There were two big streaks at stake Saturday night in the Pan American Center: New Mexico State's 27-game win streak at home - third-longest in the nation behind UNLV and Arizona - and Kendall Youngblood's string of 28 straight games in double-figure scoring.
Guess which one ended.Youngblood, Utah State's junior guard with 1,053 career points, took only five shots in the game and had seven points.
Utah State is not going to beat the 23rd-ranked team in the nation with Youngblood scoring seven and Jay Goodman totaling 14.
Utah State didn't come close, save for a nice little run in the middle of the first half that got it into intermission down by six.
New Mexico State hammered away the whole second half for an 86-66 victory, staying very close to its averages for the year of 85.2 points a game, 67.4 for its foes and a 17.8-point margin of victory.
The Las Cruces Aggies had 11 turnovers to 24 for the Logan Aggies, 21 offensive rebounds to 13 for USU and 12 steals to five for the visitors.
"That surprises me; they have a good ball-handling team," said NMS Coach Neil McCarthy, the ex-Weber coach, who called those three number advantages the key to the game.
"Their pressure got to us," said USU Coach Kohn Smith. "They made us handle the ball too many times. Our players said that what we did was let them push us around, and I think that's a pretty good assessment."
It was the second straight game in which USU came unglued about a press. Long Beach's man-to-man press discombobulated them Thursday.
This one was a zone press rather than man-to-man, and Utah State actually did some of the things it needed to do to combat it. The Aggies pulled New Mexico State out on the perimeter and got the ball inside to senior forward Randy Funk, whose 21 points were one shy of his career best and the high for either team. He added 10 rebounds, tying for the game-high.
For New Mexico State, Tracey Ware and Reggie Jordan scored 18 each. Jordan was celebrating his 23rd birthday. "The birthday boy had to have a good game," he said.
But Funk had a better one. "We wanted to get them to keep extending the zone and get a lot of passes and get them running so they were working on defense," said Funk. "We got some easy layups that helped us out the first half."
The other half of the plan didn't work at all - outside shooting.
Goodman was 5-for-14, hitting seven points in the last nine minutes when there was little chance of catching up.
Youngblood went 15 minutes without a point and got his second basket with 1:47 left in the game.
"I got the impression," said McCarthy, "that their team was looking for Goodman when Youngblood was open."
"You can't expect to score in double figures if you don't shoot enough shots. I never played particularly well," said Youngblood.
Youngblood credited New Mexico State's press for taking the fight out of Utah State. "Playing their press got us a little hesitant," he said. "I played tentatively.
"We handled it the first half," he added, "but sometimes we got a little lackadaisical with our passes."
"The second half, we had a couple of our infamous spurts," said a disgusted Funk. The game plan was to avoid giving the other team turnovers in batches, as the Aggies had on Thursday at Long Beach, but, "We got too casual," said Funk. "We can't do that against this caliber of a team."
How does a 7-10, 4-4 team get complacent against a 15-2, 7-1 team? "Sometimes we think we're better than we are," says Youngblood.
With each laid-back Utah State offensive possession, New Mexico built its lather, and by game's end, the vaunted Las Cruces slammin' was in full flower.
Utah State had held that fast-break potency in check for the first 23 minutes, but the Aggies committed six turnovers and four fouls and saw one of their shots blocked as New Mexico State went on a 4 1/2-minute, 12-1 scoring binge that upped the lead from 41-35 to 53-36 in the second half.
"At the half," explained Jordan, "we had seven offensive rebounds, and Coach stressed that. If we get 21, we usually win." They went out and finished with exactly that, and the birthday helped. "I came in kinda hyped up because of that," said Jordan, "and hit the boards harder." He had eight. Michael New had 10, seven offensively. Jordan and guard William Benjamin had four steals each, and guard Randy Brown had eight assists. Youngblood had seven assists and two steals to lead USU.
Utah State made six of its last seven basket attempts to get within 17 until New Mexico's Terry Bennett hit a three-pointer at the final buzzer.
"And it just keeps getting tougher," said Youngblood, with an eye toward Monday's 10 p.m. tip-off in Logan against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten UNLV.