PHOENIX, AZ (KTSM) – They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
In what was perhaps their best start to a game this season, New Mexico came out firing and hit Grand Canyon with a 10-0 run to start the game. The Aggies hammered the Antelopes on the glass and on the scoreboard, with a 67-53 win at GCU Arena on Thursday night.
The Lopes never led and though they managed to whittle the Aggies’ lead down to three points on one occasion that was as close as they could get.
• Intent on shutting down whatever advantage the Lopes crowd could give, the Aggies wasted no time in landing their first haymaker of the night. Fueled by the speed of Evan Gilyard II who scored the first six of the game, NM State put in the game’s first 10 points over a span of 3:45.
• That forced Grand Canyon to call time in order to try and regroup. To their credit, the Lopes did just that by taking off on a 9-2 run of their own to makes things momentarily interesting. Alessandro Lever drilled a triple during that surge and ended the run with an uncontested layup to shrink NM State’s lead to 12-9 with 11:59 left in the frame.
• It was about that time when the Aggies started to flex their muscles in the rebounding department. A 9-0 surge by the visitors included a pair of put-back dunks – one from Johnny McCants and another from Trevelin Queen – to push NM State’s lead back to double-digits, 21-9, with 9:22 remaining in the stanza.
• Lever continued to lead the Lopes back into the thick of things, putting in two more layups before giving way to Carlos Johnson who drilled a downtown shot that pulled the home team back within six, 27-21, with 5:13 on the clock.
• Through the rest of the half, though, the Aggies outscored their WAC adversaries 10-4 to take a 12-point lead (37-25) into the halftime break. During that final surge of the frame, Terrell Brown and Queen each nailed a three-pointer while Ivan Aurrecoechea glided in for a fast-break layup.
• The game was won for the Aggies in the first seven minutes of the deciding frame. Through that span, NM State did not allow the Lopes to score a single point and – charged up by three-point plays by Shunn Buchanan and Jabari Rice – took off on an 11-0 run to make matters 48-25 with 13:22 to go.
• NM State’s lead grew to as high as 26, 56-30, after a pair of free throw makes by William McNair with 10:25 left.
• A 10-0 run by Grand Canyon through that last 3:17 made the final score closer than it had been since the start of the second half.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Domination on the glass and a spread out offensive attack allowed the Aggies to run away with the win. NM State out-rebounded the Lopes 48-26 and had just one fewer offensive rebound (25) than GCU’s rebounding total.
• Rice continued to shine, generating a team-high 16 points to do along with a game-high nine rebounds. It was the sophomore’s eighth-straight game with 10 or more points and he was helped along by Queen who netted 14 while grabbing eight boards. Queen and Rice combined to shoot 50-percent (12-of-24) from the field in the Aggies’ eighth-straight win over Grand Canyon.
• Aurrecoechea and McCants came up with eight points each and both neared double-double territory as the former grabbed seven rebounds and the latter eight.
• Lever put in a game-high 17 for Grand Canyon while Isiah Brown chipped in 12 of his own for a Lopes squad that did manage to shoot 44.4-percent (20-of-45) from the field. That was better than the Aggies’ 36.6-percent (26-of-71) clip.
• With the victory, NM State extended the nation’s longest active winning streak to 17 consecutive games. That’s tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in the history of the program and the Aggies also added to their WAC record by collecting their 28th-straight regular season league victory.
• Each of Grand Canyon’s three lowest point totals in a WAC game have come against New Mexico State. The Lopes scored 53 tonight, 52 in an Aggie win on Feb. 1, 2020 in Las Cruces and 50 on Feb. 4, 2016 against NM State.
COMING UP NEXT
• For their final WAC road game of the regular season, the Aggies head to Bakersfield, Calif., where they’ll tangle with CSU Bakersfield Saturday night. The 8:00 p.m. MT tip-off will be the final matchup between the two squads as WAC members as the Roadrunners will be in the Big West in 2020-21. ESPN3 and the ESPN app will carry the clash nationwide.