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	Forward A.J. Hardeman blocks a shot by NMSU’s Jonathan Gibson in the Lobos’ 75-58 rout over the Aggies on Saturday at The Pit. UNM (8-0) is still undefeated.

Forward A.J. Hardeman blocks a shot by NMSU’s Jonathan Gibson in the Lobos’ 75-58 rout over the Aggies on Saturday at The Pit. UNM (8-0) is still undefeated.

Lack of competition makes rivalry no fun

Despite all the hoarse voices, painted faces and vague threats of violence, it’s about time we all admitted something: Basketball-wise, the Rio Grande Rivalry just isn’t what it used to be.

Look no further than Saturday night, when the UNM men’s basketball team dominated the Aggies at The Pit.

The 75-58 rout was the Lobos’ seventh straight home victory over NMSU, the longest mark for any UNM squad since the Lobos won 10 straight home contests from 1941-51.
And the disparity is unlikely to change.

Since the halcyon days of Kenny Thomas’ mid-range jumper and Lou Henson’s middle finger, the Lobos and Aggies have been moving in vastly different directions.

The Western Athletic Conference of old is no more, and the Aggies’ league has been in a perpetual state of flux since 2005, with teams bouncing in and out and dividing their sports programs among multiple conferences. All of this has driven down the level of competition in the WAC.

Contrast this with the Lobos’ Mountain West Conference, a mid-major on the rise that sent two basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament last year and, if not for the apartheid of the BCS system, would be making noise in college football, too.
On the court, the talent gap is blatant.

Hamidu Rahman, the Aggies’ star center, came into Saturday’s contest riding a three-game streak of double-doubles and shooting 66 percent from the field. But against the Lobos’ undersized frontcourt, Rahman was held to three points on 20 percent shooting, and he coughed up the ball a season-high six times.

The Aggies committed a staggering 31 turnovers — and at one point in the second half had more turnovers (19) than points (18). NMSU dished out only eight assists as a team, and the Aggies managed just seven points in the first 15 minutes of the game, watching passes sail out of bounds and shots clang off the rim.

At the half, with the Lobos up 41-18, all the heckling from Section 26 just seemed cruel.

And pity is not an emotion one should feel in a rivalry game, but watching Aggie coach Marvin Menzies howl at his players and stare agape as Roman Martinez drained 3 after 3, I felt sorry for the guy.

Growing up, the Lobos and Aggies were like the Hatfields and McCoys.

Now it’s more like the United States and North Korea: We put on a big show for the cameras, but everyone knows how it’s going to end. I remember going to a game in Las Cruces and worrying that some drunken reveler was going to dash my 9-year-old brains out with a megaphone. But on Saturday, all the Aggie fans I saw looked nonplussed by halftime.

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We, as fans, can’t let this happen. Perhaps the two Athletics Departments can gather for a State of the Rivalry meeting, working out some sanctions to save our fledgling hatred for one another. Maybe we give them Craig Neal. Maybe the Lobos only get to have four players on the court — I don’t know, but we have to do something.

For the sake of today’s New Mexican 9-year-olds, please, Aggies, get better at basketball.

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