Key statistics: The Aggies committed more turnovers (20) than they made shots (16). That math rarely works.
Records: NMSU 0-1, WSU 1-0
How the game turned: Steal. Layup. Steal. Dunk. Rebound. Layup. The Shockers took a 22-12 lead on Ron Baker’s layup and the Aggies never got closer. WSU’s perimeter defense short-circuited any plans the visitors conceived.
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: WSU out-rebounded a bigger, more veteran team 37-32 and doubled New Mexico State’s second-chance points 16-8. The names change, but the rebounding never stops at WSU.
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Stat that might surprise you: WSU went 0 for 11 from three-point range to snap a streak of 267 games with a three. On Dec. 19, 2006, the Shockers went 0 for 5 in a 74-65 win over Kennesaw State at Koch Arena.
Next up: vs. Memphis at Sioux Falls, S.D., 1 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN)
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Game story from the Las Cruces Suns-News.
▪ New Mexico State’s plans had to start with senior guard Daniel Mullings, the defending WAC Player of the Year. However, WSU’s defense erased him. As usual, Tekele Cotton took on the opponent’s top scorer. Cotton’s over-playing defense kept the ball away from Mullings and helped create turnovers. Mullings took three shots in the first half, one in the first 10 minutes. He committed two turnovers in the game’s first five minutes and was never a factor.
"They did a really good job defending the ball and applying ball pressure at a very high level,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “And they got into the lanes and denied. They were men, they were physically very strong and played that way.”
Fred VanVleet recorded seven steals to tie a WSU record (also held by Cotton, Robert George, Cheese Johnson and Ernie Moore). Ron Baker did his part by covering Mullings for two possessions early in the game.
“The key to the game was the defense by our guards on the perimeter,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “We did force 20 turnovers, and that’s a lot. We held them to 40-percent shooting. Those are good numbers.”
▪ WSU has six freshmen (two redshirted last season) on the roster, which is two more than the previous highs under Marshall. At least five of them will play this season and that is two more than any other season. Marshall said it feels like he is coaching a young team, even though the performance of the newcomers looks solid (or better) in an exhibition game and Friday’s opener. WSU turned the ball over 10 times in the exhibition and 12 Friday, good numbers for any team and especially one that is playing newcomers as reserves. The newcomers haven’t been prone to defensive letdowns, either, at least not for long stretches.
“I hope it remains that way,” Marshall said. “These guys are still really, really young. What I’ve been saying all along is that I can’t really tell a whole lot of difference in some of these players in what they bring to the table. And I tell them that — ‘If you’re not able to go 100 percent in every phase of the game, I can just go with another guy because there’s very little difference in what you guys bring to the table.’ By and large, they all have some strengths that make them valuable. It’s not like one guy has come in and said, ‘Wow, I’ve got to play 32 minutes a game or this coach is crazy.’”
▪ Freshman Zach Brown and junior transfer Tevin Glass did not play. Marshall said the possibility of them redshirting has not been discussed. When a team plays 11 and you are not one them, the message seems clear that playing time will be limited under current circumstances. While that can change, it appears both players have work to do to earn playing time. It would be unusual to redshirt a juco transfer. Creighton did it last season with guard James Milliken, who looked at the seniors in front of him and chose to sit out. Glass has not been able to force his way into the big-man rotation and a lack of strength and weight limits his contributions. Playing time for Brown on the wing would appear to be especially hard to find behind Baker, Cotton and Evan Wessel.
▪ Center Shaq Morris scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in 12 minutes. He also had a nice interior pass that produced a basket by Darius Carter. If Morris discovered that games can be easier than practices when he plays hard, he will be a valuable piece of the rotation.
▪ The Aggies were missing two or three players who might figure into the rotation due to injury and center Tshilidzi Nephawe is recovering from a foot injury and played 21 lukewarm minutes. They should win 20 games in a weak conference and help WSU’s power ranking more than most season-opening opponents would. The Aggies have been a top-80 RPI team four of the past five seasons and a repeat of that would be satisfactory.