Arizona Downs NMSU 83-76
It's not often that national powers make their way to the borderland to hoop it up against UTEP or NMSU. Sean Miller's Arizona Wildcats were in Las Cruces last night to return a home-and-home series with NMSU.
Aggie fans weren't just content to see the Wildcats in their building. Rather, the Aggies and their fans had thoughts of winning the game. It didn't seem far fetched either. The Aggies are an experienced, athletic, uptempo group who crash the offensive glass like few 'mid-majors' can.
Arizona lost Derrick Williams and his 20+ ppg to the NBA. Point guard MoMo Jones transferred to Iona to be closer to family. The cats started the year in the top 20, but were reeling after non conference losses to Mississippi State and San Diego State.
The Aggies got off to a fast start, taking an eight point lead before the game was two minutes old. Arizona settled in, shot an even 60% in the first half, and took a 44-40 lead at the half.
Tied at 60 with about ten minutes left, Arizona seemed to find an extra gear and went on a 12-2 run to take a ten point lead with 7:33 to go. NMSU had put up a good fight but looked like they were getting worn down by the superior team.
The game seemed all but over when NMSU committed an intentional foul on Arizona's Josiah Turner with just over for minutes remaining. After Turner nailed both shots Arizona led 78-69
NMSU then dug deep on defense and stayed patient enough on offense to reel off a 7-1 run. Arizona led 79-76 with under 30 seconds when the refs called a borderline foul on NMSU's Tyrone Watson that sealed the game for the Wildcats.
Perhaps there was enough contact to warrant a call, but it's a shame that a hard fought, well played game was decided by the men in striped shirts.
Despite the 83-76 loss, NMSU once again showed they will be a force to be reckoned with in the WAC. They once again dominated the offensive glass, 19-8. Wendell Mckines was brilliant, scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 boards.
Making his first start of the season, Arizona freshman guard Nick Johnson stole the show. He was selfless, has great shooting range, and can jump out of the gym. The Cats will definitely miss Derrick Williams and MoMo Jones this year, but the future is bright in Tucson.
Arizona coach Sean Miller had nothing but praise for both the NMSU squad and his super frosh Nick Johnson.
Next up for the 5-2 Aggies is a road test against Southern Miss on December 4th. The 5-2 Wildcats have a few days off before hosting Northern Arizona on December 3rd.