For their final road game of the 2019-20 regular season, the Aggies head to Bakersfield, Calif., for a Saturday night showdown with CSU Bakersfield. It will be the final meeting between the two teams as fellow WAC members as the Roadrunners are set to join the Big West in 2020-21 and tip-off from the Icardo Center has been set for 8:00 p.m. MT. 

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