The New Mexico State men's basketball team begins the 2011-12 campaign at Northern Colorado, Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in Greeley, Colo. This is the third consecutive season and fourth time in five years that the Aggies have started on the road. The game is available on KSNM 570 AM with Kyle Doperalski calling the action, and the pregame show starts 30 minutes prior to tip.
New Mexico State Aggies
The Aggies return nine players from last year's squad that finished with a 16-17 overall record and 9-7 WAC record. Senior guard Hernst Laroche returns to direct the Aggies after averaging 11.5 points and 4.6 assists per game in 2010-11. Redshirt senior forward Wendell McKines is back following an injury that caused him to miss last season. He averaged 10.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2009-10. Senior center Hamidu Rahman also missed a portion of last year with injuries and averaged 7.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest in a shorten season.
NM State has to replace guard Gordo Castillo and All-WAC selection forward Troy Gillenwater from a year ago, but junior forward Tyrone Watson, junior forward Bandja Sy and junior forward/center B.J. West made appearances in a combined 90 games with 53 games started last season. A benefit to the injuries a season ago is the game experience the Aggie sophomores now enjoy. Both guard Christian Kabongo and center Tshilidzi Nephawe played in all 33 games, with 14 and 17 games started respectively, while forward Renaldo Dixon saw action in 20 games.
Scouting Northern Colorado
Saturday's game is also the season opener for the Bears. Northern Colorado beat Chadron State, 89-65, Nov. 1. The Bears finished 2010-11 with a 21-11 overall record and 13-3 Big Sky record and appearance in the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Bears return one starter, redshirt junior guard Elliott Lloyd, and were picked to finish third in the preseason Big Sky media poll and fourth in the conference coaches poll.
The Bears have a 3-1 lead in the all-time series after a 82-80 win in the ESPNU BracketBuster game, Feb. 19, in Las Cruces. This is the first game in Greeley, Colo. Last season was the first meeting in the series since the 1961-62 season.
The Aggies suffered their first defeat in the ESPNU BracketBuster series with an 82-80 loss to Northern Colorado, Feb. 19, 2011. Guard Hernst Laroche posted a team-high 19 points for NM State. The Aggies trailed Northern Colorado at halftime, 52-43, with both teams shooting over 50 percent from the field, including nine 3-pointers from the Bears. NM State tied the game, 78-78, for the first time in the second half with 1:48 left on a Christian Kabongo free throw. Then with under a minute to play and the Aggies trailing by three, 81-78, Laroche made a pair of free throws to pull NM State within one, 81-80. The Aggie defense held the Bears scoreless on the next possession. Laroche directed the offense and drove to the basket and was whistled for an offensive foul with 4.2 seconds remaining. NM State proceeded to foul and Northern Colorado made 1-of-2 ensuing free throws. With 3.2 seconds left, the Aggies raced down the floor and forward Troy Gillenwater missed a shot at the buzzer.
Aggies Win Exhibition 115-64
The Aggies coasted to a 115-64 win over Eastern New Mexico, Nov. 2, in the team's lone exhibition game of the season. The Aggies had five players in double figures. Redshirt senior forward Wendell McKines directed the Aggies with a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Christian Kabongo scored 18 points with seven assists. Freshman guard Daniel Mullings added 13 points off the bench, while senior guard Hernst Laroche and sophomore center Tshilidzi Nephawe provided 10 points each.
The Aggies are 2-2 in season openers under head coach Marvin Menzies. Last season, NM State opened the year with a 92-76 win at Louisiana, Nov. 12, 2010. The Aggies defeated UC Riverside, 79-52, Nov. 15, 2008, in Las Cruces but fell at Ohio, 80-72, Nov. 9, 2007, and at Saint Mary's, 100-68, Nov. 13, 2009.
After an injury-plagued 2010-11 season, the Aggies return nine players. The returners accounted for 74 percent of the minutes. NM State finished tied for third in the WAC last season and set a school record with a 12-game WAC home win streak that dated back to the 2009-10 season. Nationally, the Aggies ranked No. 73 in 3-point field goal defense (32.6 percent) and No. 89 in scoring offense (71.6 points per game). Additionally, NM State paced the WAC in scoring in league games (72.5 points per game).
Senior guard Hernst Laroche returns for his final season in Las Cruces with 99 consecutive starts for the Aggies. Jonathan Gibson had the school record in games played with 131. Laroche has 3,209 career minutes played, which ranks No. 6 on the school record list. He needs just 574 minutes to tie all-time leader Eric Channing (3,783). Laroche also ranks second on the all-time list for career assists (416) at NM State. He trails Sam Crawford by 176 assists (592). Last year, Laroche had a team-high 152 assists and 62 steals. He also ranked second in scoring with 11.5 points per game.
Career Leaders in Assists
1. Sam Crawford-592
2. Hernst Laroche-416
3. Keith Hill-379
4. Ernest Patterson-371
5. Steve Colter-347
Bits and Pieces
Here's a look back at some of the interesting facts and figures of the 2010-11 season. The Aggies were:
13-2 when they allow 70 points or less
13-2 when shooting better than the opponent
8-2 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field
9-1 when leading at halftime
The Aggies have nine newcomers this season with freshmen guards Daniel Mullings, Terrel de Rouen, D.J. Lewis, freshmen forwards Eric Weary, Remi Barry, freshman center Sim Bhullar and sophomore guard K.C. Ross-Miller, while freshman guard Emery Coleman and freshman forward Temjae Singleton are slated to redshirt.
Previewing the WAC
The Aggies were voted to finish second in the Preseason WAC coaches poll and third in the media poll. Redshirt senior forward Wendell McKines was voted to the Preseason All-WAC Coaches and Media teams, while senior guard Hernst Laroche earned a second team nod on the Preseason All-WAC Coaches team.
The 2011-12 Slate
The Aggies have 17 regular season games in the Pan American Center this season. Currently, the Aggies have two nationally televised games on ESPN2 at Utah State (Feb. 11) and at Nevada (March 1). The schedule includes a home game against Arizona (Nov. 29) and a trip to the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout.
The Aggies had eight double-doubles in 2010-11. Sophomore center Tshilidzi Nephawe, senior center Hamidu Rahman and junior forward Tyrone Watson all recorded a double-double last year.
Home Sweet Home
NM State utilized its home court advantage in 2010-11 at the Pan American Center and finished with a 7-1 record in WAC home games in 2010-11. The Aggies had their 12-game WAC home win streak snapped March 2 against Utah State.
Rahman Climbs the Ladder
Senior center Hamidu Rahman currently has 98 career blocked shots. He is now tied for No. 4 with Johnny Roberson on the Aggie all-time list.
Career Leaders in Blocked Shots
1. James Moore-200
2. Slab Jones-124
3. Charles Goza-116
4. Johnny Roberson-98
4. Hamidu Rahman-98
6. Sam Lacey-92
7. Martin Iti-82
Menzies Is the Sixth Winningest Coach at NM State
Head coach Marvin Menzies recorded his 70th victory at NM State in 2010-11. He now ranks sixth on the all-time winningest coaches list in program history. Menzies is the second fastest to reach 70 behind Lou Henson.
All-Time Winningest Coaches (by victories)
1. Lou Henson-289
2. Neil McCarthy-229
3. Jerry Hines-157
4. Presley Askew-135
5. Weldon Drew-82
6. Marvin Menzies-76
McKines Returns to the Hardwood
Redshirt senior forward Wendell McKines returns in 2011-12 after being sidelined last year due to a broken foot he sustained in mid-October. An All-WAC honorable mention selection in 2009-10, McKines averaged 10.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, a team-best mark. He now ranks No.6 on the all-time rebounding list at NM State with 761 boards. McKines also posted nine double-doubles in 2009-10 and has 27 in his career.
Career Leaders in Rebounds
1. Sam Lacey 1,265
2. Slab Jones 951
3. George Knighton 866
4. Billy Joe Price 824
5. Charles Gosa 788
6. Wendell McKines 761
NM State meets New Mexico for the first time of the 2011-12 season, Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. in Albuquerque, before the home opener against UTEP, Saturday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. inside the Pan American Center.