EDINBURG, Texas (NM State Athletics) – Dealt another dose of devastating news Wednesday morning when it was announced senior Trevelin Queen would miss four-to-six weeks while recovering from a lateral meniscus tear, the same old questions popped up regarding the New Mexico State men’s basketball team.
How would they recover? What happens now? Is all hope lost?
Saturday night, the Aggies answered each and every one of those questions – and probably a few more – by doing the one thing they have done in league action on a more consistent basis than almost any other team in the nation over the past two-plus years.
Ivan Aurrecoechea finished with a game-high 19 points – including a pair of big-time free throws with 24 seconds to go – and the Aggies held off a late charge by UTRGV to earn a 67-62 triumph inside the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
The win helped the Aggies remain atop the WAC standings with a perfect 6-0 record in league action and was NM State’s 24th consecutive conference victory.
• Early turnover troubles by the Aggies allowed the Vaqueros to get the jump on the WAC leaders early on. UTRGV capitalized time after time as New Mexico State turned the ball over on four of its first five possessions. It was Jordan Jackson who did most of the damage during the Vaqueros’ 8-2 run to start the game as he netted six points – two of which came on a fast-break dunk to start the game.
• UTRGV’s lead remained six after Quinton Johnson II sank a mid-range jumper, but a 9-0 Aggie run wrested control of the game from the Vaqueros. Coming off the bench to help fuel that surge was CJ Bobbitt, who put in four of his six points during that span.
• Bobbitt’s score with 12:18 left in the frame pushed the visitors up 15-12, but Jackson countered with four straight points for the Vaqueros to give them the lead for the final time.
• Jabari Rice and Shawn Williams rained back-to-back three-pointers following Jackson’s one-man scoring outburst. Those two downtown makes kick-started a 10-2 Aggie run which culminated with a fast break layup by Johnny McCants to make the score 25-18 with 6:09 left in the frame.
• Terrell Brown handed the visitors their first double-digit lead of the game when his first of three three-pointers went through with 2:42 left in the half. That made the Aggies’ lead 34-23 and Williams closed out the half with two free throw makes which answered back-to-back triples by the Vaqueros and helped the Aggies head into the locker room with a 36-29 edge.
• Neither team suffered from an inability to put the ball in the basket through the frame. The Aggies’ captured their seven-point lead at the break thanks to shooting splits of .636/.444/.667, but the Vaqueros weren’t too far behind as they shot .571/.333/1.000 through the stanza.
• Trading buckets with the home team to start the final 20 minutes of action, the Aggies kept their lead at eight (46-38) after Aurrecoechea accepted a pass from Bobbitt and sank a layup with 13:35 left.
• That field goal would prove to be the last one for the Aggies for a stretch of 4:28, however, and in that time Lesley Varner II netted a pair of field goals for UTRGV which cut the Aggies’ lead down to 46-42.
• With the Vaqueros creeping closer possession by possession, the Aggies went on a much-needed run to put double-digit distance between themselves and their Lone Star State adversaries. Aurrecoechea started an 11-4 Aggie surge by connecting on the second of two free throws at the 9:28 mark.
• Evan Gilyard and Terrell Brown continued the NM State scoring spree with three-pointers on back-to-back Aggie possessions and wrapping up the run was Shunn Buchanan. The senior guard corralled an offensive rebound after Aurrecoechea was denied at the rim by Sean Rhea and flipped in a layup that hiked the visitors’ edge to 57-46 with 6:52 left.
• Aurrecoechea hit a smooth turnaround hook shot right before the shot clock expired, pushing NM State’s advantage to 62-50 and seemingly putting things out of reach for the
Vaqueros with 5:52 left.
• Another big play from Aurrecoechea, this one a three-point play that increased the visitors’ lead to double-digits (65-55), appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for the Vaqueros, but the home team made a bid to steal the win down the stretch.
• Jackson put in four points during a 7-0 UTRGV run, including a mid-range jumper that whittled the Aggies’ lead down to 65-62 with 32 seconds to go. After Gilyard II missed a pair of free throws prior to Jackson’s mid-range job, Aurrecoechea stepped to the foul line and put the game on ice for the Aggies. The senior sank two free throws with 24 seconds left and the Vaqueros missed their last two shots.
PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Aurrecoechea and McCants were unquestionably the difference makers for the Aggies as that tandem combined to generate 31 of NM State’s 67 points on a combined 12-of-15 shooting performance from the field.
• Solid ball movement helped the Aggies get the job done, too, as NM State racked up 20 assists on its 25 made field goals. Gilyard II and Rice each passed out four, tying for the game high. McCants totaled three helpers to go along with his 12 points and game-high seven rebounds.
• For the Vaqueros, Jackson shouldered the majority of the scoring load by going off for a game-high 26 on 10-of-14 shooting. The spring guard also came up with three rebounds, three assists and a game-high three steals in the setback.
• Varner II added 13 on a 6-of-16 outing from the field.
• Both teams shot extremely well on the night with the Aggies drilling 55.6-percent (25-of-45) of their shots and the Vaqueros connecting on 50-percent (24-of-48) of their field goal tries.
• New Mexico State’s win was its 16th in a row over UTRGV and extended the Aggies’ winning streak to nine games. The Aggies’ WAC-record winning streak in regular season league games got extended to 21, too.
• With their three-game WAC road trip in the books, the Aggies return to the confines of the Pan Am Center for five of their next seven showdowns. That run begins Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. when NM State welcomes CSU Bakersfield to Las Cruces. FOX Sports Arizona+ is set to broadcast the tilt between the top two teams in the WAC standings.