In front of what was the largest Pan American crowd of the season, the Aggies and Lobos battled through some tough calls and a generally physical game until the Aggies prevailed 67-48. "Defense had a lot to do with it," Aggie coach Lou Henson said about what was initially a low-scoring game. "It was a very good ball game. This was a defensive struggle."
The defense led to a lot of turnovers on both ends of the floor, with NMSU and UNM giving up the ball 15 and 18 times, respectively. It also led to poor perimeter shooting on the part of the Lobos, who went 5-26 for 19.2 percent from three-point land.
Lobo coach Ritchie McKay credited the Aggies for their defensive effort, especially with regard to holding UNM center David Chiotti to 17 points. Chiotti was averaging 20 points a game coming in to the contest, but only scored five points in the second half.
"We didn't shoot well, that's obvious,""McKay said. "(NMSU) did a nice job of trying to take (Chiotti) away. It was difficult offensively, my hat's off to them."
Despite what looked like sloppiness out of both teams, especially in the first half, Henson was pleased with the performance of his team. "It's the best game we've played," Henson said. Besides defense, it takes points to win a game and Wednesday night, and for the Aggies, they came in the form of sophomore guard Duane John.
In his first regular-season game since transferring from the Missouri two years ago, John scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
John's performance might be an indicator of what the season holds, but Henson was hesitant to make any proclamations.
"You don't judge a player on one game," Henson said. "(John) is learning, he will be a good player."
James Moore had his first double-double of the season, with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Detrius Roberson, who is also new to the Aggies this season, added 12 points and 5 rebounds of his own in the win.
The Aggies will try to carry the momentum over to Saturday, when they face the University of Texas-El Paso. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at the Pan American Center.