Courtesy of NMSU
LAS CRUCES, N.M. –The New Mexico State Aggies got a double-double from redshirt freshman Pascal Siakam, but had to fight off a pesky Chicago State squad to close the regular season with a 61-57 Western Athletic Conference victory Saturday night at the Pan American Center.
Siakam racked up his sixth double-double of the season posting 11 points with 10 rebounds to go with a career-high tying five blocked shots against the Cougars (8-23, 4-10 WAC).
The WAC Regular Season Champion Aggies (21-10, 13-1) won their 11th straight, establishing the program’s 10th longest winning streak. The Aggies also picked up their 10th straight home win and their 28th WAC home victory.
The Aggies never trailed in the game, but saw their 16-point lead with 15:23 remaining get whittled down to two with 1:48 to play by turnovers forced by a tenacious Cougar defense.
“We’re glad to get out of the game with a victory,” said NM State head coach Marvin Menzies. “Chicago State was so tough. They’re tough kids and they’re undersized but they fight and fight. They’re much better than their record.”
However, NM State never let the Cougars get even down the stretch, thanks in part to Siakam’s boards and blocks that insured a successful senior night.
“Pascal played like a senior the last few minutes,” said Menzies of the redshirt freshman. “He was really active and went to high alert where he needed to be the last four-to-five minutes of the game.”
The night did belong to the seniors as center Tshilidzi Nephawe led the Aggies with 13 points with six boards, and forward Remi Barry tallied 12 points.
Senior guard Daniel Mullings capped his home career with just seven points, but that included a mammoth tomahawk slam dunk in the first half that ranked among the ESPN Sports Center Top 10 plays of the day.
Senior guard DK Eldridge led the team by hitting 2-of-3 from the 3-point arc as part of his nine points on the evening.
The Aggies opened the game on an 8-2 run bolstered by the sellout crowd of 12,572 at the Pan Am. However their season-high 23 turnovers, 15 in the second half, held the crowd at bay.
“The crowd was amazing,” added Menzies. “But I thought it could’ve been louder. We deflated a lot of the sails ourselves with our turnovers and it’s hard to keep your home fans engaged with careless mistakes.”
Chicago State was paced by Clarke Rosenberg’s 21 points with four assists, while Trayvon Palmer and Jawad Adekoya each posted 15 points.
NM State held CSU to just 39 percent shooting from the floor, while hitting 50 percent (22-of-44) themselves. The Aggies outrebounded the Cougars 36-23.
The Aggies are in action again in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., on Friday at 7 p.m. Mountain time. NM State earned a bye as this season’s conference champion.
They’ll face the winner of Thursday’s 3 p.m. Mountain game between No. 4 seed Bakersfield and No. 5 seed Utah Valley.
The other side of the WAC bracket has No. 2 seed Missouri-Kansas City facing No. 7 seed Texas-Pan American in quarterfinal play on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Mountain, while No. 3 seed Seattle U. takes on No. 6 seed Chicago State on Thursday at 8 p.m. Mountain. The winners meet in the other semifinal on Friday at 9:30 p.m. Mountain.
The WAC Championship game is set for Saturday at 9 p.m. Mountain time from Las Vegas.