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NMSU returns home for battle with Sam Houston

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Photo Courtesy: NMSU Athletics

(Courtesy: NMSU Athletics)

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - The New Mexico State Aggies are coming off of a truly historic week.

On Thursday, the defense smothered Western Kentucky on the road as the program picked up its first Conference USA. a historic weekend.

Two days later against Middle Tennessee senior guard Molly Kaiser became the 25th member of the Crimson & White to join the 1,000 point club.

The Aggies (7-10, 1-3) return to the friendly confines of the Pan American Center for a Thursday night tilt with Sam Houston (5-11, 0-4).

The contest marks just the second home contest in 40 days, and the first since Jan. 11.

On that night, the Aggies made their CUSA home debut, and fell 57-52 to an FIU squad that now sits tied atop the league standings at 4-0.

How to Follow

Who: Sam Houston (5-11, 0-4 CUSA) at NM State (7-10, 1-3 CUSA)

Where: Pan American Center – Las Cruces, NM

When: Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 at 6:00 PM MT

Live Stream: ESPN+

Live Statistics:

All-Time Series Record: NM State leads 3-1

Last Meeting: NM State 70 at Sam Houston 64 (Mar. 2, 2023)

Where the Aggies Stand

Securing the program's first-ever win as members of Conference USA against Western Kentucky on Thursday, the Aggies looked to notch a second straight road win as they took on the league-leading Blue Raiders at the Murphy Center on Saturday afternoon. Trailing 21-5 through the first quarter of action, NM State could never recover, ultimately falling 85-48, dropping their record to 7-10 overall and 1-3 in CUSA play.

Through the first three weeks of conference games the Aggies are tied for sixth place in the CUSA standings, just half a game back of Liberty and one game behind LA Tech, currently fourth in the conference with a 2-2 mark. Sam Houston holds the ninth and final spot in Conference USA as the last remaining squad searching for their first conference win.

Preceding a pair of games this weekend, NM State will play just seven more games in Las Cruces this season, culminating on Saturday, Mar. 2 with Senior Day against Jacksonville State. Following the conclusion of their regular season Mar. 9 against FIU, the Aggies will head to Huntsville, Alabama for their first CUSA Tournament, held Mar. 12-16 from Propst Arena.

1K Kaiser

With 1:12 remaining in the third quarter against Middle Tennessee, Watauga, Texas native Molly Kaiser employed one of her patented moves – driving down the left side of the lane before pulling up for an elbow jumper – burying the shot to give her six points in the quarter. The basket held extra significance as it gave Kaiser 1,000 career points, with every one coming as a member of the Crimson & White.

Kaiser becomes the 25th member of the 1,000 club, and the first since Gia Pack, who played for the Aggies from 2016-2020.

Old Reliable
Just two Aggies have earned the distinction of starting all 17 games this season. Every opening tip has been taken by Ene Adams, who has put forth a career year, sinking 50.6 percent of her shots en route to averaging 6.5 points per game in just 21.8 average minutes of action. Adams also paces the Aggies in total rebounds (86) and rebounds per game (5.1). Joining Adams is senior guard Molly Kaiser, who has been in every starting five of the 2023-24 season. The fourth-year Aggie has improved in nearly every offensive statistic from a year prior. Kaiser has already made more 3-pointers this season (17) than last (12), and has substantially improved to a team high 3-point percentage (41.5). Additionally, the Watauga, Texas native has canned 83.9 percent of her free-throw attempts to bolster her career-high 14.4 points per game. 

Defense First

Defense has been a staple of the NM State program since ushering in the Jody Adams era, and the trend has carried into this season. The Aggies currently rank 10th in Division I in 3-point percentage defense, allowing just 24.7 percent of opponents’ attempts from deep to fall. That mark far and away leads CUSA, and ranks ahead of powerhouse programs like South Carolina (21st) and Notre Dame (29th). 

Winning the turnover battle has been a key to victory for the Aggies this season, notching five of their seven wins on the season when recording fewer giveaways than their opponents. As a team, NM State ranks 68th in the nation in opponent turnovers per game, forcing foes into 18.9 turnovers per contest.

The Aggies also rank second in Conference USA and 73rd nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 59.4 points per game – a number that drops to 52.8 points per game from the Pan American Center. At home, NM State has forced 22.8 turnovers per game and allowed just 22.1 percent of opponent 3-pointers to fall. 

Jaila’s Jumpers

Transferring in from Butler CC in El Dorado, Kansas, junior guard Jaila Harding has been a spark on offense for the Crimson & White, especially from the 3-point line. Last season, the Aggies ranked 328th in the nation from beyond the arc, shooting just 26.1 percent. Through 17 games in the 2023-24 season, this has jumped to 32.4 percent, while ranking 136th in the nation.

Individually, Harding paces both the Aggies and CUSA in 3-point percentage, converting at a 35.7 percent clip and making 2.1 triples per game. Across the nation, the Wichita, Kansas native ranks 109th individually by 3-point percentage. 

Sabou’s Swipes

Junior guard Sabou Gueye has seen massive improvement through her second season with NM State, taking significant leaps in minutes per game (+13.0), free-throw percentage (+28.5), rebounds per game (+2.3), and points per game (+4.9). 

The Senegal native’s most impactful improvement has come on the defensive end. Totaling 16 steals in 34 games during the 2022-23 campaign, Gueye has already posted 31 steals in just 17 contests, good for 1.94 steals a game. This ranks third in the conference and 153rd nationally.

Scouting the Bearkats

Sam Houston is led by sixth-year Head Coach Ravon Justice. In her time in Hunstville, she has led the program to a record of 83-75. Last year, the Bearkats finished eighth in the WAC after going 8-10 in conference play and 13-17 overall. 

The offense usually works from the inside out, with No. 14 as the focal point. Raanee Smith has doubled her points and rebounds per game from a year prior, posting 11.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest. Smith posted a career-high 22 points against Texas College, sinking nine of 19 field goal attempts. 

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Adrian Ochoa

Adrian Ochoa is ABC-7’s Sports Director.


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