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Aggies to Face Fresno State In Cancun Challenge

Aggies to Face Fresno State In Cancun Challenge


What: Game Six
Who: NM State (3-2, 0-0 CUSA) vs Fresno State (2-1, 0-0 Mountain West)
When: Tuesday, Nov. 21, 6:30 p.m. MT
Where: Riviera Maya, Mexico. – Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya 


• The last time out, NM State handled business with a comeback win over Northern Colorado 76-71.  

• The Aggies are looking to make a statement in the Cancun challenge ahead of its contest against Fresno State. They will be taking on either James Madison or SIU depending on the outcome.

• The Bulldogs are coming off a home win against Morgan State at home 87-68. They are looking to build some momentum against the Aggies Tuesday evening. 

FRESH START            

• Entering the season, NM State is the only program in the country with an entirely new roster as zero players from the 2022-23 campaign will take the floor for the Aggies this season.

• Tasked with building a roster from scratch that is also expected to be competitive immediately, Head Coach Jason Hooten opted to bring in guys with experience as all but one Aggie on this year’s roster has played basketball beyond the high school level. This includes 12 individuals with collegiate experience and one with experience in the NBA Global Academy. Of the 13 players that have collegiate experience, eight have experience at the Division I level.


• After spending the last 13 seasons as the bench boss at Sam Houston, Jason Hooten takes over an Aggie program in need of a refresh button.

• Many are confident Hooten has what it takes to return the Aggie program back to glory as he begins his tenure after compiling 261 wins, posting a .607 win percentage and helping the Bearkats to six postseason appearances. With the success, Hooten ultimately departed Huntsville, Texas, as the program’s all-time winningest coach.

• In his final year with Sam Houston, Hooten helped lead the ‘Kats to the program’s first-ever appearance in the NIT Tournament. Once the Bearkats reached the national tournament, they made some noise – defeating Santa Clara in the opening round. During last year’s historic season with Sam Houston, Hooten also led his Bearkats to upset road wins over a pair of Power Five programs in Oklahoma and Utah. The Aggies will be looking to absorb some of that magic on Monday when they take on their blue blood opponent

ROOM TO GROW         

• In their first season as a member of Conference USA, the Aggies were projected to finish eighth in the nine-team league according to a vote of the conference’s nine head coaches.

• This underdog role is new territory for the Aggie program as they become affiliates with CUSA after a run in the Western Athletic Conference that included seven regular season titles and 10 tournament titles during their 18-year stint as a member of the WAC.

• In fact, during the Aggies’ 18 years in the WAC, NM State was selected to finish inside the top three of the coaches poll every year except for their inaugural season in which they were also tabbed to finish eighth. During that stretch, the Aggies were labeled preseason favorites nine times.


• NM State’s 10 conference tournament titles since 2006 are the second-most in the nation. Only the WCC’s Gonzaga (14) has more. 


• Although, this may be Jason Hooten‘s first year with the program, the former Sam Houston coach has done his best to surround himself with familiar faces as two staff members and starting center Kaosi Ezeagu from the Bearkats also made the trip from Huntsville to Las Cruces during the offseason.

• Last season, Ezeagu served as a vocal leader on Sam Houston’s squad and started all 33 games that he appeared in and paced the Bearkats in blocks with 16 on the season.

• In addition to Ezeagu, Assistant Coach Payne Andrus and Graduate Assistant Terryonte Thomas were also contibutor’s to the success of the Bearkat program last season.


• The 2023 NM State roster features three Aggies who have spent time on Power Five rosters as Kaosi Ezeagu (Kansas State), Femi Odukale (Pitt) and Davion Bradford (Wake Forest and Kansas State) each played among the best of the best during their collegiate careers.

• Unfortunately for the Aggies, only Kaosi Ezeagu will be available in the season opener as both Odukale and Bradford are awaiting transfer waivers from the NCAA.


• Versus Northern Colorado, Christian Cook led the team in scoring with 26 points while shooting 5-7 from beyond the arc. He is currently the highest scorer for the Aggies this season – showing the way with 61 total points while averaging 12.2 points a game.


•The Aggies have been connecting from consistently from the three point line. They are currently shooting .374% from behind the arc which is ranked 74th in the country and second in CUSA.    


Jaylin Jackson-Posey is leading the Aggies in assist averaging 4.2 a game with 21 total for the season. This has him ranked 60th currently in the country and third in CUSA.


Femi Odukale made his long-awaited NM State debut on Saturday, playing 23 minutes off the bench and recording 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Showing his prowess around the rim, Odukale attempted 15 free throws on the night, making nine to lead the game in both categories. His 15 attempts became the most by an Aggie since Ivan Aurrecoechea took 15 shots from the charity stripe on Dec, 9th 2018 against New Mexico. 


• Fresno State will take on the Aggies Tuesday in what will be its fourth game of the season coming off a 87-68 win against Morgan State at home.

• Last season, the Bulldogs finished the season with a 11-20 overall record and a 6-12 mark against Mountain West Conference opponents.

• The Bulldogs will be led by 6-4 junior guard Xaiver DuSell. He is currently averaging 15.6 points and 4.3 rebounds a game.

• Fresno State is led by Justin Hutson who is entering his sixth season as the Bulldogs head coach. He is (84-72) in his tenure as head coach and this is his first head coaching job after being a Division 1 assistant coach for 10 season prior to his hiring. 


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