The New Mexico State men’s basketball team led the entire way Wednesday night in the Pan American Center and dominated Eastern New Mexico 92-65.
“You know we talked a lot about approach leading up to this game and practice and then in shoot around,” Aggie head coach Chris Jans said. “It was really important to me that the number one key was that we had the correct approach. That we respected our opponent, we respected the game, that we’re not only competing against Eastern New Mexico, but we’re competing against future opponents. I was, for the most part, pretty pleased with them adapting that mantra and having the right frame of mind both in shoot around and in warm-ups. And, for the most part, I thought we did what we needed to do to get the win.”
After starting the game with some back-and-forth action, mainly between Terrell Brown and Eastern New Mexico, the Aggies (4-1) reeled off a 19-8 run for the 31-16 lead during the 7:24 media break.
The Greyhounds (1-3) were able to string along a couple four and six point streaks, but it wasn’t enough as the Aggie offensive engine continued to steam along for the 51-29 advantage heading into the break. NM State was able to turn eight offensive boards in the first half for 13 points while also outscoring ENMU 18-6 in the paint.
Aggie Nation rose to its feet at the 11:17 mark in the first-half when Las Cruces native Johnny McCants made his 2018-19 season debut. McCants didn’t disappoint the Aggie faithful and hit his first field goal from 3-point land before following up with a couple blocks. The 6-7 forward also had a nice alley-oop jam on a fast-break pass from JoJo Zamora.
A quick 7-2 run had the Aggies off and running behind five free throws before another 9-0 had made it 67-34 in favor of the good guys out of the locker room.
Despite NM State slowly unloading its bench, the offensive production didn’t see any falloff. Freshman Berrick JeanLouis came off the bench and posted 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting – including a ferocious dunk down the lane to put the Aggies on top 77-44 with 8:14 left on the clock.
In the frontcourt, Eli Chuha had 10 points and six rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor while Ivan Aurrecoechea added 12 points and seven rebounds of his own on 4-of-6 shooting on the night. Clayton Henry nearly hit double-digits and his first double-double, tallying nine points on nine rebounds. Mohamed Thiam was in the same boat, registering eight points and eight rebounds.
The Aggie bench erupted in cheer with 43 seconds on the clock when redshirt freshman Robert Brown connected on a jump hook in the paint for his first collegiate basket before following up with a pair of free throws to make it 92-65.
NM State was led offensively by Brown, who finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point land – all coming in the first-half. The Aggies made 30 field-goals and hit the 90-point mark for the second-consecutive game. The 21 offensive rebounds for NM State were also turned into 23 points. The last time New Mexico State pulled down 20-plus offensive rebounds in a game was against Grand Canyon at home on Feb. 10.
The Aggies men’s basketball team will now get some rest before heading down the road to take on Battle of I-10 rival UTEP next Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m.