OREM, Utah (KTSM) – In a battle of the WAC’s top two player of the year candidates, Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq came out on top of New Mexico State’s Teddy Allen on Saturday, as the Wolverines defeated the Aggies, 72-68.
It wasn’t without an immense effort from Allen and the Aggies, though, which trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half and got within two points late thanks to Allen’s 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
But Aimaq’s 23 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, plus a pair of clutch free throws late proved to be the difference maker, as Utah Valley (16-8, 7-5, WAC) defeated New Mexico State (20-4, 10-2, WAC).
“We didn’t get off to a very good start, which we have been recently,” NMSU head coach Chris Jans said. “We were able to get back again within a basket before halftime and then just didn’t end the half very well. We had done some good things at halftime, but just hadn’t put the ball in the basket very well at that point.”
NMSU shot just 44.3% from the field, 4-20 from three-point range and 10-20 from the free throw line, the latter of which especially doomed the Aggies to defeat.
Utah Valley jumped out to a nine-point lead multiple times in the first half and led by that margin at the break as Aimaq hit a deep three to beat the first half buzzer.
The Wolverines extended the advantage to as many as 14 points multiple times in the second half, but each time NMSU would rally to cut the deficit. Trailing by three points with under five seconds left, Allen was fouled before shooting – and making – a half-court shot that would’ve tied the game had it counted.
Instead, Allen made the first free throw then missed the second intentionally in an effort to corral the offensive rebound. Aimaq came away with the rebound, drilling a pair from the line to put NMSU away.
With the defeat and a win by Seattle University, the Aggies are now back into a tie for first place in the WAC with the Redhawks. NMSU currently has the tiebreaker by virtue of its head-to-head win over Seattle last weekend.
NMSU will be back at home to host Dixie State on Wednesday at 7 p.m.