SEATTLE, WA (KTSM) – Perception was reality in the Redhawk Center Saturday night.
Fans in attendance saw a New Mexico State team that was facing extreme difficulty getting its shots to fall. A team that was on the ropes after going own by 11 points early. Then, the perception of the Aggies changed. They became a team that fought and clawed their way back into things until the reality was this at the end of the night: the Aggies are still the team to beat in the WAC.
Ivan Aurrecoechea made a mockery of the Redhawks’ interior defense, shredding it to ribbons to the tune of 19 points and 11 rebounds, Jabari Rice joined his senior teammate in double-double territory with 17 points and a career-high 11 boards and the Aggies overcame an 11-point first-half deficit to claim a hard-fought 75-67 triumph at Seattle U.
The victory not only extended the Aggies’ winning streak to eight consecutive games, but it established a new WAC record for consecutive regular season league victories. Dating back to last season, NM State has reeled off 20-straight WAC regular season victories, surpassing the previous record of 19 which was set by Utah in the last 1990s.
• Things, to put it mildly, did not go the Aggies’ way through the game’s opening 10 minutes. Rice managed to put the visitors on the scoreboard by drilling a triple 1:36 into the tilt, but the sophomore’s downtown hit would represent New Mexico State’s lone field goal make through the opening 10:22
• Salivating at the opportunity to get the jump on the Aggies in front of their home crowd, the Redhawks were able to do just that. Seattle U’s Terrell Brown fueled an 18-8 run by the home team with six points while Morgan Means added five more to put the Aggies in a double-digit hole for the first time in WAC play.
• Despite their poor shooting numbers in the first half, the Aggies used the free throw line to survive their cold spell. Six of the visitors’ first 12 points on the night – and 12 of their 29 in the half – came at the foul line as the Redhawks were piling up personal fouls at an incredible pace. Both Myles Carter and Anand Hundal had amassed three by the time the first frame came to a close.
• At last, the shots started falling from the field for the Aggies. Two of the visitors’ six field goals in the opening frame came in the final two minutes as Shunn Buchanan and Rice canned three-pointers that knotted the score at 29-all.
• The Aggies shot just 28.6-percent (6-of-21) from the field in the opening half, but used a 12-4 edge in free throws made to make sure the Redhawks’ lead never got too large to overcome.
• Netting only three points on three free throw makes in the first half, Trevelin Queen came on exceptionally strong to start the final 20 minutes of action. The senior struck for all seven points during the Aggies’ 7-2 run to begin the second stanza with his three-pointer at the 17:43 mark giving the visitors a 36-31 lead.
• That lead, however, was short-lived as the Redhawks answered with a 7-0 spurt capped off by a three-point play courtesy of Means to move ahead 38-36. New Mexico State wouldn’t regain the lead until Rice tumbled his way to the tin and drained a driving layup while getting fouled. Following his free throw make with 12:10 left, the Aggies were up 45-42.
• Rice’s three-point play was just a part of the Aggies’ 8-0 run which was capped by a well-timed triple off the mitts of C.J. Bobbitt. After Johnny McCants kept the Aggies’ edge at six, 53-47, with a trifecta at the 9:19 mark, the Redhawks charged back again. Jordan Dallas finished off a 10-3 Seattle U surge with a three-pointer that put the home team on top 57-56 with 7:03 left.
• Down by one, the Aggies stayed true to their game plan of getting to the stripe. McCants drained a pair of freebies with 6:46 left that put the visitors on top for good. Seattle U’s Terrell Brown knotted things at 59-all with a layup at the 4:48 mark, but McCants put a powerful finishing touch on a 5-0 Aggie spurt with a two-handed baseline jam that hiked the Aggies’ lead to 64-59.
• Seattle U managed to cut the Aggies’ lead down to two points, but Rice provided the final nail in the Redhawks’ coffin after that. The redshirt sophomore buried a cold-blooded triple with 2:05 left to push the visitors’ edge to 69-64. New Mexico State closed out the game by going 6-of-6 from the foul line over the final 1:25 of play.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• By both posting double-doubles, Aurrecoechea and Rice became the first pair of Aggie teammates to post double-doubles in a game since Dec. 4, 2018, when Aurrecoechea (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Eli Chuha (13 points, 10 rebounds) did so in a win over in-state rival New Mexico.
• After turning the ball five times in the first 6:22, the Aggies committed only six throwaways for the remainder of the game.
• The Aggies finished at a disadvantage in every special scoring category except for one – second-chance points. New Mexico State owned a 15-7 edge in that department by using a 35-23 edge on the glass.
• Free throw shooting was a boon for the Aggies once again. New Mexico State finished with a 26-of-31 (83.9-percent) showing from the stripe, finishing +11 in points from free throws as Seattle U shot 15-of-18 from that distance.
• For the second-straight game against the Aggies, the Redhawks’ Terrell Brown put in a game-high 25 points on 11-of-21 shooting. Joining Brown in double-digits was Jones (11) and Means (10) who rounded out the Redhawks’ top three scorers.
• Head coach Chris Jans moved to 18-1 (.947) in his tenure as New Mexico State’s bench boss in the month of January. Against WAC foes, Jans improved to 35-3 (.921) in his New Mexico State coaching career.
COMING UP NEXT
• The last leg of the Aggies’ three-game WAC road trip won’t happen until next Saturday (Jan. 25) when New Mexico State heads to the Lone Star State for the only time this season. At 6:00 p.m. MT, the Aggies challenge UTRGV inside the UTRGV Fieldhouse in a showdown that will be broadcast nationwide on the WAC Digital Network.