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The New Mexico State University men’s basketball team is wrapping up an important nonconference stretch where it will learn a lot more about the type of team it is.
And how it may fare in the upcoming Western Athletic Conference season in the new year.
“Every team is a work in progress, and we will just try to get better in as many facets as we can,” said Aggie head basketball coach Chris Jans Dec. 5.
The Aggies are off to an 8-2 start and are finishing a tough stretch of three contests against archrivals and four straight road games.
NMSU lost to the University of New Mexico 101-94 on Nov. 30 at the Pan Am, in a game most fans will remember for a 40-minute power outage. It was also the second straight game that Jans missed because of Covid protocols.
Jans returned to the bench Dec. 3 for a 72-69 road win over I-10 rival UTEP. NMSU’s Jabari Rice hit the game-winning shot with 1.6 left in the game.
Three nights later, the Aggies got revenge on the Lobos, beating them 78-76 in overtime at The Pit in Albuquerque. This time, Nate Pryor converted a reverse layup as time expired in overtime for the win.
Making this stretch even more challenging, the Aggies went on the road against two quality opponents on the West Coast. NMSU beat Loyola Marymount 63-58 in Los Angeles Dec. 11 despite making a season-high 26 turnovers.
After that, the Aggies took on Washington State on Dec. 15 in Pullman, Washington. The Cougars are usually one of the better programs in the Pac-12 and held Arizona State to just 29 points in a conference game in Tempe, Arizona, Dec. 1.
This game was past our deadline so I don’t have any results to report.
Jans said Washington State is “projected to have a good season and they have a great coach (Kyle Smith).
“Obviously, they have some good players, Pac-12, etc.,” Jans said.
Jans said his team will learn a lot about itself during this stretch.
“There aren’t many teams in the country that look at themselves as a finished product,” he said. “We are like everybody else. There are some things we are getting better at. There a lot of things and areas we have to shore up. We have to get it right heading into the holidays.”
The Aggies will host Northern New Mexico at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18 and will follow that up with a home game against UT Permian Basin at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20. That game was recently added to the schedule and will replace a home game with Cal State Fullerton that was canceled shortly after the schedule was released.
One area the Aggies could improve is their rebounding.
Rebounding is “part of the game,” Jans said. “But at the end of the day, what they keep track of for the win-loss column is how many points you score and give up. The most important stat is the final score.
“Certainly, there are all sorts of ways to achieve being a good basketball team,” Jans continued. “Hopefully, we will get better at it (rebounding). I don’t think there’s a chance we will get the numbers we had the first three years we were here, but we definitely need to get better.”
The Aggies will open WAC play at Seattle U Thursday, Dec. 30. The game is scheduled to be televised at 8 p.m. on ESPN+. NMSU will then play its conference home opener at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, against Chicago State at the Pan Am.