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USU's winning streak ends against those other Aggies

This was inevitable. The Aggies had been cheating death for quite a while, and they knew it, but they kept getting away with it - until Saturday in the Pan Am Center.

But Saturday's loss was no fluke. "Our best couldn't have beaten them tonight," said USU coach Larry Eustachy after his team finally felt the sting of its first Big West Conference loss.New Mexico State's Aggies leg-whipped the northern Aggies 84-69 to break USU's seven-game winning streak.

"Sometimes these games help. It's tough to handle success," said Eustachy. "Our team hasn't been listening, but they'll bounce back. Our team hasn't been hammered like that in a long time."

"We really need to come together and put the game plan into the game," said Marcel Davis, who scored 10 points for USU. He noted flagging defense (NMSU's 53 percent shooting) and rebounding (USU was outrebounded for the second straight game, this time 32-26).

"We need to get our toughness back, get our togetherness back," Davis said. "We lucked out a couple of times playing this same way. We were bound to run into a hot team."

Davis actually was a southern Aggie for a while, but an injury and the school's NCAA woes at the time made him transfer out to a junior college, then move on to Utah State.

"Thank goodness for the second team, or we'd have been beaten by 30," Eustachy said, referring to Davis, Neal Geddes, Brandon Birch, Tyrone Allick and Mark Thurston, who entered with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first half and USU down 30-15 but pulled their team within 10 at the half. That left the door open for a second-half resurgence, but the first unit again went down by 15 and stayed there.

"You guys may not lose again," Eustachy told NMSU's Bostjan Leban and Charles Gosa in the post-game interview room. NMSU (14-8, 4-4) was led by 22 points from guard Donminic Ellison and 19 from Gosa, who added 11 rebounds.

USU (16-5, 7-1) still leads the Big West's Eastern Division by a game over Nevada.

"We're not as good as we've played the last two games," said NMSU coach Lou Henson. "We're not as bad as we've played (at other times). We're in between. If we had shot 53 percent (every game) we would probably be undefeated."

Henson took over from "re-assigned" Neil McCarthy in mid-October and has decided, despite his retirement from University of Illinois, that he'd like to remain NMSU coach for a few years. Many think that decision may have settled NMSU down after a 2-4 league start. "Oh, that has to distract a team," said Eustachy. "My gardener could figure that out."

USU shot 52 percent from the field, the best of any team against NMSU all season, but it was skewed by Ogden senior Geddes, who had a career-best 16 points on six-for-six shooting from the field, including all four of his 3-point attempts, to lead Utah State scoring.

"That wasn't hard to do tonight," said Eustachy. Marcus Saxon scored 12 and Kevin Rice 11. Rice had led USU scoring in every league game. "My wife (Stacy) could have been the leading scorer. I should have brought her," Eustachy said.

Geddes had his old career high here last season as well - in an 89-63 loss. "We lost both of them by big margins," he said. "It's sad we let this one slip away. We thought this was a game we could win."

The northern Aggies knew they'd have to keep their southern counterparts from lighting up early because they're a team that gets on shooting rolls, but they didn't do it. Gosa opened with an easy layup, and NMSU's inside-outside game rolled. USU couldn't stop NMSU with man-to-man, and it couldn't do anything with a zone defense, either.