Aggies roll in season opener vs WNMU

Defense has been a point of emphasis from day one of practice for the New Mexico State Aggies. Monday night, the Aggies got the message, forcing 26 Western New Mexico turnovers and limiting the visitors to 36.4 percent shooting in an 83-51 win at the Pan American Center.

"We gutted it out in the second half," said NMSU head coach Reggie Theus, who won his first regular season game as a head coach. "We still have work to do, we still have a long way to go. On offense we still have to do a better job of recognizing good shots and recognizing situations that will help us."

After a tight first half, NMSU (1-1) outscored the Mustangs (0-3) 51-26 in the second half, making 20-of-28 from the field. New Mexico State shot 51.5 percent from the field for the game and had four players score in double figures. The Aggies also outrebounded WNMU, 44-27.

Sophomore Tyrone Nelson led NMSU with 21 points, center Trevor Lawrence and forward David Fisher added 15, apiece, followed by guard Ted Knauber with 14. Nelson added a game-high 11 rebounds, while Lawrence had 10.

"We got out and ran more," Knauber said. "We have to do more of that. We ran our offense better in the second half and got good looks at the basket. Our post players gave us a great effort, they were huge tonight."

Western New Mexico State trailed just 48-40 with 11:37 left after a Mike Richards three-point play.

But the Mustangs scored just three points over the next 7:33 as the Aggies took control, leading by as much 32 on three occasions.

"New Mexico State was able to wear us down," Mustangs coach Mark Coleman said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of defending their guards, but they hurt us inside."

Western New Mexico was led by Mike Sells with 10 points and Matt Enriquez with nine.

"New Mexico State picked up its intensity on defense and we struggled to get going on offense," Enriquez said.

The Aggies struggled shooting for much of the first half, but a strong effort on the boards and 12 forced turnovers gave them a 32-25 lead at the break.

New Mexico State had 10 second-chance points in the opening half, which featured three ties and three lead changes.

"We didn't come out with the intensity that I would have like to," Theus said. "We have to do the little things right or we're going to get beat. In the first half, we took 11 3-pointers against a team that we had the advantage on inside. Our decision making has to be better. I though we played well defensively and hit the boards well."

The Aggies used a 9-2 run in the final 3:33 to take a seven-point halftime lead. Nelson led the way with four points, including a jumper with 1.7 seconds left in the half.

Nelson led the Aggies, which shot just 40 percent and made 1 of 11 3-pointers, with 10 points in the opening half, Lawrence had nine. Nelson and Lawrence went a combined 8-of-14 from the field in the opening 20 minutes. Nelson also pulled down eight boards.

The Mustangs got seven points each from guard Enriquez and Sells to lead the way. New Mexico State also outrebounded the visitors 22-15.

"We were able to hit some shots and slow down the game some and that helped us," Coleman said.

The Aggies are back home Saturday against Sam Houston State at 7:05 p.m.

"We're heading into a big stretch of games," Lawrence said. "We have to play better for 40 minutes."

After the Sam Houston State game, the Aggies play Texas-El Paso and New Mexico next week at home.

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