Seattle and New Mexico State win
Jabari Rice had a team-high 20 points to lead New Mexico State to its first conference win of the 2020-21 season. Courtesy NMSU Athletics.
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Seattle, New Mexico State Pick Up First WAC Wins in Dominating Fashion

Did anyone believe that New Mexico State and Seattle would be a a combined 0-5 to start WAC play when the 2020-21 season began? If so, you are probably in the minority. The Aggies were the unanimous favorite to win the WAC….again. And Seattle was a middle of the pack pick in the preseason polls.

But, due to COVID issues that both teams have faced, the start of conference play was a bit unfriendly.

Until Saturday night, that is. 

Jabari Rice had 20 points and New Mexico State shot nearly 60 percent from the field in a 97-70 win over California Baptist at Eastwood High School in El Paso. And Darrion Trammell went for 30 points once again to lead Seattle to a 77-56 win over Dixie State at the Burns Arena in St. George.

Here is a short recap of both games.

Trammell Has Another Big Night to Lead Redhawks to Big Win

Seattle U guard Darrion Trammell will win WAC Player of the Week honors. If he doesn’t after posting back-to-back 30-point games, something is wrong. On Friday night, Trammell had 30 points in a 1-point loss at Dixie State. However, on Saturday night against that same Dixie State team, Trammell’s big night came along with a big win for Seattle. 

Trammell was 11-20 from the field and 5-8 from deep for a game-high 30 points in the 21-point win. All this while playing 39 minutes. The only other Redhawk in double figures was Aaron Nettles who had 16 points. 

“What, we’ve played twice in 40 days,” Seattle U head coach Jim Hayford said. “And I think we needed the game the night before, which would have been great if we were on the other side of it. But we needed that game like, ‘oh, we’re guarding someone else, we gotta guard harder.’ And that’s why you win by 20 on the road. We stopped the other team. And so our defense was much better the second night.”

Here is the kicker…Trammell scored 20 of his game-high 30 points in the second half. What you don’t realize is that Trammell was the focal point of the Dixie State defense. Seattle’s leading scorer Riley Grigsby didn’t play this week due to an undisclosed injury. Thus, the burden of the offensive output was on Darrion Trammell’s shoulders. And at 5’10, the smallest player on the floor most of the game Saturday night, had the biggest impact. 

“Point guard is a fun position to play in our offense,” Hayford said. “But no one has caught on this fast and had back-to-back 30-point games. He shot the ball great, got to the free throw line. I mean he had big turnover nights but it’s because without Riley (Grigsby) we’re having to have him make a play nearly every time down the court.”

Next up for the Redhawks is hosting New Mexico State at the Redhawk Center next Friday and Saturday. 

Defense, Energy Key in New Mexico State’s First WAC Win of 2020-21

If you missed the New Mexico State game against California Baptist on Saturday night, go back to WAC Digital Network and check it out. The energy from the starters to the bench were absolutely key for the Aggies. Evan Gilyard was a catalyst with his approach on the defensive end in getting New Mexico State in the win column. Jabari Rice put up Preseason Player of the Year numbers with his 20-point performance while shooting 70 percent from the floor. 

Here is another stat to think about with regard to how good New Mexico State was defensively. CBU guards Reed Nottage and Tre Armstrong had 37 points combined on Friday night in the Lancers’ 85-75 win over the Aggies. On Saturday night, Nottage and Armstrong had a combined 5 points and were a combined 0-10 from the field. 

On the flip side, the Aggies offense came to life even more on Saturday night. One night after shooting 48 percent from the floor in a 10-point loss, the Aggies put on an offensive clinic. New Mexico State shot nearly 60 percent from the field en route to a season-high 97 points. Five Aggies scored in double figures led by Rice’s 20. Donnie Tillman had 19 points, Evan Gilyard II had 13 points, William McNair had 12 points and C.J. Roberts had 11 points. The Aggies also knocked down 10 3-pointers on the night.

“We needed it,” New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans said. “I’m really happy for our players. It’s been a while. It’s been way too long … I’m excited for them. Our backs have been against the wall, obviously. It’s been tough sledding. They stuck together in the last 24 hours. It’s been tough. We’ve had some pretty pointed meetings.”

Jans continued to talk about the importance of Saturday night’s win.

“I felt like this game was pivotal for us going forward. We had to get in the win column. We had to play together, we had to fight for each other, and they did that. The bench was awesome. The energy was really, really good. Hopefully this will springboard us to playing better in the near future.”

CBU shot the ball well in the loss. The Lancers shot nearly 47 percent from the field. Ty Rowell had a team-high 22 points while Elijah Thomas and Gorjok Gak finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

New Mexico State travels to the Pacific Northwest to take on Seattle next weekend. CBU hosts UTRGV in a big series at the CBU Events Center next weekend.  

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