CHICAGO, IL (KTSM) – On paper it looked like it would result in a blowout from start to finish.
Early on it didn’t quite work out that way for the New Mexico State men’s basketball team Thursday night in the Windy City. That is until one of Chicago’s favorite sons – playing in front of nearly 100 family members who made the journey to the Jones Convocation Center – stepped to the forefront of the action to make sure no doubts remain on what team remained the favorites in the WAC.
Playing in his home town for the first time in his collegiate career, Evan Gilyard II sparked a 20-4 New Mexico State run over that last 7:24 of the opening half by scoring seven-straight points and the Aggies rode that surge to a 71-49 triumph over Chicago State.
A fifth-straight road victory helped the Aggies maintain a two-game lead for the top spot in the WAC standings.
• A sluggish start limited the effectiveness of the Aggies’ normally potent offensive attack. After Jabari Rice scored the first five points of the game, NM State found itself embroiled in a hotly contested affair with a Chicago State team that was hungry for an upset.
• A pair of free throw makes by Amir Gholizadeh put the Cougars on top, 6-5, with 13:17 left in the frame and Chicago State remained within striking distance when Solmon Hunt converted a layup that trimmed the Aggies’ lead to 14-13.
• Following that layup at the 8:21 mark of the frame, Gilyard II changed the complexion of the game. A pair of free throw makes by the junior signaled the start of the Aggies’ game-changing run and after the Cougars responded with two freebies of their own Gilyard II nailed a three-pointer and followed up with a finish at the tin off of a nifty spin move to put the visitors ahead 21-15 with 4:41 left in the frame.
• Terrell Brown followed Gilyard II’s personal scoring surge with five consecutive points while Shawn Williams got in on the action, too. The guard concluded his seven-point first half by canning a mid-range jumper and connecting on a pair of free throws late in the half.
• As good as the Aggies’ offense looked though the last 7:24 of the half, their defense was even better. NM State allowed Chicago State to hit just one field goal through the last 8:20 of the stanza and as a result the Aggies coasted into their locker room with a 34-17 lead at the break.
• Hoping to put the Cougars away for good, the Aggies were able to do just that once the second half started. NM State embarked on an 11-4 run through the first 5:30 of the frame and fueling that surge was the duo of Gilyard II and Rice. The former hit a trio of free throws in that span while the latter contributed five points to put the Aggies up 45-21 with 14:30 left.
• NM State’s massive lead increased to as many as 28 points when Bryce Rewalt waltzed off the bench and drained a corner three to make matters 59-31 with 10:17 to go.
• The Aggies never let their lead dip below 15 points the rest of the way and Tennessee Owens ended the game by splashing a corner triple with three-tenths of a second remaining to account for the 22-point margin of victory.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Williams led the way for the Aggies by pouring in a game-high 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He was one of three NM State players who put in double-digit points as Gilyard II and Rice each contributed 12 to the winning effort.
• Two things in particular helped the Aggies win the night: defense and rebounding. NM State posted a 33-19 edge on the glass against the Cougars and generated 29 points (40.8-percent of its total) off of Chicago State turnovers.
• Ivan Aurrecoechea came up with six points and a game-high six rebounds in the victory while Shunn Buchanan passed out a game-high four of the Aggies’ 13 assists.
• Chicago State, who played the vast majority of the second half with only five available players due to foul trouble, was paced by Andrew Lewis’ 12 points
• The Aggies stretched their winning streak to 12 games with the win and are now one of only eight NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams from around the nation who haven’t lost a conference game this season.
• NM State improved to 20-1 all-time against Chicago State with its 15th consecutive victory over the Cougars.
• Aggie head coach Chris Jans is now 12-0 in his NCAA Division I head coaching career against teams from the state of Illinois.
• The Aggies extended their winning streak against WAC opponents to 27 games. That includs a WAC record 24 consecutive victories in regular season WAC contests.
COMING UP NEXT
• The Aggies second and final Midwest stop of the regular season is set for Saturday when they head to Kansas City for a pivotal WAC showdown with the Roos. Tip-off inside the Swinney Recreation Center is set for 6:00 p.m. MT with the WAC Digital Network set to carry the tilt.