New Mexico State nips New Mexico 78-76 in heated OT thriller at The Pit

NMSU

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (KTSM) – The last meeting between New Mexico and New Mexico State was arguably the weirdest game in the history of the rivalry. Monday’s edition of the Battle of I-25 was simply an instant classic.

New Mexico State point guard Nate Pryor managed to make a twisting, over-the-head lay-up at the buzzer at The Pit to give the Aggies a 78-76 overtime win, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Lobos.

“The play was for me to get downhill, but Jabari was open, so I passed it to him and it was dependent on him, if he made the shot,” said Pryor, a transfer from Washington. “But then I saw my defender go double, so I cut backdoor and the ball was slippery and it came off my hand. I literally just had to throw it up.”

The buzzer-beating win is the second straight road win at the horn for NMSU (7-2), after Jabari Rice beat UTEP in El Paso on a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining.

The fireworks didn’t stop postgame, either. After the horn, NMSU’s players went to the New Mexico logo at midcourt and began stomping on the Lobos’ logo, taunting the crowd.

UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez and NMSU head coach Chris Jans stopped the celebration as quickly as possible, but the two teams did not shake hands postgame as a result.

After the game, Jans, his players, as well as Lobos star guard Jamal Mashburn Jr., said the Aggies’ actions were in response to the actions of New Mexico (5-4), which did a similar thing last Tuesday at the Pan American Center after beating NMSU.

“I’m not going to justify what our kids did. I was focused on the fact we made the basket and I kept waiting for them to go to the review, so I didn’t see it right away, otherwise I would have been out there earlier trying to stop it,” said Jans.

“But just for some context, you know, we got beat soundly at our place and there was some of that by their players. I’m not going to lie to you, I showed my team,” Jans continued. “It was motivation, you know, we needed to do what we had to do to to get the hair on our back to stand up and understand what we’re about to face, and so I did show them. Certainly I didn’t tell them to do it and I’m not condoning it. I’m not happy with them and we’re going to talk about it, but I just want to make sure everybody understands how it got to this point.”

For his part, New Mexico head coach Richard Pitino said he was more upset by the Lobos’ defense on the final play than the Aggies’ actions afterwards.

“I’m more offended by our defense on the last play. I’m not going to worry about other people’s teams,” said Pitino. “What I know is we had a couple breakdowns down the stretch that cost us an opportunity to sweep New Mexico State. We didn’t do it.”

Pryor’s bucket to end the game was the final blow in an epic clash. New Mexico took a 10-point lead in the first half, before the Aggies rallied to make it a four-point game at halftime.

New Mexico State controlled much of the second half, even taking a five-point lead midway through the half as Teddy Allen (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Yuat Alok (19 points off the bench) led the charge for NMSU.

Around the four-minute mark of regulation, Mashburn Jr. began to take over for the Lobos. He made a pair of tough baskets and New Mexico led by three points with under a minute to play. Mashburn Jr. led all scorers with 26 points.

With the Lobos up 68-66 with under 10 seconds remaining in regulation, Johnny McCants made a lay-up to tie the game at 68; a Jaelen House runner ricocheted off the rim at the horn that would’ve won the game, instead sending it to overtime.

Alok was unstoppable in the extra frame, scoring six of NMSU’s 10 points in OT. The Aggies led by four points with under a minute to play, but buckets by House (21 points) and then Mashburn Jr. tied the game again at 76-apiece, leading to Pryor’s game-winner.

The win is New Mexico State’s first over the Lobos since 2018, when the Aggies swept the season series. NMSU took three of the four rivalry games over UNM and UTEP, netting Jans a $15,000 bonus; Jans gets an incentive bonus of $5,000 for each win over both UNM and UTEP.

The Aggies’ difficult four-game road trip continues this weekend with a trip to Los Angeles to play Loyola Marymount. After that, they’ll play at Washington State on Dec. 15.

As for New Mexico, the Lobos will host Denver on Thursday, then play host to Joe Golding and UTEP at 1 p.m. Sunday at The Pit.

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