The New Mexico State men’s basketball team needed late-game heroics once again and this time it came on the hands of Eli Chuha for the 63-61 victory on the road with less than 10 seconds to play on a long-pass from AJ Harris Saturday night at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
New Mexico State (16-4, 5-1 WAC) didn’t get its engine running offensively in the first-half but luckily for the Aggies neither did UT Rio Grande Valley as both teams combined for 23 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Vaqueros (10-12, 2-4 WAC) struck first with the first two buckets of the game thanks to a trio of turnovers by the Aggies before NM State took a 5-4 lead at the 15:29 media break. Other than a basket out of the break for the short 6-4 lead, NM State held the lead for a majority of the half before things went back-and-forth late in the frame.
UTRGV outscored NM State 11-7 in the final 3:54 minutes of the half to tie the game up 27-27 heading into the locker room after both teams scored baskets with 10 seconds left on the clock.
The second frame was a continuation of the first-half with both teams combining to shoot 1-of-13 from the field and the lone basket going to New Mexico State 4:03 minutes in.
Midway through the second half and the game tied at 33-33, NM State went an 11-6 run to take a 44-39 lead at the 7:54 media break. A quick exchange of bucket made it 47-44 in favor of NM State before back-to-back jams from Jabari Rice and Ivan Aurrecoechea gave the Aggies a 53-44 advantage after Shunn Buchanan hit both free-throws for the flagrant foul on Aurrecoechea.
A 5-0 run by UTRGV cut the lead to 53-49 heading into the final media break at 3:33 before both teams exchanged buckets. After a UTRGV’s timeout with 2:10 remaining and NM State on top 58-53, Buchanan hit the front-end of his free-throws before Javon Levi banked in a 3-pointer to pull within 59-56 with 41 ticks remaining.
Harris and Rice each went 1-of-2 from the line that sandwiched a 3-ball from UTRGV’s Tyson Smith, making it a 61-59 affair in favor of the Crimson and White with 20 ticks left to go. Seven seconds went by before Smith sliced towards the paint and tied things up at 61-61 before Harris found Chuha for the game-winning basket.
Aurrecoechea and Harris each had 12 points for the Aggies while Chuha finished with 10 points and six boards. The Spaniard also added five boards Saturday night while going 5-of-6 from the field while Harris tallied four steals.
BY THE NUMBERS
NM State outscored UTRGV in the paint 32-20 while turning 12 offensive boards into an 11-2 advantage in second-chance points…the Aggies have now won five-straight after the win…the nine steals for NM State is the second-most in a single-game this season…the 43.1-percent shooting by both teams is the first time NM State and its opponent have had the same shooting-percentage.
NM State returns home to the friendly confines of the Pan American Center next week as it plays host to pair of games. First up for the Aggies will be Kansas City on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. (MT) for its third limited edition hat giveaway. NM State will then take on Chicago State on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 3 p.m. to wrap up its quick homestand.