LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – It’s no secret that the New Mexico State men’s basketball team has made use of an exceptionally potent shooting touch to fuel its latest winning streak. What hasn’t exactly received as much press is the Aggies’ defense – something that was as the center of their 10th-straight win, 61-57 over CSU Bakersfield on Thursday night at the Pan American Center.
Clinging to a one-point lead with 1:35 to go, senior Shunn Buchanan came up with a game-changing steal on the defensive end to put the ball back in the Aggies hands, Ivan Aurrecoechea tied his career high with 23 points and Jabari Rice added 20 points.
• Intent on putting on a high-scoring show for a home crowd they hadn’t seen in three weeks, the Aggies came out like gangbusters and opened up a 19-9 lead just 5:08 into the showdown. Through that surge, Evan Gilyard II knocked down a pair of threes, Terrell Brown added another and Aurrecoechea put in four points.
• NMSU’s lead remained one of the double-digit variety, 21-11, after Aurrecoechea operated down low for another layup, but the Roadrunners started making things interesting after that. Cam Allen led an 8-0 surge by the visitors with a layup and a three-pointer that cut NMSU’s lead down to three, but Rice ended the Roadrunners’ scoring spree with a triple of his own with 9:15 left in the half.
• Try as they might, however, the Aggies never could push their lead back to double-digits. Aurrecoechea made it an eight-point advantage for the home team with another fine post move that resulted in a bucket with 6:44 left in the frame, but CSUB never went away.
• Allen struck again, this time for back-to-back pull-up jumpers from mid-range to pull the Roadrunners within two, 32-30, with 2:36 left in the frame.
• Aurrecoechea closed out the half by scoring the final three points on a free throw make and a layup to give NMSU at 35-30 edge at the break.
• Both teams shot the lights out in the first 20 minutes with NMSU putting 54.5-percent (12-of-22) of their shots and the Roadrunners connecting on 54.2-percent (13-of-24) of their tries.
• Rice responded to a mid-range swish by De’Vonte Buckingham that shrank the Aggies’ lead to three, 37-34, with a personal 5-0 run that culminated with a three-pointer to push the home team’s edge back to eight, 42-34, with 16:51 remaining.
• Little did Rice know that his downtown bucket would be the last NMSU field goal for a stretch of 8:35. The Aggies couldn’t get shots to fall but, thanks to some tenacious defense, they didn’t let the Roadrunners do much of anything, either.
• Justin Edler-Davis connected on two trifectas through an 8-0 CSU Bakersfield run that tied the game at 42 with 14:57 to go, but the Aggies used a pair of free throw makes by Aurrecoechea and another two from Rice to remain in front, 46-44, at the midway point of the half.
• Taze Moore knotted matters at 50-all with a fast-break dunk with 4:25 left and Edler-David handed the visitors their first lead of the night when he answered a Rice layup with a three-pointer from the far corner that put the home team at a 53-52 disadvantage with 3:36 left.
• Czar Perry put the Roadrunners up for the final time by drilling a jumper with 2:29 left. After that, however, it was winning time for the Aggies.
• Aurrecoechea cooked his defender on the ensuing NMSU possession and dropped in a layup that put the Aggies ahead 55-54. The senior then hit a pair of big free throws after Buchanan came up with the game’s biggest play. Buchanan took the ball right away from Perry with 1:35 left which led to Aurrecoechea’s two free throw makes.
• Buchanan iced the game from there by hitting three of four free throws in the final 15 seconds.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Aurrecoechea and Rice became the first pair of Aggie teammates to go for 20 or more points in the same game since Dec. 4, 2018, when Aurrecoechea (23) and JoJo Zamora (27) combined for 50 in a win over New Mexico.
• Four different players came up with 10 or more points for CSU Bakersfield who suffered its first WAC road loss of the year. Cam Allen and Justin Edler-Davis led the way with 11 apiece.
• The free throw line played a huge part in the Aggies’ victory. NMSU went 19-of-25 from the stripe while the Roadrunners were only 2-of-5. The Aggies finished with a +17 edge in free throws made.
• For the second time in three seasons as the Aggies’ bench boss, Chris Jans has successfully completed a run through the month of January without suffering a loss. He’s 20-1 (.952) in his tenure in the month of January as the Aggies’ head coach.
• For the third consecutive season, the Aggies have generated a winning streak of 10 or more games. That’s the first time in program history that NMSU has reeled off 10 or more victories in three consecutive seasons, making Jans the first Aggie head coach to do so, too.
• Dating back to 2016-17, NMSU has amassed 20 consecutive WAC victories inside the Pan American Center.
COMING UP NEXT
• Arguably the most anticipated game of the 2019-20 season is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. MT inside the Pan American Center. The Aggies will duke it out with WAC arch-nemesis Grand Canyon. FOX Sports Arizona+ will broadcast the game as well the WAC Digital Network.