FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada.
Television: None. Home Record: Idaho 6-8, NMSU 15-1. Away Record: Idaho 6-8,
NMSU 6-8. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-1, NMSU 0-1. Conference Record: Idaho 7-11,
NMSU 14-4. Series Record: New Mexico State leads, 22-4.
GAME NOTES: The New Mexico State Aggies begin defense of their Western
Athletic Conference Tournament title on Thursday afternoon, as they tangle
with the Idaho Vandals in the quarterfinals of the 30th annual event at
Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Seeded third in the tournament this time around, the Aggies have actually won
the event twice in the last three years and three times overall since 2007.
Last season, NMSU celebrated with an 82-57 thrashing of Louisiana Tech in
order to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
One of the hottest teams in the WAC since the beginning of the new calendar
year, New Mexico State has bowed just twice in the last 17 outings. At one
point the Aggies had put together a 12-game win streak, all against league
As for the sixth-seeded Vandals, a team which has won just a single game in
eight tries in this event over the years, they began this season with four
defeats in five games and continued to be sporadic throughout. The team did
close well with consecutive victories and wins in three of the last four
contests in order to generate some momentum heading into the tourney.
The Aggies lead the all-time series by a wide margin at 22-4, sweeping the two
regular-season meetings but by just a combined three points. The reward for
emerging victorious in this third matchup of 2012-13 is a date in the
semifinals of the tourney against the winner of the Texas State/Denver
The Vandals may have had only marginal success during the regular season, but
they do feature the WAC Player of the Year in Kyle Barone who, in league play,
averaged a double-double with 18.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per outing. Barone
shot an impressive 59.0 percent from the floor over the course of 29 contests
and was smart enough to know that he did his best work in the paint, as he
avoided hoisting up even one 3-point try during the campaign. Stephen Madison
(14.5 ppg) and Connor Hill (12.1 ppg) helped to fill the gaps for Idaho, while
in the regular-season finale versus Seattle, Mike McChristian (8.5 ppg) filled
his stat line with 26 points, on 7-of-11 shooting beyond the arc, seven
assists and four steals. McChristian finished the regular season as the team
leader in assists (80) and steals (33).
The Aggies are happy that Tyrone Watson (10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is back on the
floor because he only adds to the powerful play in the paint for the squad,
although for this game NMSU has him listed as a reserve and is instead giving
the starting nod to Renaldo Dixon (5.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg). Daniel Mullings (13.9
ppg, 5.4 rpg, 83 assists, 68 steals), an All-WAC Second Team selection for
this season, is one of those players who is capable of and willing to do
whatever it takes to win. Earning a spot on the All-WAC First Team is Bandja
Sy (11.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) who beefed up his scoring by almost three points per
game in conference play. Sim Bhullar was named the WAC Freshman of the Year
and to the third team All-WAC and All-Newcomer team thanks to his 11.3 ppg,
7.3 rpg and 3.0 bpg versus league foes.
Idaho may have Barone who is considered the WAC Player of the Year, but it
just seems as though the Aggies have more weapons at their disposal and are
capable of letting any number of performers shine in this most critical time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico State 73, Idaho 64