PHOENIX, AZ (KTSM) — All good things must come to an end — much like New Mexico State’s (NMSU) Western Athletic Conference (WAC) win streak.
Playing in just their fifth game of the season, the fewest in all of Division I college basketball, the Aggies (3-2, 0-1) came up short in their WAC opener at Grand Canyon (GCU), 70-62 on Friday night at GCU Arena. The Antelopes (11-3, 5-0 Western Athletic Conference) capturing their first win over NMSU since 2017, snapping the Aggies’ 34-game WAC win streak (including postseason) in the process.
NMSU shot 30.8 percent (16-52) from the field and were just 5-28 (17.9 percent) from three point range. The Aggies went 25-33 (75.8 percent) from the free throw line.
“Some of that has got to be credit to [GCU’S] defense,” said NMSU head coach Chris Jans. “Some of it has got to be that we have to run better offense to get better shots and that’s on me to put our guys in better positions… We had our chances.”
Despite a poor shooting night, the Aggies out-rebounded the Antelopes 37-26, including 17 offensive boards that led to 17 second chance points. Crashing the glass played a major role in NMSU’s ability to keep the game close, even briefly taking the lead in the second half.
“I don’t want to take anything away from our guys, but we missed a lot of shots,” said Jans. “There were a lot of offensive rebounds that were available… But [rebounding] certainly was a positive. I thought we battled, at least, on the glass.”
Johnny McCants led the Aggies with 13 points and eight rebounds. Jabari Rice, who returned to the NMSU starting lineup after missing significant time with a foot injury, recorded 12 points in the loss.
Alessandro Level and Mikey Dixon each posted 14 points for GCU in the win, while Asbjorn Midtgaard chipped in with 12 points in the win. Jovan Blacksher Jr. added 11 points and eight assists. The Antelopes shot 53.1 percent (26-49) from the floor and went 7-18 (38.9 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Aggies will have less than 24 hours to lick their wounds as they prepare to play their first back-to-back series of the season. In fact, following the conclusion of Saturday night’s game at GCU, NMSU will have played as many games (three) this week as they have all season entering the week.
“We were trying to get back-to-back games all fall to get a feel for what that would feel like for our staff and our players — how much wear and tear it is to play a second back-to-back against the same team,” said Jans. “It’s more mentally than physically and how you approach that situation strategically. That doesn’t help either. It would have been nice to play one of those series before we had to play seven of them.”
Tip-off on Saturday at GCU Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT. The game will air on ESPN3.