TUSCON, AZ (KTSM) – Staring a 10-point deficit squarely in the face after the game’s first 3:45, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team used a 12-5 run powered by the play of senior Trevelin Queen to cut No. 19 Arizona’s lead down to three, but the Wildcats answered with a 28-9 run to end the first half and walked away with an 83-53 victory Sunday afternoon at the McKale Center.
Size and shooting were the Wildcats’ biggest advantages as freshman Zeke Nnaji finished with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-7 shooting to lead the Wildcats. Arizona shot 52.6-percent (30-of-57) from the field compared to a 32.7-percent (18-of-55) clip by the Aggies.
• Smacked with a 10-0 Arizona run through the game’s first 3:45, the Aggies turned to Queen to power their comeback bid. The senior put in the first of his four first-half buckets on an acrobatic layup in traffic to get the visitors on the board with 14:41 to go in the frame.
• Queen’s score served as a rallying cry to his compatriots as New Mexico State took off on a 12-3 run over a span of 3:08 to cut the Wildcats’ double-digit lead down to just three.
• A pair of triples courtesy of Queen bookended a powerful flush by Johnny McCants at the 12:05 mark, and Queen’s second long-range hit pulled his squad within 15-12 with 11:33 left.
• Regrettably, that was as close as the Aggies would come to grabbing the lead. Using a deadly combination of speed, shooting and inside play, Arizona closed out the half on a 28-9 run to take a 43-21 lead into the locker room at the break.
• Shawn Williams canned a corner three to cap a 5-0 run during the Wildcats’ big-time surge to end the half. That triple pulled New Mexico State within 11, 32-21, but Arizona answered by scoring the final 11 points of the half to open up a 21-point lead.
• Arizona scorched the nets in the first 20 minutes of action, putting up shooting splits of .581/.571/1.000 compared to the Aggies’ percentages of .308/.273/.667. Arizona leaned heavily on the play of star freshman Nnaji who poured in 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting through the frame. Jemari Baker, Jr., added 10 while Queen countered with 10 for the Aggies.
• Hoping to start the second half strong, the Aggies did just that as Ivan Aurrecoechea converted a layup 30 seconds in that cut the Wildcats’ edge down to 20. The senior’s inside score started a 3-0 surge for the visitors, but again Arizona answered.
• Nico Mannion canned a pair of downtown buckets on back-to-back Wildcat possessions to put the finishing touches on a 13-3 run by the hosts that left New Mexico State at a 56-27 disadvantage with 16:09 left.
• The Wildcats’ lead grew to 30 when Mannion struck for a mid-range jumper that made matters 58-28 with 14:42 remaining. Arizona’s edge fluctuated between 33 and 27 points for the remainder of the tilt.
• A second-half outburst by Rice helped the Aggies try to keep pace with Arizona. All 14 of the guard’s points came through the final 13 minutes of action.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Rice led all Aggie scorers, putting in a team-high 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting. The redshirt sophomore drilled a career-high four three-pointers in the setback, putting fourth his second multi-three outing of the season in the process.
• Queen finished with 12 and a team-high seven rebounds for the Aggies who dropped their sixth in a row to Arizona.
• A trio of players finished with 15 or more points to pace the Wildcats. That group was led by Nnaji and his game-high 19. Baker, Jr., put in 16 while Mannion finished with 15 to round out the Wildcats’ top three scorers.
• For the game, the Wildcats shot .526/.476/.867 and finished with a +12 edge in shots made over the Aggies.
COMING UP NEXT
• Back inside the Pan Am Center for the final time this month, the Aggies turn their attention to the first of two 2019-20 showdowns in the Battle of I-25. At 7:00 p.m., Thursday night, New Mexico State hosts in-state and Mountain West Conference adversary New Mexico with state bragging rights on the line.