Aching Aggies take Sun Belt road trip

NMSU visits 8-4 New Orleans at 6:05 p.m. today in the Big Easy.

Lou Henson says a team can't be weak in any area and win on the road.

The New Mexico State Aggies get to test that theory a little more than they would like starting today, when 8-3 NMSU visits 8-4 New Orleans at 6:05 p.m. today in the Big Easy.

The Aggies continue their crucial road trip Saturday at South Alabama and Wednesday at Florida International.

"The road is not easy," Henson said this week.

It won't be easy today.

The Privateers flaunt 6-foot-7 senior forward Hector Romero, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds at Louisiana State last week and had 14 points and a season-best 15 rebounds in the team's first Sun Belt win over South Alabama on Saturday.

Romero is averaging 21.4 points per game and 10.3 rebounds.

That's not all. Other than Romero, the Privateers had four players averaging in double figures last week. -- sophomore forward Victor Brown, junior guard A.J. Meredith and junior guard Johnell Smith.

"Their inside attack makes them tough to beat," Henson said of New Orleans. "Last year, we played very well and it went down to the wire."

The Aggies won both their games with New Orleans last season but were lucky to escape with the road win. NMSU won 64-62 on Eric Channing's 16 points.

Henson says the Privateers are better this year.

"They've had a year of maturity and more experience playing together. They are an excellent team," he said.

The main responsibility of guarding Romero could fall on junior forward James Moore, who has been playing superbly since returning from academic ineligibility Dec. 15.

Moore is averaging 20 points and five rebounds a game.

"It's always been a good matchup (between me and Romero)," Moore said. "He's an outstanding player. He does it all."

A concern for the Aggies could be the health of senior guard Brandon Mason. Mason injured his ankle last week in an 81-74 loss to Louisiana and played sparingly in the second half.

He missed a practice this week, but insists he is ready to play.

"It was just a little ankle sprain," Mason said. "I'm all right."

The Louisiana game was a bad Sun Belt Conference start for the Aggies.

The Aggies led by as many as nine points early but faded down the stretch. They lost the lead just before halftime and never regained it.

"I got in foul trouble, and I take the blame for that loss," said senior guard Jason Fontenet, who is averaging 10 points a game. "(New Orleans') guards are good. We have to stop them from penetrating. We should've won the Louisiana game. It doesn't matter where we play. We need to get wins."

Matthew Aguilar may be reached at maguilar@elpasotimes.com


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