Despite a late push in the waning minutes of the game, the comeback fell just short for the New Mexico State men’s basketball team Saturday evening at Orleans Arena against Drake 66-63 in the third game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
A slow start by the Aggies (9-3) coupled by a hot-start by Drake saw the Aggies trail 11-5 early in the game. However, the Aggies would find their rhythm on the offensive end and get within 18-15 of the Bulldogs thanks to a three-ball from AJ Harris followed by a put-back from Eli Chuha before the 10:42 media break.
Turnovers coupled with Drake’s consistent shooting in the first half saw the deficit get bigger for NM State heading at the under-eight media break, 25-17.
A 7-2 run by the Aggies out of that break brought New Mexico State within 27-24 with 2:34 on the clock, but poor shooting by NM State (7-of-29) saw it trail Drake 35-25 heading into the locker room.
New Mexico State saw its deficit jump to 40-25 right off the bat in the second-half, but a 3-pointer from Jabari rice coupled with back-to-back buckets from Harris and Ivan Aurrecoechea cut the Bulldog (9-2) lead to 44-33 at the first media timeout.
Two sequences after the restart of play, a steal by Zamora led to a put-back from Harris brought the Bulldog lead to single-digits, 35-44. The following possession saw NM State force a shot-clock violation that it was able to convert into a jumper from Zamora before Tremell Murphy scored on the other end for Drake ending the 7-0 run for the Aggies and made it 46-37 in favor of the bad guys with 12:37 left in the game.
The Aggies continued to claw at the Bulldog lead and got it within 48-43 thanks to a 6-0 run that forced a Drake timeout.
With NM State trailing 57-50 at the final media break with 3:55 remaining, a 10-4 run by the Aggies highlighted by defensive stops and timely shots. Terrell Brown drilled another shot out of that break that started the 10-4 run for NM State and was capped off by a lay-in from Harris with 54.1 ticks left on the clock.
Brown banged in another 3-ball for the Aggies after Drake went up 64-60, but that would end up being NM State’s final basketball before falling 66-63.
Brown finished with a team-high 17 points and six steals while Rice and Harris each chipped in with 10 points. Aurrecoechea added seven points and 10 boards for NM State.
BY THE NUMBERS
The 32.8-percent shooting for NM State was its worst game from the floor this season as well as the 18.2-percent shooting from 3-point range…despite outrebounding Drake 44-31, the Aggies now move to 8-2 on the year when outrebounding opponents…the six steals for Rice is most by an Aggie since Daniel Mullings had five against #10/11 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament on March 20, 2015…NM state is now 18-3 all-time when playing in Orleans Arena and 0-1 when games aren’t a part of the WAC Tournament.
With the loss, NM State will now play the loser between Washington State and San Diego at 8 p.m. (MT) on FS2 at Orleans Arena.