It is safe the say that the offensive game plan was a bit of a struggle for New Mexico State over the weekend at GCU. Perhaps it was rust. Maybe it was a combination of GCU’s defense and not having played many games. Perhaps it was having two players that are still getting their feet under them after dealing with injuries. There are all kinds of what-ifs for the Aggies.
And to some extent, there is room for some justification.
But, in their first WAC series, the Aggies shot just 33.7 percent from the field in back-to-back losses on Friday and Saturday.
“Yeah I would say two nights in a row there were some lack of offense,” NMSU head coach Chris Jans said Saturday night. “We didn’t have a very good weekend offensively. I think we got plenty of guys that can score the ball. We got plenty of guys that can shoot the ball. We got guys around the basket I think can draw some double teams and score in one-on-one situations. But, we just haven’t done it. We actually haven’t done it all year long.”
Here is the thing. New Mexico State shot 44 percent from the field in the first half of both games. It was the second half of each game that really showed the offensive struggles. In fact, on Saturday night, New Mexico State hit just 2 of its final 14 shots in the contest. In both games combined, the Aggies shot just 24 percent from the field in the second half.
“You know I’m not sure exactly what the percentage is, but I would say there’s a combination of things that probably lead to that,” Jans said. “A lot of coaches say this but I believe it. Shooting’s contagious. Shooting is contagious for free throws, for threes. There’s something about that momentum that runs through your program or your team on certain nights. When that ball goes through the basket, the energy is uplifting and everybody else wants to get in on the act.”
Jans referenced the fact the Aggies just haven’t had that momentum in 2020-21 so far.
“We just haven’t had those stretches all year long to be honest with you, regardless of who we are playing. We just really haven’t had a game where it just felt like we were flowing and the ball was going through the hole and it boosted our confidence.”
On Friday night, Evan Gilyard and Clayton Henry were just 2-17 combined from the field. Johnny McCants had four field goals in the contest which was the highest of any Aggie. On Saturday, Wilfried Likayi had five field goals while Jabari Rice and Donnie Tillman each hit four field goals.
Simply put, there was just no offensive rhythm.
According to Jans, the silver lining is that the Aggies haven’t wasted ‘anybody’s really good performance.’
“As a coach I can’t stand when someone goes off and has a big game and then you lose and you wasted it … we got plenty of guys that can shoot the ball and I’m not going to name names but I told them in the locker room ‘you and you, you’re not shooting with confidence. You’re not shooting like you’re trying to make it.’ It was disappointing and I could see it.”
Yes, New Mexico State has had a rough go in 2020-21. And yes, there is plenty of talent on the roster. Yes, both Jabari Rice and Clayton Henry are just returning from injury. There are so many variables at play with the Aggies. Perhaps now that there is the consistency of knowing who and when you’ll play, the Aggies can find that offensive rhythm.
New Mexico State sits at 3-3 on the season. The Aggies have wins against three non-DI opponents and have yet to beat a Division I foe. As a team, the Aggies are shooting 40 percent from the field and just 25.7 percent from 3-point land.
“I’ve got to do better,” Jans said. “I’ve got to run better stuff and I’ve got to get them in better space and all that. But, at some point, you’ve got to step up and make shots especially when they’re open otherwise it’s hard to win college basketball games.”
New Mexico State is set to host California Baptist on Friday and Saturday. On the New Mexico State basketball site, it says the games are at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces.