LOS ANGELES, CA (KTSM) — Better to win ugly than lose pretty.
New Mexico State turned it over 26 times and didn’t make a field goal the last 7:38 of regulation, but the Aggies got gritty when they needed it most in a 63-58 win over Loyola Marymount on Saturday night at the Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles. With the win, NMSU improves to 8-2 on the season.
“It was not aesthetically pleasing,” said NMSU head coach Chris Jans. “When you look through the stat sheet, there’s a lot of ugly columns. Too many ugly columns, but they found a way. I’ve been saying that a lot lately.”
Teddy Allen led the Aggies with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Jabari Rice (11 points) and Mario McKinney Jr. (10 points) also finished in double figures. NMSU outrebounded LMU 37-22, and have now won three-straight, all on the road by five points or less.
“They’re finding a way to win on the road,” said Jans. “I don’t want to keep pounding the point, but it’s hard [to win on the road]. These other players and coaches are wanting to win just as much as we are. The road is funny sometimes. That’s the biggest positive that I think we can take away from the game tonight.”
NMSU will continue their road swing with a date in Pullman, Wash. on Wednesday night against Washington State (7-3, 1-1). The Cougars are coming off a three-point loss to South Dakota State on Saturday night. Tip-off at Beasley Coliseum is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT and the game will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network.
GAME NOTES (Via: NM State Athletics)
• Disjointed play, and tons of turnovers ruled through the early stages of the contest as the Aggies committed six throwaways in the first five minute. Those early miscues allowed Loyola Marymount to jump out to an early 6-0 lead three minutes in.
• The Lions’ lead fluctuated between one and five points through the first 10 minutes of the frame as NM State tried desperately to get anything going on offense. Finally, the Aggies found their touch thanks largely to Mario McKinney Jr. Inserted into the game with 10:47 left in the opening stanza, McKinney Jr., used his superior speed to put the Lions on their heels.
• Down 13-8 with 9:11 showing on the scoreboard, McKinney Jr., kick-started a 6-0 NM State run all by his lonesome to hand the visitors their first lead of the evening. Through that scoring stretch, the St. Louis, Mo., product either scored or assisted on all three of the Aggies’ field goals and it was his finish through contact following an offensive rebound that handed the visitors their first lead, 14-13, with 7:24 to go in the half.
• Slowly but surely, the Aggies continued to wear the Lions down by crashing the glass and showing off their defense. With things deadlocked at 19-all and 3:22 remaining in the stanza, NM State opened up its largest lead of the half thanks to a 4-0 run.
• Jabari Rice knifed through the Lions’ interior defense for an easy layup before Yuat Alok found Mike Peake inside for another close-range score which put the Aggies’ lead at 23-19 with 2:18 left.
• LMU countered with a 4-0 run of its own, tying the game at 23-all following Kwane Marble II’s layup at the 1:25 mark. Again, though, McKinney Jr., played the role of difference-maker down the stretch to make sure the visitors took the lead at the break. The speedy guard worked his way around and through a trio of LMU defenders and put in a layup with four ticks left which handed the Aggies a 25-23 lead at halftime.
• An 18-12 edge on the glass in the opening frame helped NM State take a lead into the locker room. Neither team shot the ball particularly well from long range as the squad combined for a 4-of-21 (.190) showing from that distance. The squads also combined for 21 turnovers, making it tough to sustain any prolonged runs on offense.
• A much better start to the second half let NM State continue to get the upper hand on the Lions. A 12-4 Aggie surge which spanned the first 5:08 of the frame hiked the visitors’ lead to 37-27. Through that run, Nate Pryor showed off his skillset in the paint by getting a trio of runners, floaters and layups to fall as he contributed six points to the Aggies’ early run.
• From there, LMU tried as hard is it could to avoid dropping a second-straight decision at home to a WAC foe. The Lions used three-pointers from Alex Merkviladze and Joe Quintana on back-to-back possessions to cut the Aggies’ double-digit lead down to four.
• Though NM State managed to remain in front for the vast majority of the second half, it had to continuously hold off a hard-charging Lions squad.
• Rice pushed NM State’s lead back to seven, 51-44, after canning a mid-range jumper over Quintana with 7:38 to go. That make by Rice proved to be the Aggies’ last field goal of the game as things got interesting down the stretch.
• The Lions powered their way back into the lead by making use of an 8-0 run over the course of 2:04. Eli Scott was the main focal point of the Lions’ run, netting six of LMU’s eight points through that span. His two free throw makes with 5:14 left handed the hosts a 51-50 lead – their first advantage since 4:58 remained in the first frame.
• Just as the foul line was a friend to the Lions, though, it proved beneficial to the Aggies as well. NM State cashed in on 12 of their 14 tries from that distance through the game’s final 4:15 to help seal the deal.
• The Aggies’ free throw shooting late was just part of the winning equation, though. After Cam Shelton swished two freebies with 59 seconds to go for the home team, Rice did the same with 45 seconds left to hand NM State a 57-56 lead. With the ball in the Lions’ hands with 30 seconds remaining, Scott tried to get a layup to go past Will McNair Jr., but the shot didn’t draw any iron. Johnny McCants snared arguably the game’s biggest rebound with 18 seconds left and converted two free throws on the other end.
• A missed three-pointer by the Lions with 10 seconds left resulted in a rebound for Rice who drained all four of his charity stripe tries to end it.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• A season-high 26 turnovers by NM State helped the Lions stay within striking distance for most of the night. LMU turned those 26 throwaways into 32 points – 55.2-percent of its total offensive output on the night.
• Three-point shooting didn’t help the Aggies out, either, as they went just 2-of-16 (.125) from long range in the win. Again, however, points in the paint was where NM State made its hay as the Aggies wrapped up the tilt with a 34-24 scoring edge in the painted area.
• NM State took advantage of the free throw line late and wound up with a 21-of-25 (.840) mark from that distance to show for it through the game.
• Even though no Aggie finished with double-digits in the rebounding department, a collective effort to crash the glass paid off in a big way. NM State owned a 37-22 (+15) edge on the glass over their WCC foes with Teddy Allen grabbing a game-high eight boards. McCants added seven more to go along with three of the Aggies’ seven blocked shots while Rice roped in six boards.
• Scott’s 20-point effort for the home team came on a 6-of-16 showing from the field. No other member of LMU’s squad exceeded the eight points by the time all was said and done.
• The win was NM State head coach Chris Jans‘ first over a WCC foe in his tenure in Las Cruces. Prior to Saturday, the Aggies’ last victory over a WCC adversary came on Nov. 26, 2016 (56-51 at San Diego).
• NM State has now won five-straight true road games dating back to last season. In the Jans coaching era, the Aggies are 35-12 in true road tilts.
COMING UP NEXT
• The final game of the Aggies’ stretch of four-straight road tilts will arguably the team’s toughest. NM State heads to Pac-12 country where it will tangle with Washington State Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. MT in Pullman, Wash.