By: Derek Gonzales
Braxton Huggins led a first half barrage from behind the arc for the Aggies as NMSU jumped out to a 16-0 lead and were never threatened in an 86-51 win over the Chicago State Cougars Saturday night at the Pan American Center.
The win marked the 20th straight victory for the Aggies, two shy of breaking the school record of 21 set by the 1937-38 team. NMSU has not lost since falling 72-59 at New Mexico on Nov. 18. NMSU will travel to their toughest conference road trip of the season, facing CSU-Bakersfield on Thursday and Grand Canyon on Saturday.
“I feel like that (trip to CSUB and GCU) will be just about us mentally preparing, and not really focusing on the opponent but focusing on us,” guard Chance Ellis said. “When we take care of the defensive end of the floor, offensively, we are fine”
NMSU (22-2, 8-0 WAC) seemed to be playing with a sense of urgency right out of the gate on the defensive end after Head Coach Paul Weir was critical of the team’s defensive effort Monday night against Northern New Mexico. Chicago State (6-19, 1-7 WAC) was held scoreless for the first 4:50 of the game before Trayvon Palmer scored off a second-chance opportunity to open the scoring for the Cougars. The score was 16-2 at that point.
The Aggies shot 66.7 percent from the field in the first half, including an 8-of-15 performance from 3. Huggins led the team with 12 first-half points, but did not return to action after being called for a flagrant foul for tripping a Chicago State defender while being knocked down while attempting a 3-pointer.
“We wanted to come out aggressive, and not really wait to get into our defensive mode, because we know that that is all effort,” junior guard Matt Taylor said after pouring in a career-high 15 points on the night. “It (defensive effort) was a focus all week in practice, so we knew coming into the game that that’s what we needed to do.”
The good times continued for the Aggies, leading by as much as 35 in the second half. Every player who entered the ball for NMSU scored, and Fred Sims, Chicago State’s leading scorer with a 19.1 point per game average, was held to just five points on a rough 2-of-11 showing from the field.
The nation’s second-longest winning streak will reside in Las Cruces for at least four more days, as Weir and the Aggies will ready for the western swing next weekend.