Rice’s game-winner sends NMSU past Utah Valley for 15th straight win

NMSU

LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – Jabari Rice called game.

The only thought running through Rice’s mind in the last 6.5 seconds of Saturday night’s buzzer beater win over Utah Valley was his last shot against New Mexico back in November. A three-pointer that rimmed out. One that would have given the Aggies a win over their in-state rival. 

Given another chance in a similar situation nearly three months later, Rice knew failure wasn’t an option a second time. 

“It’s just so surreal to me,” said Rice. “It’s something you dream about. It actually happened to me in front of these type of people.”

Playing in front of the New Mexico State 1970 Final Four team, Rice banked home a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. Upon further review, 0.6 seconds were put back on the clock, but it wouldn’t be enough for Utah Valley. The Aggies winning their 15th straight game, 84-82, in come-from-behind fashion at the Pan American Center on Saturday. It was also the Aggies’ 30th consecutive conference win, the longest active streak in the NCAA.

“For whatever reason, the basketball gods or somebody up there was shining down on us to allow that ball to go through,” said Jans. “I just have to think some of it has to do with the fact that we have the Final Four team here and all these fans.”

If that wasn’t sweet enough, Chris Jans secured his 100th career win as a head coach, the 27th fastest coach to do so in NCAA history.

FIRST HALF
• A sluggish start hindered the Aggies’ ability to get their crowd into things as Utah Valley opened up a pair of five-point leads before the midway point of the half. Brandon Averette’s jumper with 11:39 to go increased the Wolverines’ edge to 15-10 and Jamison Overton’s made matters 17-12 with 11:01 to go. 
• The start of a 9-4 NM State run came from Philly’s finest. Will McNair hit one of his two free throws to start a surge that culminated with a three-pointer by Rice that knotted matters at 21 with 8:15 to go in the half. 
• NM State regained the lead when Ivan Aurrecoechea threw down a powerful two-handed jam which was part of a 9-0 Aggie surge to put the home team ahead 30-25 with 5:05 left. 
• The Aggies lead bulged to eight points before the half came to a close. Aurrecoechea operated down low once again and converted a jumper with 27 ticks left that put the home team on top 40-32. Casdon Jardine’s layup right before the halftime horn, however, cut NM State’s lead to 40-34 at the half. 
• Rice (12) and Aurrecoechea (eight) combined for 20 points in the opening frame while Isaiah White generated 10 for the Wolverines. 

SECOND HALF
• Eager to open things up in the deciding frame, the Aggies pushed their lead to double-digits for the first time when Aurrecoechea corralled an offensive rebound and converted a put-back layup to make matters 54-44 with 14:04 left. 
• That layup capped a 6-0 run by the home team, and things still remained fine for the Aggies after Shawn Williams’ three pushed their lead back to nine, 59-50, with 11:39 to go. That’s when things turned interesting, though. 
• TJ Washington’s long ball just inside the midway point of the frame finished a 7-2 surge by the Wolverines that trimmed the Aggies’ lead to four, 61-57. NM State, however, answered with an 8-4 spurt featuring five points from Rice to make their lead 69-61 with 8:02 to go. 
• That run proved to be the last time the Aggies’ side of the scoreboard lit up for quite some time. Utah Valley retaliated with a 12-0 run through the next 3:24 to open up a 73-69 edge with 4:09 left. 
• Jamison Overton capped the crowd-quieting surge with a fast-break jam but it was the long-range ways of Casdon Jardine that really fueled things. The sharpshooter nailed a pair of triples through the surge to help power the Wolverines’ upset bid. 
• Finally it was McCants who ended a scoreless stretch of nearly four minutes by the home team. The junior started a 7-0 Aggie run with a pair of free throw makes and Rice swirled in a wing three-pointer with 2:40 remaining that pushed the home team’s edge to 76-73. 
• Through the Wolverines clawed back to tie things after a dunk and a free throw, two more free throw makes from Rice followed up with a driving layup by Aurrecoechea pushed the home team’s lead to 80-76 with 1:53 left. 
• Utah Valley continued its assault on the tin, though, using two free throw makes by Isaiah White and a seemingly backbreaking three-point play by Washington with 6.5 seconds left put the Aggies at an 82-81 disadvantage. The rest, as they say, is history. 

KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Rice closed out his unforgettable night with a game and career-high 29 points while Aurrecoechea (18), Evan Gilyard II (13) and McCants (11) each finished with double-digits, too. 
• White put in a team-high 21 for Utah Valley and was one of five Wolverines in double figures. 
• The teams shot an identical 30-of-52 (57.7-percent) from the floor, but the Aggies held an edge from downtown. NM State put in 50-percent (10-of-20) of its three-point tries compared to a Utah Valley squad that operated at a 35-percent (7-of-20) efficiency rate from that distance. 
• With four regular season games to go, NM State maintained its three-game lead for the top spot in the WAC standings. 
• Jans became the 27th-fastest NCAA Division I head coach in the history of the sport to get to the 100-win mark with Saturday’s night’s thrilling victory. 
• All nine of the remaining living members of the Aggies’ 1969-70 Final Four team were in attendance. Also at the Pan Am Center were former assistant coaches Rob Evans and Keith Colson as well as Lori Henson – daughter of legendary Aggie coach Lou Henson. 

COMING UP NEXT
• NM State closes out its longest home stand of the season Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. by playing host to the second-hottest team in the WAC in UTRGV. The Vaqueros will rumble into the Pan Am Center with a five-game winning streak after taking down Seattle U (who has lost back-to-back games) in Edinburg hours after Rice sank Utah Valley. 

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