NM State edges Arizona Christian in season-opener, 83-77


GLENDALE, AZ (KTSM) — The New Mexico State men’s basketball team had to wait a little longer than they would have liked, but the Aggies have officially tipped-off the 2020-21 college basketball season.

NMSU was taken to the brink in their 83-77 win over NAIA powerhouse Arizona Christian. In fact, the Aggies trailed by one-point in the final minute of the game, but when they needed to make a play down the stretch, senior Johnny McCants delivered a thunderous dunk to put NMSU up for good in the final minute of regulation. McCants finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.

“They [Arizona Christian] played really, really well. We struggled, obviously, and I thought it would be a struggle at times. I wished we would’ve played a little bit better, but it is what it is,” said NMSU head coach Chris Jans after the win. “We needed this game and there will be so many teaching moments from it. I’m certainly glad we won, although it certainly wasn’t one of our prettiest games. We’ll learn from it, grown from it and hopefully be better the next outing.”

After missing virtually all of last season due to injury, NMSU was led by senior Clayton Henry’s 20 points and five rebounds. UNLV transfer, Donnie Tillman, added 15 points while junior guard Jabari Rice tallied 14 points and a team-high in rebounds (nine) and assists (four).

NMSU has relocated to Arizona due to state restrictions preventing the Aggies from playing or practicing in Las Cruces. The transition has been tough for the program as they have setup shop at the Arizona Grand in Phoenix the past two weeks. Jans and his staff continue to face numerous scheduling challenges.

“We need to play games. The bottom line is — we need to compete,” said Jans. “We need to play games and everyone is tired of watching the games on the television. We aren’t a part of it. We want to join the party, if you will, and be a part of college basketball — we are now.”

The Aggies are scheduled to play another NAIA program out of Arizona in Benedictine Mesa on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. As of now, that is the only other non-conference game on NMSU’s schedule, however, Jans says the team is working diligently behind the scenes to schedule an opponent this weekend.

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