Men's basketball: Aggies open season Friday

-A A +A
By Special to the Monitor

LAS CRUCES — The New Mexico State men’s basketball team opens the 2010-11 season at Louisiana Friday.
Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Lafayette.
This is the second consecutive season and third time in four years that the Aggies have started on the road.
The Aggies return 10 players from last year’s squad that finished 22-12 with a WAC Tournament Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance. NMSU has three players back with double-figure scoring averages from a season ago including junior forward Troy Gillenwater (14.6 points per game), junior center Hamidu Rahman (10.3 points per game) and senior forward Wendell McKines (10.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game), but McKines is currently sidelined with a foot injury.
The Aggies also have senior guard Gordo Castillo, a 3-point threat, and junior guard Hernst Laroche, who has started in every game in his time at NMSU, back on the court.
The Aggies have to replace two All-Western Athletic Conference selections with the loss of guards Jonathan Gibson and Jahmar Young, who combined for 37.8 points per game in 2009-10.
Sophomore forward Tyrone Watson, sophomore forward Bandja Sy, sophomore forward/center B.J. West and sophomore center Abdoulaye N’doye look to contribute more minutes in their second year.
Friday’s game is also the season opener for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Louisiana defeated Montevallo, 70-56, Nov. 9, in an exhibition game. The Ragin’ Cajuns were picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt West Division following a 13-17 overall record and 10-8 conference record in 2009-10. Senior guard Randell Daigle returns to lead Louisiana after averaging 11.5 points per game last year, and he was a preseason third team All-Sun Belt selection.
This is the first game between the former Sun Belt Conference foes since the 2004-05 season. Louisiana has a 10-2 advantage in the all-time series and has won the last eight meetings.
The Aggies, meanwhile, are looking for their first win at Louisiana.
NMSU defeated Eastern New Mexico, 98-72, in its only exhibition game of the year Nov. 8.
The Aggies had five players in double-figures with Gillenwater leading the way with 18 points. Laroche added 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field, while Castillo contributed 13 points.
The Aggie centers were strong with both Rahman and freshman Tshilidzi Nephawe scoring 11 points.
The Aggies are 1-2 in season openers under head coach Marvin Menzies.
NMSU defeated University of California-Riverside, 79-52 in 2008 but fell at Ohio 80-72 2007 and at Saint Mary’s 100-68 last season.
The Aggies are looking for their first win on the road in a season opener since 1998, when they edged Texas-El Paso 59-57.
In 2009-10, Aggies won their second WAC Tournament championship in a row and made their 18th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
NMSU finished the year with a 22-12 record after a near upset of No. 12 Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Last season, the Aggies ranked first in the WAC and 14th in the NCAA in 3-point field goals per game (8.4), 21st in scoring offense (78.3 points per game) 51st in field goal percentage (46.0) last season.
This year, the Aggies were voted to finish second in the preseason WAC coaches and media polls.  Gillenwater and McKines were first team Preseason All-WAC honorees on both the coaches and media lists. NMSU was the only team to have a pair of selections on the first team.
The Aggies have 17 regular season games in the Pan American Center this season.
Currently, the Aggies have two nationally televised games on ESPN2 at San Jose State Feb. 23 and against Utah State in Las Cruces March 2.