NMSU opens league games with challenge

The Aggies are in Lafayette, La., prepping for the start of the Sun Belt Conference season. Over the next couple of weeks, NMSU will embark on a four-game road journey that includes trips to New Orleans Jan. 9, South Alabama Jan. 11 and Florida International Jan. 14.

To the rest of the world, Wednesday was New Year's Day. For the New Mexico State basketball team, it was the day before the most important leg of the 2002-03 basketball season.

The Aggies are in Lafayette, La., prepping for the start of the Sun Belt Conference season. Over the next couple of weeks, NMSU will embark on a four-game road journey that includes trips to New Orleans Jan. 9, South Alabama Jan. 11 and Florida International Jan. 14.

That journey begins today with perhaps the toughest team in the conference, Louisiana(7-4).

NMSU (8-2) had five days off over the Christmas holidays. But for the past five days, the Aggies have been back on the court, readying themselves for Louisiana.

"We're working hard to get better offensively," NMSU head coach Lou Henson said. "We're trying to work the big guys in, and trying to get better defensively."

The last time the Aggies were on the court for a game was Dec. 23, in a harder-than-expected 66-51 victory over Texas-Arlington. In that game, NMSU appeared lethargic and unfocused.

More than likely, it was a team looking forward to a break. Now, however, the Aggies can afford no such concentration lapses.

"We are getting better, and we will continue to get better," Henson said. "We're not where we'd like to be. It's a process."

Henson knows that beating Louisiana will be a tall order, especially at home.

"Right now, they are the best team in the league, now that Western Kentucky has two of their big guys out," Henson said. "We know what we're up against."

Henson also said facing Louisiana will be difficult after the holidays.

"There is no question it's an advantage to be home," he said. "The thinking is that if you can win half of your games on the road and (the majority) at home, you can either win or tie for your conference title."

Henson said there is little question the next four road games are important.

"How we do depends on (these games)," Henson said. "I think these games are very critical."


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