When an important piece is missing from a good team, like New Mexico State, other players fill the void like sand.
Take one screw from a team that’s still trying to hit its stride, like Texas State, and it falls apart. Such was the case for the Bobcats in an 86-72 loss Thursday night to the Aggies.
Texas State junior forward Joel Wright wasn’t his usual self. Instead, Wright looked rather ordinary.
Wright never got into the flow of the game against New Mexico State. Coming off a spectacular stretch of games from which he was named Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week, Wright fouled out in 28 minutes, only scored 14 points on 3-of-18 shooting and turned the ball over four times.
Other than senior forward Matt Staff and junior forward Corey Stern, no other Bobcats (7-15, 3-7 WAC) stepped up in Wright’s place. Staff scored 11 of his 20 points in the second half and Stern made six of his eight shots, including a 3-pointer.
“Joel was unbelievable on the road and he struggled tonight,” Texas State head coach Doug Davalos said. “Joel carried us the last two games; and the sad part is, we didn’t have enough guys pick him up on a struggling night.”
Unlike the Bobcats, the Aggies (14-8, 8-2 WAC) didn’t have much of a problem playing without starting forward Tyrone Watson, who began to serve an indefinite suspension. Watson is suspected of assaulting a New Mexico State student last Friday night.
Four Aggies scored in double figures, led by monster performances by guard Daniel Mullings and forward Bandja Sy. Mullings poured in 22 points (including a 360-degree dunk late in the second half) and Sy, who finished with a game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, outscored Texas State in the first 4:17 of the game (14-12).
“They don’t run their team around him (Watson), but he’s such an important cog in what they do offensively and defensively that I thought it would affect them a little bit,” Davalos said. “They did a good job adapting and the guys who got their number called, went in and played well.
“Sy was the guy that was unbelievable. He was the difference.”
With the loss, the Bobcats had their season-long three-game win streak snapped and dropped their fifth consecutive home game. New Mexico State improved its current win streak to eight games.
Texas State must figure it out before Saturday, when it hosts the University of Denver and its Princeton offense. The Pioneers are 8-2 in the WAC following a 14-point win over Texas-San Antonio.