The Tarleton State Texans and New Mexico State Aggies did not disappoint in their first-ever meeting as conference foes. Tarleton State proved to be just as hard-nosed as Aggie head coach Chris Jans mentioned last week.
Both programs were looking to begin this newfound conference matchup off on a good note. But, each side registered pretty awful performances at least once this weekend to yield a split. After what looked like a big performance from the Aggies of old on Friday night, the world came crashing down Saturday. And with it, brought up the same old issues this program has been dealing with all year, consistency.
GAME ONE –Things Were Looking Up
To mention it for the umpteenth time this season, the Aggies can’t seem to play with the exact efficiency and intensity two days in a row. However, Chris Jans was pleased to see his team playing and shooting well on Friday night.
“We came out of the gates shooting the ball really well,” Jans said. “You better be up significantly at halftime when you shoot 8-for-9 from three. That solves all the problems … I was happy for them. You know it’s fun to do that once in a while.”
For the Texans, it was a polar opposite performance. Tarleton State shot a horrid 17.6 percent from deep (just 3-17). The Texans were also careless with the ball, committing 15 turnovers to just 10 assists. Freshman guard Shamir Bogues led his Texans with 14 points and five rebounds on the night. Right behind him was Montre’ Gibson with 12-points on just 5-9 shooting on the night (1-4 from deep).
The Aggies got it done on all fronts on Friday night, even if it’s normal stars failed to show up. What may have kept Chris Jans awake all night was his squads ability to head home, wake up and do it all again the next day.
GAME TWO –Texans bounce back
If New Mexico State was looking for any sort of consistency in this series, they found it. The Aggies were true to past results all season and lost Saturday’s game 64-55 to end the series in a split. For Tarleton State it was a David vs. Goliath rebound win in game two. The Texans came in as the new program looking to knock off the reigning three time WAC champions. After that ugly performance on Friday, Billy Gillispie’s group had an answer.
“Our guys were tuned in.” Gillispie said. “Not that they weren’t last night. We tried hard … We just didn’t get anything done effectively on Friday.”
Montre’ Gipson and Konstantine Dotsenko led the charge, playing all 40 minutes and leading all scorers. Gipson dropped a game-high 19-points to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Gipson did this all without draining one 3-pointer. Dotsenko drained three deep ones of his own to chip in 17 points and 5 rebounds.
However, the performance to highlight for the Texans may be on the defensive side of the ball. Tarleton State bounced back from a poor defensive night on Friday in which the Aggies shot 58% from the field. The Aggies struggled on Saturday, heaving up 33 3-point field goal attempts and only knocking down nine (27.3%) to go along with shooting 32.7 percent from the field. New Mexico State also committed 14 turnovers on Saturday compared to just seven for Tarleton State. This all culminates to just 55 points at the final buzzer for the Aggies. It’s the second-lowest scoring performance all season and only the second time this group was held below 60.
CONTINUED ROSTER UNCERTAINTIES
No one is making excuses for the Aggies, not even Chris Jans. The Aggies head coach has been facing injury issues throughout his roster left and right all season. This series was no different, as starting point guard Evan Gilyard II played just seven minutes in game one and did not play in game two.
To add to the mix, starting forward Donnie Tillman played just eleven minutes on Saturday after apparently informing the coaching staff of an ankle injury before tipoff. Add Tillman and Gilyard to a current list that includes Wilfried Likayi (concussion protocol) and Gerald Doakes (non-covid related health issue).
The Texans also had some exchanging of availabilities this weekend. Key rotation player Tahj Small returned to action in the series (4.5 PPG in 20.5 MPG). But, Billy Gillispie lost starting center Jonathan Jackson, who was replaced with Dotsenko in Saturday’s starting lineup.
Both squads gear up for their last Friday-Saturday conference series of the 2020-2021 season. After that, New Mexico State will join the other five programs taking part in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Vegas the following week.
Before that the Aggies have one more matchup to go, a make up game against UTRGV on Tuesday night in El Paso. After that New Mexico State travels to the other WAC and Division I newbie, Dixie State in St. George. The Trailblazers were off last week. But the week prior, had their own split with the Texans at home in Burns Arena.
Tarleton State stays in the Lone Star state next week but heads south, to face UTRGV in Edinburg. The Vaqueros may be a little less rested than normal after coming off of an impromptu matchup earlier in the week. UTRGV faces the Aggies in that aforementioned game Tuesday night.