By: Derek E. Gonzales
Hosting New Mexico State’s first ever Canada Night, Toronto native and NMSU head coach Paul Weir and his Aggies made the most of the occasion, routing D-II Eastern New Mexico by the score of 84-50 Tuesday night at the Pan American Center.
The NMSU roster features four Canadians (Jermaine Haley, Matt Taylor, Jalyn Pennie, and Tanveer Bhullar) and have had a pipeline to Canadian prep players that have included Hernst Laroche, Sim Bhullar, and Daniel Mullings since Marvin Menzies hired Weir into the program in 2007.
The Canadian National Anthem was played pre-game, and Canadian and former NMSU and Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Roy Gerela was in attendance to watch the Aggies lead by as many as 21 in the first half. Weir and the team were glad they could show gratitude towards former Canadian Aggies.
“This is my tenth year here now, and we’ve had several (Canadian) players, so it was a cool night for me and the guys who have come here to just give back our appreciation,” Weir said about the theme of the night. “It was a neat deal and I’m glad everybody did it.”
NMSU (12-2) shot 48.5 percent from the field in the first half, but turned the ball over ten times against the overmatched Greyhounds. ENMU (5-9) was able to turn those turnovers into 12 points, but the Aggies still lead 45-28 at the half.
“Our defensive rebounding and our turnovers were just not where they were supposed to be and they have to improve drastically if we are going to win on Friday night,” Weir said. “Eastern probably played harder than we did, and it is unacceptable. We need to make sure we have our effort every night.”
Despite not playing a crisp game, the Aggies had another impressive defensive showing, allowing ENMU to shoot just 24 percent in the game and conceding just 50 points, 17 points below their average (67.5) this season. The full-court pressure caused ENMU to turn the ball over 17 times, though NMSU had 18 turnovers of their own. After an eight-day layoff, it was encouraging to see a solid defensive effort, even with a sparse Pan American Center crowd of 3,912.
The 18th straight win on the Pan American parquet floor was by the second-largest margin during the home winning streak (NMSU beat Arizona Christian by 48 to begin the season) and saw the Aggies reel off an 18-0 second half run to extend a 19-point lead to 37 (largest lead of the game).
NMSU shot 47.4 percent for the game and made nine three-pointers, led by Ian Baker, who had 18 points in just 27 minutes of action. Eli Chuha was just one rebound short of a double-double, scoring 16 points and bringing down 9 rebounds, while Huggins continued his strong performance from behind the arc, shooting 3-of-5 from deep en route to 15 points.
The struggling UTEP Miners come into Las Cruces Friday night at 7 p.m. for NMSU’s final non-conference game before the Aggies start WAC play January 5 at UMKC.