GAME NOTES: The New Mexico State Aggies put a three-game win streak on the line on Thursday night, as they travel to Moscow to take on the Idaho Vandals in a Western Athletic Conference clash.
The Aggies are in good position in the conference standings at 6-2, trailing only Utah Valley (7-1). New Mexico State has strung together three straight wins and is coming off a 72-49 rout of the Wolverines last Saturday.
The Vandals are at the opposite end of the conference spectrum, tied with CS- Bakersfield and TX-Pan American for last place at a mere 2-6. Idaho has lost two straight and four of its last five games, including Saturday's heartbreaker against Seattle, 68-67.
This marks the 29th all-time meeting between these two teams. New Mexico State has dominated with wins in 24 of the 28 matchups. NMSU has won four straight meetings and seeks the regular-season sweep after earning a rather easy 78-54 win at home on Jan. 11.
An efficient and potent offensive squad, the Aggies come into this game averaging an impressive 78.3 ppg on a healthy .485 shooting. Guard Daniel Mullings headlines a trio of double-digit scoring threats on the NMSU roster, ranking third in the conference at 17.2 ppg. Fellow guard DK Eldridge and center Tshilidzi Nephawe round out the top scorers with 11.5 and 10.7 ppg, respectively. Sim Bhullar (9.7 ppg) and K.C. Ross-Miller (9.0 ppg) add more depth. Nephawe and Bhullar are a potent rebounding tandem for the Aggies, grabbing 7.8 and 7.0 rpg, respectively.
New Mexico State made light work of league-leading Utah Valley and in the process won its 19th straight conference home game this past weekend. NMSU went into halftime with a mere five-point lead, but held the Wolverines to just 21 second-half points in the lopsided affair. The Aggies shot a sizzling .568 from the floor in the game and went an efficient 19-of-23 from the free- throw line. Mullings was instrumental once again, finishing with a game-high 21 points. Nephawe added 15 points to the cause, while Eldridge chipped in with 13.
Winning games consistently is a problem for Idaho, which suffers from a -3.6 scoring margin right now. The Vandals are averaging just 70.4 ppg on .432 shooting, but the team does possess one of the conference's most explosive scorers in Stephen Madison. The 6-foot-5 senior ranks second in the WAC in scoring (17.9 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (7.7 rpg). Connor Hill (14.0 ppg) and Glen Dean (11.5 ppg) give the team a couple of extra options at the offensive end.
The Vandals took a 12-point lead into intermission, but allowed Seattle to come roaring back in a one-point loss this past weekend. The loss spoiled a strong performance from Madison, who led all scorers with 27 points. Hill added 12 points in defeat, while Mike Scott tallied 10. Bira Seck had just four points, but did grab a team-best 10 rebounds.
The Cowan Spectrum has not been a safe haven for Idaho this season (3-6). New Mexico State just has more firepower and should be able to keep its winning ways going here.
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