Courtesy of NMSU
LAS VEGAS, Nev. –The New Mexico State Aggies made a statement Saturday night. The Aggies never trailed in beating Seattle University 80-61 and winning their fourth consecutive Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Aggies (23-10), who claimed the WAC’s NCAA Tournament automatic berth, won both the WAC regular season and tournament championships and now await Sunday’s NCAA selection show to find out their next opponent.
NM State was paced by the 3-point shooting of senior forward Remi Barry, who connected on 4-of-8 from arc on his way to a game high 21 points. Senior center Tshilidzi Nephawe double-doubled with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior Daniel Mullings scored just eight points, but also added seven assists and six steals.
“I am proud of our team,” said NM State coach Marvin Menzies. “Chili (Nephawe) double-double, Remi had 21. And we won with Daniel only scoring eight points. When you win by 20 (19) with Daniel only getting eight it was a great team night.”
Nephawe was named the Tournament MVP after scoring 37 points and grabbing 24 rebounds in the Aggies two games. Barry was also chosen to the all-tournament team after averaging 15.0 points and shooting 45.5 percent from the 3-point arc in two contests.
Seattle’s Isiah Umipig, Bakersfield’s Aly Ahmed and Missouri-Kansas City’s Reese Holliday were also members of the all-tournament team.
The Aggies opened the championship game with three straight 3-pointer, as Barry buried his first two shots and sophomore Ian Baker canned the third as the Redhawks (16-15, 7-7) never knew what hit ’em.
While Seattle answered with a 3-pointer of its own, the six-point difference was as close as the Redhawks would get all night. The Aggies went on an 11-4 run after that and never led by less than eight the rest of the game.
“We had some benchmarks we wanted to hit defensively and I think we did a good job in hitting them,” said Menzies. “We were able to outrebound them, but keeping them off the 3-point line was crucial.”
The Aggies held Seattle to just 2-of-7 (29 percent) from outside the arc, forcing the Redhawks away from their average of seven 3’s a game.
The Aggies shot 53 percent from the floor (21-of-40) , connecting on a season-high eight 3’s in going 8-of-15 from the arc (53 percent).
Seattle U. was held to 40 percent shooting from the floor as well.
NM State edged the Redhawks on the boards 29-28.
Nephawe was a big part of the edge on the boards, that didn’t really even up until late in the game.
“I’m just glad I’m playing good basketball right now, because it is the most important part of the year,” said WAC Tournament MVP Nephawe. “I just want to thank my teammates because they helped keep me going and made it possible to do well.”
The Aggies not only picked up their fourth consecutive crown, but the fifth in the last six years under Menzies tutelage.