The iron hoops certainly didn't work for New Mexico State or New Orleans. The Privateers crunched NMSU 51-37 in a Sun Belt game that could be referred to, nicely, as a defensive struggle.
The win, coupled with a Denver loss, puts UNO (12-11 overall, 6-4 Sun Belt) in a tie for second in the Sun Belt's Western Division with North Texas. NMSU (10-11, 4-6) drifts farther from a berth in the Sun Belt tournament.
Both teams netted a season low in points Thursday. For NMSU, the woes went a bit deeper. The Aggies shot down previous lows in field goals made (12), field goal percentage (28.3), 3-point field goals made (one) and 3-point percentage (7.7).
But the fact that both teams might as well have been launching sofa cushions at the goal wasn't the only factor in the scoring drought. NMSU's low could also be attributed, in part, to a Privateer high.
"It was strange because we had been struggling on defense this year," UNO coach Monte Towe said. "But this might be the best job, defensively, one of my teams has ever done." The Privateers also controlled the boards, outrebounding NMSU, 47-32.
New Orleans post defenders kept the handcuffs on the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year, forward James Moore. If Moore managed to get the ball (his total touches seemed to be less than normal), UNO usually sprung a double team on him. And when Moore kicked the ball to Aggies on the perimeter none of them could seem to get the jump shots to fall. Moore, who led NMSU with 10 points, settled for many long jumpers himself, and regularly misfired.
"You can never shut (Moore) down but you can limit his opportunities," Towe said. "I've seen what he can do. We wanted to make other people beat us." No Aggie could.
NMSU coach Lou Henson couldn't remember when a team of his made offense look so difficult, "We did a poor job running the offense, our skill level was bad," Henson said. "And when you don't shoot the ball (well) you're not going to win."
Moore also seemed baffled by NMSU's drunken aim. "It's never been like this in my four years here," Moore said. "But this year it seems like (shooting) has been like this a couple times, it's kind of fishy. It's like if one guy starts to miss everybody misses, like a domino effect." NMSU didn't waste any time before it started lofting bricks. The Aggies didn't score until the 13:27 mark of the first half when a Kelsey Crooks jumper sneaked through the net. But the Aggies only trailed 5-2 at the time.
That was the thing: NMSU couldn't score but neither could the Privateers. UNO didn't have control until a small burst midway through the half. Sophomore Billy McDade notched seven quick points, helping to give UNO a 16-6 lead.
McDade finished with 11 points. Victor Brown paced all scorers with 14 points for the balanced-as-usual Privateers. "Our defense was good," Henson said. "Last time out (New Orleans) scored 100 points and they are one of the best offensive teams in the league plus they're deep. We were pleased with that. (The outcome) could have been much worse, imagine if they scored 90."
NMSU sliced a seven point halftime deficit to three in the opening minutes of the final 20 minutes but could get no closer. UNO would eventually embark on a 14-4 run, thanks in part to a technical foul on Moore and put the game away.
Unable to afford any more league losses the Aggies head into Mobile, Ala., to face South Alabama on Saturday night. The Jaguars fell to Sun Belt frontrunner Louisiana-Lafayette, 79-73 on Thursday