LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – No matter how slim the margin, how hard-fought it was or how unattractive it may have looked at times, a win is a win.
That’s that mindset of the New Mexico State men’s basketball team after surviving their first of what will surely be many WAC nail-biters Saturday evening inside the Pan American Center.
Terrell Brown looked like the Terrell Brown of old by pouring in a game and season-high 18 points, Jabari Rice posted New Mexico State’s first double-double of the season by going for 13 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as the Aggies held off a late charge by Kansas City to secure a 74-71 victory over the Roos.
Things looked well in hand for the Aggies after Brown culminated a 7-of-11 night from the field by splashing a wide-open three-pointer which pushed the home team’s lead to 69-57 with 2:44 to go, but the Roos connected on three of their 13 three-pointers in the last 2:27 to make things much more interesting than anyone in the Aggies’ corner wanted.
• New Mexico State never fell behind for the second-straight game Johnny McCants and made sure of that by starting the Aggies’ 8-2 run out of the gates with a three-pointer from the near wing.
• Though the Aggies looked primed for a runaway win early on, the Roos would have none of it. Forced to put a guard-centric lineup on the floor all night with the absence of senior forward Javan White (injury), the Roos stayed within 10 points of the Aggies for the majority of the frame.
• By connecting on the second of two free throws, Brown pushed the Aggies’ lead to its largest of the half – 25-14 – with 9:55 remaining. Just as it appeared New Mexico State had gained the separation it needed, Kansas City answered with a three-point barrage to pull within one possession.
• Through the next 6:01, Jordan Giles, Marvin Nesbitt, Jr. and Maks Klanjscek combined to put in four triples to fuel a 16-5 surge by Kansas City. With their lead down to just two, 32-30, following the Roos’ outburst from downtown, the Aggies did something about it.
• Shawn Williams commenced a 10-3 New Mexico State run to conclude the half with two makes at the charity stripe and Trevelin Queen provided a substantial punctuation mark to the surge by gilding in for a fast-break dunk that brought the Aggies’ crowd into it with 1:17 left in the frame.
• Brown wrapped up the Aggies’ run to end the frame with a baseline jumper to end a sterling shooting performance for the home team in the half.
• The Aggies sizzled from the field, shooting 77.3-percent (17-of-22) in the frame. That included a 44.4-percent (4-of-9) accuracy rate from long range to help hold off a Roos squad that connected on 48-percent (12-of-25) of their tries in the first 20 minutes.
• Instead of venturing out beyond the arc, McCants worked inside and started half number two with a ferocious dunk to put his team up 44-33 ten second into the deciding frame. New Mexico State maintained a lead between eight and ten points through the first 5:19 before Kansas City started another comeback.
• Giles netted five of the Roos’ points during their 7-0 run that cut the Aggies’ lead down to 50-47 with 11:10 to go. A driving score by Brown followed up with another jam by McCants put the Roos’ run on hold momentarily, but Giles capped another 7-0 Kansas City surge that brought the Roos even at 54-54 at the 7:09 mark.
• Following Giles’ equalizing score, it was the Aggies turn to go on a run. Ivan Aurrecoechea collected his own miss and initialized a 15-3 New Mexico State run over the next 3:55 with a layup.
• Kansas City’s lone basket through that stretch was a long ball by Jahshire Hardnett, but his triple was answered by a downtown swish by Queen as well as another by Brown that pushed the Aggies ahead 69-57 with 2:44 left.
• The Aggies’ lead still stood at double-digits, 72-61, after Rice connected on a shot from beyond the arc with 1:33 left, but the Aggies scored just two points the rest of the way and committed three of their 18 turnovers during the final stages to give the Roos a fighting chance.
• Rob Whitfield put in two trifectas for the Roos to pull them within four, 73-69, with 18 seconds to go. After an Aggie turnover, Hardnett appeared to be headed to the rim for an easy layup but Queen had other ideas. A block by the senior gave the ball back to the home team and Shunn Buchanan went 1-of-two at the line to put the Aggies up five with seven seconds left.
• Kansas City’s last gasp came in the form of a Whitfield jumper in the paint and the Roos had a chance to equalize things after a New Mexico State turnovers with two second left, but instead took a two-pointer that was off the mark as the horn sounded.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Queen joined Brown and Rice in double-digits by netting 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with six rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal.
• As a squad, the Aggies shot a Chris Jans coaching era record 61.7-percent (29-of-47) from the field in their 18th-consecutive WAC regular season victory. Additionally, the Aggies stretched their winning streak against WAC foes to 21 with their three-point victory over the Roos.
• After committing 10 or fewer turnovers in each of their last three games, the Aggies coughed the ball up 18 times and the Roos were only too happy to turn those throwaways into 21 points – 29.6-percent of their point total on the night.
• Fine ball movement helped the Aggies cause, too, as they finished with 20 assists on 29 made baskets. Evan Gilyard II passed out five of them to go along with four points.
• The Roos, quite simply, thrived from three-point land. Kansas City shot 54.2-percent (13-of-24) from distance and 45.6-percent from the field in their second-straight WAC setback.
• Giles concluded his night with a team-high 16 points for Kansas City while Whitfield (14), Hardnett (13) and Nesbitt, Jr. (13) also put in at least 13.
COMING UP NEXT
• Hoping to sharpen things up once they return to practice Monday, the Aggies will have only a few sessions to do so before heading out on the road for three consecutive WAC tilts. New Mexico State’s first stop during that stretch is Orem, Utah, for a Thursday night battle at Utah Valley. Tip-off has been slated for 7:00 p.m., and the tilt will be streamed nationwide on ESPN+ and the ESPN app.