GAME NOTES: The New Mexico State Aggies will close out their non-conference schedule on Saturday evening, as they play host to the South Alabama Jaguars at the Pan American Center.
Marvin Menzies' Aggies dropped their season opener to Western Michigan, but then reeled off seven straight wins in the month of November. The team however, closed the month with a tight 85-83 loss to Colorado State, and dropped three more to open up December. New Mexico State has found its stride again, winning each of its last three games to move to 10-5 on the year, including a 97-47 rout of Northern New Mexico last time out.
South Alabama has been a picture of inconsistency this year and its 6-6 record certainly reflects that. The Jaguars have just one two-game win streak to their credit, but also just one two-game losing streak. The team was last in action on Dec. 21 against SEC foe Arkansas, falling to the Razorbacks, 72-60.
New Mexico State holds an 8-6 series advantage against South Alabama, thanks to last year's 58-52 road win.
The Jaguars are putting up modest numbers at the offensive end of the floor this season, posting 73.2 ppg, on a mere .402 shooting. That however, doesn't mean the team lacks star power. Forward Augustine Rubit is not only one of the best frontcourt players in the Sun Belt Conference, but perhaps the nation, averaging a near double-double with team-highs of 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The problem is that there isn't much around Rubit in terms of complementary players. Antoine Allen (10.3 ppg) and Mychal Ammons (10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg) provide some depth, but are the only other players on the roster currently averaging double figures in scoring. Rubit and Ammons spearhead the team's rebounding efforts, helping the Jaguars to a +4.1 rebounding advantage.
Augustine struggled against Arkansas last time out, finishing with just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting, although he did grab 10 boards in the loss. Allen stepped up with a team-high 21 points, while Ammons finished with 14. USA shot just .351 from the floor overall and was guilty of 20 turnovers, leading to 22 points for Arkansas. .
New Mexico State erupted in the first half, shooting a blistering .741 from the field en route to a 57-28 lead against Northern New Mexico at the break. The game was never really in doubt, as the Aggies cruised to the 50-point win. Six Aggies finished in double figures, led by Kevin Aronis and Matej Buovac with 18 points apiece. DK Eldridge added 16 points, followed by Sim Bhullar and Ian Baker at 12 points each and Tshilidzi Nephawe with 10 points. Bhullar completed a double-double with a game-high 10 rebounds. The team played without leading scorer Daniel Mullings, who sat out after having his wisdom teeth pulled.
Mullings is expected back in the lineup for this game and is certainly an integral part of the gameplan, leading the team in scoring (16.6 ppg), assists (3.6 apg) and steals (25). Eldridge is a viable second option offensively at 10.5 ppg. Bhullar (9.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.5 bpg) and Nephawe (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) are a pair of big bodies inside. Overall, the Aggies are netting a healthy 76.2 ppg, doing so on .470 shooting.
The Jaguars are still looking for their first road win of the season, Unfortunately for them, it isn't likely to occur at the Pan American Center.
Game Date and Time