Year after year, after year, after year, it seems as though the race for the Western Athletic Conference title has to go through the New Mexico State Aggies.
Last year, it took a buzzer-beater from Dedrick Basile in the WAC Tournament finale for the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners to knock off the Aggies and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
The off-season saw some changes for the Aggies, as head coach Marvin Menzies left for the vacant position with the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, following the saga with Chris Beard. In came Paul Weir, a first-time head coach at the Division I level, who also happens to be Canadian.
Even with a new head coach, the Aggies haven’t missed a beat over the first five weeks of the 2016-17 season.
A big reason for their 10-2 start has been the play of senior guard Ian Baker. The Washington, D.C. native has seen it all as a member of the Aggies, from the highs of advancing to the NCAA Tournament on a pair of occasions, to the lows of last season’s heart-breaking loss in the WAC Championship game.
This year, he’s leading the Aggies on another run towards the NCAA Tournament. Over the past week, his talents were on full display for everyone to see.
After averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game over the Aggies’ two wins last week, both of which were double-digit wins on the road, Ian Baker has been named the College Court Report Player of the Week for December 12 – 18, 2016!
New Mexico State opened the season with a 2-2 record after the first week. Since then, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the country, winning six straight games entering the week of December 12th.
Up first, the Aggies went on the road to take on a talented UTEP Miners team in El Paso, TX on Tuesday night.
In their previous outing, the Aggies scored a big home win over their instate rivals, the New Mexico Lobos, earning them a split in the season series.
The Aggies raced out to a 16-point lead at halftime, and never looked back. They rolled to the 79-68 victory over the Miners, extending their winning streak to seven games in the process.
Baker led the way for the visitors. In 36 minutes of action, he scored a game-high 20 points, while going 7-of-13 from the field, and 3-of-7 from three point range. Baker also added 5 rebounds and 1 assist for an all-round strong performance to kick off the week.
On Saturday, the Aggies faced arguably their toughest test of the season, as they made the trip to Tempe, AZ to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils.
With their winning streak on the line once more, New Mexico State seized their opportunities in the second half, and pulled off the program’s first true road win over a Power Five program since the 1994-95 season.
The Sun Devils went just 10-of-33 from the floor in the second half, and the Aggies took full advantage and built upon their two-point lead at halftime. When all was said and done, New Mexico State had their second 11-point road win of the week, as they knocked off Arizona State by a final score of 81-70.
Just like Tuesday night, Baker contributed in several different ways to lead the Aggies to the victory. He recorded 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, while shooting 40% (6-of-15) from the floor.
Over the two games, Baker averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest. He shot a combined 13-of-28 (46.4%) from the field in the Aggies’ two wins.
For the year, Baker is averaging a team-high 15.0 points per contest, while also adding 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. His current point per game average is a career high mark for the 6’1” senior.
Baker averaged 13.8 points per game as a junior a year ago.
Since his sophomore season, Baker has become an underrated star at New Mexico State. His numbers won’t blow you away, but he is an efficient leader of the offense for the Aggies. He has shot better than 42.5% in each of his first three seasons in the NCAA, and has dished out at least 2.7 assists per game over the past two years.
Against the Sun Devils, Baker topped the 1,000-point mark for his career, which is an impressive feat.
For his efforts over the past seven days, a stretch that saw the New Mexico State Aggies score two big road wins to extend their winning streak to eight games, senior guard Ian Baker has been named the College Court Report Player of the Week for the week of December 12 – 18, 2016!
– T. Bennett
Dec. 5 – 11, 2016: Marcus Keene, Central Michigan Chippewas
Nov. 28 – Dec, 4, 2016: Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Nov. 21 – 27, 2016: Marquise Moore, George Mason Patriots
Nov. 14 – 20, 2016: Eric Mika, BYU Cougars
Nov. 11 – 13, 2016: Jairus Lyles, UMBC Retrievers
**College Court Report Player of the Week recipients are selected from teams in the following conferences:
America East, Atlantic Sun, Atlantic 10, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Horizon League, Ivy League, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern, Southland, Summit League, SWAC, Sun Belt, West Coast, and WAC