By Marty Racine
For the Bulletin
The Aggies swept Rivalry Week — 84-71 over the University of New Mexico (UNM) Dec. 10, and 79-68 over Texas-El Paso (UTEP) Dec. 13— to extend its winning streak to seven.
The crimson-and-white are 9-2 on the season heading into Saturday’s game at Arizona State in Tempe (6 p.m., KXPZ FM 99.5). Their next home game in the Pan American Center, where they are undefeated this year, is at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, against UC-Irvine.
The Aggie victory, before 6,298 at the Pan Am Center, avenged an earlier 13-point loss to UNM in Albuquerque. The Aggies were led by senior guard Ian Baker, who had a breakout game with 26 points. Reserve Jemerrio Jones (15 points) and Braxton Huggins (14 points), who started the season on the bench, again demonstrated the Aggies’ depth.
The emotional victory left NMSU a little flat three nights later in El Paso, but they rode a big first-half lead to gut out a win that “wasn’t pretty,” in the words of first-year coach Paul Weir. Baker again came up big with 20 points, five rebounds and two steals. And Jones cont
Redshirt freshman Jermaine Haley, starting for only the second time, had his best game with nine points, three rebounds and three assists.
Nevertheless, sloppy ball-handling continues to plague NMSU — 18 turnovers against UNM, 20 against UTEP. It’s an Aggie trademark that Weir had hoped to reverse coming into the season.
“Yeah, no question, if you look at our team over the last three, four years, that’s been consistently our worst category,” he said in November. “We just turn the ball over too much and have been very careless with it.”
If the Aggies clean that up and continue their dominance on the boards, they’ll have a solid season that could land an NCAA berth regardless of conference play.
Arizona State, 6-4, is an enigma. Few of their games have been close, and they’ve lost by as many as 46 (Kentucky) and won by 24 (UNLV). They scored 127 points against The Citadel and 60 against Davidson. The Sun Devils are balanced among their three top scorers: Shannon Evans II (16.8 ppg), Torian Graham (16.7) and Tra Holder (15.9).