How would the New Mexico State men’s basketball team respond? What would be the mentality on Friday night at the Orleans Arena?
There were a lot of questions surrounding the Aggies. New Mexico State has played just two games, and was coming off a mess-of-a-weekend where its rivalry game against New Mexico was cancelled.
Talking with New Mexico State broadcaster Adam Young, the feeling was two-fold. The Aggies were either going to come out flat and hung over from the mess of last weekend. Or, the Aggies were going to come out with a massive chip on their shoulders.
Well, fortunately for Aggie fans, Xavier Pinson, Quayè Gordon and the Aggies came out on fire on Friday night.
Pinson hit five 3-pointers in the first half, Gordon was lights out on both ends, and the Aggies led wire-to-wire in a 90-77 win over San Diego at the Orleans Arena Friday night.
Here are five thoughts from an impressive Aggie victory.
X Marks the Spot
Xavier Pinson was my preseason pick for WAC Player of the Year. And in three games thus far, Pinson is averaging 16.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and just over five assists per game.
And on Friday night, Pinson could not miss. The 6-2 senior guard was 5-6 from distance in the first half. And then, Pinson started off the second half right where he left off…with a 3-pointer. The Chicago, Illinois native had a game-high 25 points. And it seemed like Pinson was quicker, and more aggressive than any other guards on the floor on Friday night.
Pinson’s ability to see the floor is just as impressive. And the first step is hard to defend. Fans knew he was a slasher who liked to get in the paint. But, it was the shooting that was impressive on Friday night.
New Mexico State Bigs Hold Their Own
A lot of the talk has been about the guards in Las Cruces. And for good reason. Xavier Pinson, Deshawndre Washington, Quayè Gordon, Anthony Roy among others are generating a lot of discussion. But I was impressed with Doc Bradley and Issa Muhammad on Friday night.
Muhammad is a big, physical presence in the paint who uses his body well and plays above the rim. Brady can play multiple positions on the floor and can finish above the rim, as well.
About the only gripe on Friday night from the big guys was the free throw shooting. Bradley and Muhammad were a combined 1-7 from the charity stripe.
2H | 17:40 | ⬆️ 49-30
— NM State MBB (@NMStateMBB) November 26, 2022
No Hangover From Tough Situation
One week ago, the New Mexico State men’s basketball program was shaken with some really unfortunate news. Junior forward Mike Peake was involved in a shooting on the New Mexico campus hours before the Aggies were supposed to play rival New Mexico in The Pit.
Peake was shot and wounded and a 19-year-old UNM student was shot and killed in the altercation.
Game cancelled. Lots of questions surrounding the incident. And a wonder if the New Mexico State men’s basketball team would play another game.
When it was announced Tuesday that the Aggies would play in Las Vegas this weekend, many wondered how they would respond. Even head coach Greg Heiar wasn’t sure how the Aggies would respond.
But, respond they did. Xavier Pinson knocked down the first shot of the game, and the Aggies were in control all night. In fact, New Mexico State was the more aggressive team at the Orleans Arena Friday night. Diving after loose balls, running down long rebounds, and simply out-hustling San Diego en rout to the double-digit halftime lead.
And in the second half, even when San Diego made a run to cut the deficit to single digits, the Aggies made plays. New Mexico State hit its final eight shots in the win including Deshawdre Washington’s windmill dunk to put the exclamation point on the win.
“I wasn’t sure how they would respond,” Heiar said. “But they all responded.”
New Mexico State plays UC Irvine on Saturday night at the Las Vegas