By Albert Luna
The Aggies defeated the University of Texas – El Paso Miners, 73-59, on Wednesday night in the Pan American Center.
UTEP came into the game undefeated, while NMSU was reeling from an overtime loss to Air Force.
Pascal Siakam opened up the official scoring with an opening offensive board, giving the Aggies the early lead. The opening sequence of play belonged predominantly to the Aggies.
The Aggies came out firing on all cylinders, in large part due to the three-point shots, particularly from Ian Baker. It also never hurts to get a third scoring punch from Matt Taylor, who had a quick five of his own.
NMSU led 15-2 before a media timeout stopped the bleeding for the Miners. The crowd of 6,303 was enthralled for most of the game.
“I thought the crowd was nice today,” Head Coach Marvin Menzies says.
Another timeout put the Aggies up by a slimmer than expected 22-9 lead. However, the expected run from the Miners did not fail to disappoint, with seemingly every shot from there on out being a three-point attempt.
The early woeful Miners shooting eventually ended with four straight shots from downtown that would ignite a furious run from UTEP, putting them within two points of the Aggies.
But the home team did not allow the Miners to get any closer after that mark, with a few buckets from Pascal Siakam, taking the Aggies to 36-28 into the half. At this point, Siakam already had an impressive 12-point, 12-rebound double-double.
“Siakam, from what I have seen, looks to part of an NBA player,” says UTEP Head Coach Tim Floyd. “He is putting up numbers that are similar to players like Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley.”
The second half started with the fury UTEP had show in the first, this time from the paint instead of the three-point line. The Miners used a string of layups and turnovers from the Aggies to close the gap to just four at one point.
However, in a game that was nothing but runs, the Aggies responded in a game-defining way midway through the half. The Miners threw at the Aggies a half-court press that initially gave the Aggies some fits, but they responded well, in large part due to their two stars, Siakam and Baker, who won the game for the Aggies with their shooting (Baker) and quick punches inside (Siakam).
The Aggies outpaced the Miners the rest of the way from there, with a pair of double digits-runs proving to be enough to close out the Miners. The final score, 73-59, is not indicative of how close the game really was most of the way, providing the Aggies with a solid RBI boosting.
Siakam finished the game with a line of 24 points and 23 rebounds, the seventh-most rebounds in Aggie history.
“I just went out there and we knew it was s rivalry game and we wanted to play better after that (UNM) game,” Siakam says.
Matt Taylor, who contributed nine points, including a momentum-swinging 360 degree slam-dunk midway through the second half, had nothing but praise for his teammate.
“What doesn’t Pascal do? He is an excellent leader and he put the team on his back,” Taylor says.
The Aggies improved to 5-2 on the season and 5-1 at home.
The Aggies will next face off against Long Beach State on December 5.
Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu
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