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Justin Martinez recaps last week's games, interviews senior Ivan Aurrecoechea and previews Thursday's game against Seattle. Las Cruces Sun-News

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LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State is set for a home test against Seattle on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Aggies (19-6, 10-0 WAC) haven't tripped up yet in conference play, but the Redhawks (12-12, 5-4 WAC) have enough shooters to pull off the upset if they catch fire.

Here's a full breakdown of the matchup.

How to follow

There are a number of ways to follow the action on Thursday.

For television, FOX Sports Arizona-Plus, FOX Sports Southwest-Plus, FOX College Sports Pacific, the FOX Sports Go App, WAC Digital and Comcast New Mexico are providing coverage.

For radio, 99.5 FM KXPZ is providing play-by-play commentary. Jack Nixon is on the call.

For social media, I will be providing coverage on Twitter (@JTheSportsDude). This includes a live stream preview at 6:30 p.m., video highlights throughout the contest and a live stream of all postgame press conferences.

Injury updates

New Mexico State is still without AJ Harris (foot), Clayton Henry (hand), Dajour Joseph (ankle) and Wilfried Likayi (meniscus) for the remainder of the season.

Trevelin Queen is now three weeks into his 4-6 week timeline after undergoing successful arthroscopic surgery on Jan. 22 to fix a lateral meniscus tear. No setbacks have been reported for him, and the senior appears to still be on pace for that estimation.

Johnny McCants didn't practice on Wednesday due to an illness, and the redshirt junior went scoreless in 17 minutes during Thursday's road win over Chicago State as a result.

New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans said that McCants "wasn't feeling 100 percent" entering Saturday's road win over UMKC either, but the Las Cruces native still finished with nine points and a team-high nine boards after a slow start to the contest.

"In the second half is when he started being more aggressive on both ends of the floor," Jans said. "He just was flying around a little bit more and getting on the glass... He just was more energized. I don't why, if it was the sickness, but I hope that's what it was."

With a strong second-half performance against the Roos and four days to recover leading up to the Seattle game, all signs point to McCants returning to his normal level of play on Thursday.

Aggie outlook

New Mexico State is fresh off a pair of road wins over Chicago State and UMKC last week that extended the team's win streak to 13.

One positive takeaway from the road trip is the resurgence of bench scoring in the win over the Cougars. The Aggies averaged just 10.3 bench points per game in the three contests leading up to this one, but that number saw a massive spike thanks in part to Shawn Williams.

The junior guard erupted for 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-for-7 from deep) in 21 minutes, and all six players who came off the bench got on the scoreboard to combine for 36 points.

Those 36 points mark the highest total the Aggies’ bench has recorded against a DI opponent since it dropped 50 against Colorado State on Nov. 25, 2019, and it's a great sign for a New Mexico State team that's low on depth at the moment.

Another positive takeaway is the Aggies' work on the offensive glass.

New Mexico State entered this week's games without a double-digit offensive rebound performance since its conference opener against Cal Baptist, but the Aggies got ten in each game against Chicago State and UMKC.

New Mexico State claimed a +13 advantage in second chance points against the Cougars and a +8 edge against the Roos as a result.

Whether this sparks a trend or not remains to be seen, but the Aggies have the talent to make that happen. 

Ivan Aurrecoechea is eighth in the WAC in offensive rebound percentage (9.0), McCants is ninth (8.9) and Jabari Rice is first amongst all guards (7.1), according to KenPom.

The pieces are there, and this can be a big advantage for the Aggies moving forward if they keep at it for all 40 minutes.

Redhawk breakdown

The last time these two teams faced off was on Jan. 18 in Seattle, where the Aggies earned a 75-67 win.

The Redhawks are averaging a conference-best 80.9 points per contest in WAC play, and that's due in part to redshirt junior Terrell Brown. The 6-foot-1 point guard leads the WAC with 19.2 points per game in conference play on 36.5-percent shooting from the field.

Brown is 12-for-39 from deep (30.8 percent) this season, but he went 3-for-4 in that department last time these two teams faced off en route to a game-high 25 points.

Regardless, Brown's biggest strength is his touch around the rim. His mid-range floater is arguably the best in the WAC, and his ability to finish amongst the trees is also superb.

"Hands down, he's one of the best players in the conference," Jans said. "He's just a hard guard, and it's interesting because he does most of his damage inside the arc... He just has adapted so well to how people defend him and lay off him, and he takes that slack up and gets into peoples' bodies. He's so strong and physical around the basket."

Even though Evan Gilyard II is starting for New Mexico State at the one, Shunn Buchanan has been averaging 22 minutes per contest in the last five games. He’ll likely see similar minutes in this one because he’s the Aggies’ best bet to contain Brown.

The second player to watch out for is senior Morgan Means, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard who is one of the most underrated players in the conference.

Means is averaging 14.4 points per game in conference play on 40-percent shooting from the field and 91.1-percent shooting from the free throw line. Much like Brown, the veteran guard is a finisher at the rim rather than a long-range shooter.

Take a look at these clips from Seattle's 87-85 road win over Utah Valley on Saturday, when Means added 19 points to Brown's 28-point outing.

Means calls for the ball with the game on the line in the first clip and shows no fear by attacking Utah Valley's TJ Washington.

The senior defender is draped over him, but Means stops on a dime and uses Washington's momentum against him to create separation before hitting the turnaround bank shot.

The game is up for grabs again in the next clip with both teams tied at 85 apiece, and it's Means who delivers once more.

The senior goes coast to coast and shows a great touch around the rim by sinking a layup over the outstretched hands of one of the country's best shot blockers, Emmanuel Olojakpoke.

Seattle's offense runs through Brown, but the team clearly trusts Means just as much when the stakes are at their highest. How well he performs could be the difference maker on Thursday.

New Mexico State’s Terrell Brown will get the assignment here. He helped hold Means to 10 points last time these two squads met up, and we’ll see if he can have that same success on Thursday.

The third player on this Seattle squad to watch out for is sophomore Riley Grigsby, a 6-foot-6 small forward who is averaging 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in WAC play.

Grigsby got held to just two points on 0-for-5 shooting in 32 minutes last time these two teams faced off. If he can take some weight off of Brown and Means’ shoulders, though, it'll go a long way for the Redhawks.

Keys to success

My key to success for New Mexico State on offense is to go to work down low.

The Redhawks are shooting just 43.1 percent as a team from inside the arc this season, according to KenPom, which is the ninth-lowest percentage in the country. Meanwhile, the Aggies are 26th in the country with a 2-point percentage of 53.8.

Despite this, New Mexico State only went 11-for-29 (37.9 percent) from inside the arc in the first meeting compared to Seattle's 17-for-32 (53.1 percent) shooting. Aurrecoechea is sure to lead the way, but others such as McCants will have to stay involved as well.

Meanwhile, my key to success for the the Aggies on defense is to win the turnover battle.

The Redhawks only commit an average of 14.3 turnovers per 100 possessions, according to KenPom, which is the third-lowest average in the country.

Seattle's ball security is the best in the WAC, but New Mexico State's defense also reigns supreme. The Aggies will be in great shape if they can disrupt the Redhawks' offensive rhythm and force some mistakes.

Who will win?

The Aggies have the Redhawks beat on defense, at the 3-point line and inside the arc. Throw in a home court advantage, and I think New Mexico State will prevail.

Prediction: New Mexico State 74, Seattle 65

Justin Martinez can be reached at (575) 541-5455, JMMartinez@lcsun-news.com or @JTheSportsDude on Twitter. Make sure to subscribe to the Las Cruces Sun-News  to stay up to date with all local sports.

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