Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Can New Mexico State regain confidence during challenging stretch of WAC slate?

LAS CRUCES – In previous seasons at New Mexico State, the opportunity for a Quad 1 win during conference play such as Saturday’s road game at Utah Valley (No. 73 NET on Thursday) could have been the difference between a seed line or two when the Aggies play in the NCAA Tournament.

But the Aggies aren’t worried about building their NCAA Tournament resume. They just need a win.

“I still feel like we have a great opportunity to end this on a positive note,” Aggie’s head coach Greg Heiar said. “I really believe we can do that if we can come closer together as a team, have a mindset of attention to detail and block out all of the noise.”

The Aggies are 0-8 in Western Athletic Conference play with five of their next six games against teams that are in the top half of the league, starting with second place Utah Valley, which entered the weekend at 7-1 in league play. NM State (7-13 overall) enters the week in last place and currently out of the WAC Tournament.

“I believe in this team,” Heiar said. “I believe we have the pieces to do something special. We have to get to WACVegas first, but we can’t worry about that. We have to take it one day at a time and get this one win and then from there, we have to build.”

The Aggies return to Utah after losing a pair of road games in lopsided fashion last week at Southern Utah and Utah Tech.

With a full week between games, Heiar said the Aggies have worked to implement more up-tempo play to utilize their athletic ability in transition.

But more importantly, Heiar said the Aggies’ confidence has taken a hit.

They held a 40-minute scrimmage on Tuesday where the rotation players fell behind early after five made 3-pointers. Surrendering a run like in recent games has been enough to finish the Aggies as the season has progressed, but Heiar said the team bounced back and won the scrimmage 108-86. He’s hoping it will translate to games.

“That was my No. 1 message, we got punched in the mouth to start and we didn’t change our body language, we kept playing and playing this style of play we are going to commit to for 40 minutes and we didn’t let five 3s in a row affect how we were playing together or where our confidence level was,” Heiar said.

The Aggies host first-place Seattle and fourth-place Stephen F. Austin next week after losing to both teams on the road before traveling to Grand Canyon and California Baptist.

While the Aggies only one-game behind Texas Rio Grande Valley for the 12th and final WAC Tournament slot, the Aggies have an opportunity to potentially build some confidence against some of the top teams in the league.

“There isn’t an easy night in the WAC but we have to focus more on ourselves,” Heiar said. “We have to take it one day at a time and when we get that first win, I believe in my heart that one win will lead to multiple wins.”

Jason Groves can be reached at 575-541-5459 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves.

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