The New Mexico State men’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with No. 2 Kansas Saturday night at the Sprint Center on national television before dropping a thrilling 63-60 game.
After going down 12-2, a 9-2 run by the Aggies thanks to a couple 3-pointers from C.J. Bobbitt and JoJo Zamora brought New Mexico State (7-2) within 14-11 of the Jayhawks with 11:39 left in the first half. That KU lead got cut to 14-13 right out of the timeout when Eli Chuha found a cutting Terrell Brown down the far baseline.
Kansas (8-0) answered right back and went on a 7-0 run that was matched by the Aggies – which forced a KU timeout after Zamora drained his second triple to bring NM State within 21-20 of the Jayhawks with 6:09 left in the half.
Aurrecoechea then gave the Aggies their first lead of the game, 22-21, at the 5:26 mark on a dump-off pass from Brown. It took a couple more possession before KU regained the short 24-22 lead, but got tied up at the 2:29 mark when Harris found Johnny McCants for the bunny down low.
Back-to-back dunks from McCants, including a monstrous jam on an alley-oop from Shunn Buchanan, gave NM State the 28-26 lead over the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks at halftime. NM State shot 42.9-percent from the floor heading into the locker room while KU shot 34.4-percent despite the Jayhawks outscoring the Aggies 16-9 in points off turnovers.
Kansas was the first team to strike first in the second-half, but it was NM State that kept the punches rolling by extending its lead to 40-33 after a 3-pointer from AJ Harris and forced yet another KU timeout with 15:30 on the clock.
NM State saw the Jayhawks cut the lead to 46-42 after a fastbreak jam from Mitch Lightfoot at the 12:01 mark, but the scrappy Aggie squad headed into the 10:45 media break on top 51-44 thanks to Zamora’s fourth triple of the night.
However, 14-straight points from Dedric Lawson in the final 6:40 minutes of the game not only gave KU the lead but the willed the seemingly awe-struck Jayhawks to a narrow 63-60 victory over New Mexico State.
The Aggies were led in scoring by Zamora, who finished with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from deep while Aurrecoechea chipped in with 14 on a 7-of-10 effort from the floor. McCants added a dozen of his own with six boards to round out the scoring for NM State. Meanwhile, Lawson posted a game-high 20 points to lead KU.
“New Mexico State was better than us. Other than the first four or five minutes, they controlled the game the entire time. They were quicker, but they are quicker; physically they are quicker, and they were turned up more.” -Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
BY THE NUMBERS
NM State lost its first game of the year when winning the battle of the boards Saturday night, 37-36…46-percent of KU’s scoring came via 16 Aggie turnovers while NM State was only able to convert 13 Jayhawk turnovers for 16 points…NM State was 3-of-10 from the line while Kansas was 6-of-12…NM State assisted on 20 of its 25 made field-goals Saturday night for its second-consecutive game with 20-plus dimes as a time…the six assists by Aurrecoechea is a new career-high for the Spaniard while the five dimes for Chuha was a career-high as well for the redshirt senior…the .455 shooting clip by New Mexico State is the highest given up by Kansas this season.
New Mexico State will get nine days to rest and regroup before returning to Lou Henson Court for a pair of games against Northern Colorado (Dec. 17) and CSUN (Dec. 19) as part of Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. Both games are slated to tip-off at 7 p.m. (MT) at the Pan American Center.