Tim Castaneda, Sports Writer, Twitter:@xTIMBOxSLICEx
UVU men’s basketball dropped its seventh-straight game Thursday night by a score of 51-38 in another Western Athletic Conference match against first-place New Mexico State behind a double-double performance by the Aggies’ freshman forward Pascal Siakam.
Siakam scored 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting while adding 10 rebounds and 1 block on the night to lead his team to a regular season sweep of the Wolverines. The win also marks the eighth consecutive NMSU victory in conference play.
The Wolverines held the visiting Aggies in check for the most part in the first half, but the game slipped away as pressure defense from NMSU held them to 1-for-13 shooting from the field in the final 12 minutes.
“We played hard, and I thought we competed. I thought we fought them and did a lot of good things in our game plan,” said UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker. “We simply have got to do a better job and have an ability to score.”
After UVU pulled to within seven at 38-31 on a basket by Zach Nelson, NMSU went on an 11-1 run as the Wolverines committed three turnovers during that span to finish the game with 11. The Aggies capitalized on Wolverine mistakes, as they finished with 21 points off turnovers.
“I think turnovers is what got them going. That is what their team lives of off for that full-court press,” said Nelson. “When they can get out and run, that’s what feeds them and fuels the fire. That’s definitely what got them going.
Part of the reason for so many UVU turnovers goes to tough defensive pressure by the Aggies, who forced a majority of the turnovers to finish the game with nine steals as a team.
On a positive note, the Wolverines defense held the WAC’s second-ranked scoring offense in NMSU to only 51 points. The Aggies came into the game averaging 68.5 points per game on offense.
“Defensively, we didn’t want to get beat up physically in the paint,” said coach Hunsaker. “We did a respectful job against their dribble penetration, whether it be against the zone or man. That’s a pretty talented group of young men out there that came in here and got 51.”
In spite of holding NMSU to a low-scoring night, the Wolverines struggled offensively as they finished the game shooting 28 percent from the field. The team finished with only one player reaching double figures in scoring, as Nelson scored 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and one block.
UVU falls to a 9-16 overall record, 3-7 in WAC play, as the team heads into the final stretch of the regular season with four games remaining on the schedule.
The Wolverines return to action in front of the home crowd against Texas-Pan American on Saturday, Feb. 21, at the UCCU Center with tip-off at 7:05 p.m. MT.