Aggies entertain undefeated Rams

Dec 27, 2014 - 3:23 PM Las Cruces, NM ( - One of only seven remaining undefeated Division I programs entering the weekend, the 24th-ranked Colorado State Rams try to stay perfect as they battle the New Mexico State Aggies in non- conference play at the Pan American Center.

Not surprisingly, with 12 wins in as many opportunities, the Rams are off to their best start in program history. The squad, which begins Mountain West Conference play on New Year's Eve against Boise State in Fort Collins, has compiled this impressive record by taking down quite a few weak opponents, the latest being Charleston Southern earlier this week, 75-54, at home.

As for the Aggies, currently three games under .500, they've had a few more tough challenges on the schedule and it shows. The program had been dealing with a three-game slide heading into this week, but NMSU put a stop to that with a 78-39 thrashing of Northern New Mexico at home. The Aggies, who had a 14-game home win streak snapped by familiar foe New Mexico (69-67) a week ago, are now in the midst of a seven-game homestand.

As far as the all-time series is concerned, this is just the second meeting between the programs since the 1960s, with the Rams owning a 3-1 advantage overall. The most recent encounter took place last season when CSU slipped by the Aggies in an 85-83 final in Fort Collins.

The Rams allowed Charleston Southern to lead by a basket very early in their meeting, but it wasn't long before CSU assumed control and drove out to a 38-21 advantage at the break and the eventual 21-point victory in front of the hometown fans.

Five players scored in double figures for the Rams, led by Daniel Bejarano who not only tallied 15 points, he also accounted for eight rebounds and six assists, all of which were team highs. John Gillon came off the bench to knock down 4-of-6 behind the 3-point line, en route to 14 points, followed by Stanton Kidd with 13 points, J.J. Avila 11 and Gian Clavell 10 points in the triumph.

On the way to averaging 74.6 ppg, the Rams are led by Avila with his 14.1 ppg as he shoots 54.6 percent from the floor and leads the program with 7.5 rpg, not to mention placing second in assists (41) and tops in steals (21). Kidd checks in with 12.5 ppg, converting 47.2 percent out on the perimeter and also clearing 5.6 rpg, followed by Bejarano with 12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 43 dishes, which almost makes up for his mere 40.7 percent shooting from the floor.

Northern New Mexico was little threat to the Aggies as the visitors ended up with far more turnovers (21) than field goals (14) and yet the game still featured three ties and six lead changes in the first half. The Aggies built a 19-point halftime lead and from there cruised to the 39-point victory. Five players scored in double figures, four of them starters, as Remi Barry posted 15 points and seven rebounds, followed by Pascal Siakam, DK Eldridge and Ian Baker with 13 points apiece, while Braxton Huggins produced 10 points in just 15 minutes off the bench.

Sitting atop the scoring chart for the Aggies currently is Barry with his 13.8 ppg, thanks in large part to 62.5 percent accuracy beyond the arc. The other active double-digit scorers are Siakam (11.8 ppg) and Eldridge (10.3 ppg), but a huge missing piece for NMSU is Daniel Mullings (13.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg) who has been out since the first week of December with a broken finger. Another player lost in action is Tshilidzi Nephawe (5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) who has been dealing with a bruised foot for a month now.

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