Utah State will be taking their 13-game winning streak on the road to Las Cruces to take on the reigning conference champs New Mexico State Aggies in a crucial Western Athletic Conference matchup.
USU has gotten to 14-1 with relative ease and have raced out to the front of the Western Athletic Conference standings with a 5-0 mark. Their last loss was at the hands of St. Mary’s way back on November 15th, 67-58. New Mexico State was the coaches’ preseason favorite in the WAC, but currently sits at 4-2 and in 3rd place, coming in as winners of four straight, the last two each by a point.
Utah State had the preseason player of the year in guard Preston Medlin, who has lived up his preseason billing better than NMSU has, and averages a team-best 16.4 points per game.
In the battle of Aggies, it’s Utah State that features the more potent offense (75 ppg) and the better defense (65 ppg), which is also good for the second-best scoring margin in the conference (Denver is +10.3 ppg). Utah State features three of the top fifteen scorers in the WAC as well–Medlin, Jarred Shaw (12.7) and Kyisean Reed (12.5).
New Mexico State has a player that can do it all in Daniel Mullings–he’s an insane athlete who can score, rebound, and shoot at a high percentage (53.3 FG%). After Mullings, the scoring is pretty spread out. There is one player on the floor who’s guaranteed to be the biggest physically–7’5″ freshman Sim Bhullar. He’s shooting 63% from the field and averages close to 10 points and five rebounds per game, but has really come on of late, averaging 14.5 points over the last seven games.
The thing to watch in this one is the perimeter shooting of USU, who has four players shooting over 38% from three in conference games. The other part of this equation is the perimeter defense of New Mexico State as they’re allowing WAC opponents to shoot 37% from three. Utah State shouldn’t have to worry about NMSU and their three-point shooting–they connect on only 28% from deep.
New Mexico State gets to the line by pounding the ball inside–they’re 7th in the country in free throw attempts. The problem is they only make 65.8%. Utah State will certainly opt for the Hack-a-Shaq method if they’re losing late.
Both teams match up pretty evenly on the boards, but New Mexico State is averaging 6.5 blocks a game–thanks to Bhullar’s 1.8 per game–in conference, which will certainly play into how often the Aggies from Utah State go inside. If their perimeter shooters can knock down their shots, it could be a long night for the home team.
New Mexico State is the favorite tonight but after being swept by them last year by an average of 15.5 points, Utah State is eager for some revenge.