New Mexico State (18-8) at Utah State (17-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 16, 11 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270) -- Logan, Utah. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: NMSU 12-1, USU 10-4. Away Record: NMSU 6-6, USU 7-2. Neutral Record: NMSU 0-1, USU 0-0. Conference Record: NMSU 12-2, USU 8-5. Series Record: Utah State leads, 35-30.
GAME NOTES: Time to get out your programs, Western Athletic Conference basketball fans, as you will need them in order to follow the action between the Utah State Aggies and the New Mexico State Aggies as they get together at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan on Saturday night.
The maroon Aggies, which hail from Las Cruces, remain in the hunt for the best record in the WAC with just a few weeks left in the regular season. On Thursday night, NMSU continued to show why it was one of the hottest teams in the nation with a 67-57 triumph over San Jose State on the road.
Not only is NMSU now 12-2 in conference play, tied with Denver for second place behind only a perfect Louisiana Tech squad, but these Aggies have also won 12 consecutive games overall and are undefeated since the start of the new calendar year.
Meanwhile the Aggies from Utah, those that are recognized as the navy version, they've been trying to fill the void created by a handful of critical injuries and seemed to be on the right track coming into this week. However, after winning three straight outings, USU was taken out by visiting Denver on Valentine's Day, 63-60, in overtime, which means Utah State is now tied with Texas-Arlington for fourth place in the standings at 8-5.
Last month, these two teams met up at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces where the hosts captured a 64-51 win over USU, which means the all-time series is now 35-30 in favor of Utah State. NMSU has won three in a row in the series, but the team has captured just eight victories in 30 meetings played in Logan dating back more than five decades.
Going up against the Spartans a few nights ago at The Event Center, New Mexico State fell behind by six points before dialing up the pressure at both ends of the floor and coming away with the 10-point win. Except for Terrel de Rounen who finished with nine points, to go along with five assists, every starter for the Aggies hit for double figures, starting with Daniel Mullings with 15 points and continuing with Bandja Sy with his 13 and nine boards. Sim Bhullar and Renaldo Dixon both tacked on 10 points, the former blocking four shots and the latter clearing a game-high 14 boards.
Playing close to 37 minutes per game against the rest of the WAC, Mullings leads the group with his 15.1 ppg and is tied for first with 36 assists, while pacing the program with 38 steals in 14 league bouts. Sy (14.4 ppg) and Bhullar (11.8 ppg) combine for close to 16 rpg, the latter also registering 39 blocked shots which somewhat makes up for his miserable 48.6 percent shooting at the free-throw line.
Without hitting a single 3-point attempt through 40 minutes of regulation time, Utah State finally broke through in the bonus period versus Denver two nights ago thanks to Spencer Butterfield, but still the navy Aggies suffered the three-point loss at the buzzer. Butterfield finished with 16 points and six rebounds, Jarred Shaw came up a rebound shy of a double-double as he logged a game-high 18 points, followed by Ben Clifford with 14 points and he nailed all four of his field goal chances in the setback.
Losing Preston Medlin to a season-ending injury has set the team back considerably, especially since he was averaging 20.7 ppg in league play. Without him on the floor, that leaves Shaw and Butterfield to pick up the slack with 14.0 and 13.7 ppg, respectively. Both players are shooting better than 51.5 percent from the field and have combined for 15.0 rpg, but there is only so much the pair can do before running out of gas.
As long as New Mexico State isn't afraid to go to the bench and utilize the resources the team has at its disposal, this game could easily fall in favor of the visiting Aggies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico State 72, Utah State 63
02/16 10:45:29 ET