RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A frantic comeback by the New Mexico State men’s basketball team late in the game was not quite enough as the Aggies dropped the Western Athletic Conference opener to California Baptist on the road 82-76 Thursday night at the CBU Events Center.
The Aggies had yet another slow start to the game, going down 7-0 early on against California Baptist before JoJo Zamora found the bottom of the basket for NM State 2:23 into the game.
After a 14-0 run by CBU, the Aggies (11-4, 0-1 WAC) were forced to call a timeout to stop the Lancer run that put New Mexico State down 28-11 with 7:18 on the clock in the first half.
Zamora finally put an end to that when he hit a floater to end the 14-0 run and started an 11-0 spurt for the Aggies to get within 30-22 of CBU (9-5, 1-0 WAC) at the 3:45 mark. During that run for NM State, Terrell Brown had six of those points.
Another 7-2 run by New Mexico State capped off by a pair of free-throws from Brown brought NM State within 32-29 of the Lancers heading into the break. Thursday night was just the third time this season NM State trailed at the break.
Despite a sluggish start to the second-half, NM State was able to get within 48-42 of CBU after a 7-0 run capped off by dead-center 3-ball from Brown before Milan Acquaah found the bottom of the net on the other end followed by a timeout. The 6-3 sophomore finished with a game-high and career-high 36 points on 10-of-19 shooting while hitting 13-of-13 from the stripe.
California Baptist continued to weather each run the Aggies sent its way on multiple occasions in the final four minutes of action. First when Brown brought the Aggies within 66-60 of the Lancers when he completed the and-1 opportunity with 3:48 remaining.
After CBU built its lead to 72-64 on four-straight shots at the line from Acquaah, New Mexico State cut the lead back down to 74-69 with 56 ticks left when Zamora rattled in both free-throws. A three from Bobbitt 17 seconds later cut the lead to 76-72 but CBU, who hit 32-of-36 from the line, connected each time at the line no matter who was fouled.
Bobbitt then swished a corner three opposite the Aggie bench to make it 78-75 with 29 seconds left but solid free-throws by the Lancers iced the game and handed NM State its first loss of conference play on opening-night since the 2012-13 campaign.
Brown finished with a team-high 22 points with five rebounds to go with an 11-of-11 night at the line. AJ Harris chipped in with 15 points while Bobbitt and Zamora each added 13 points. Bobbitt, who hit 12 of his 13 points in the second-half, also had eight boards on the night.
BY THE NUMBERS
Despite taking 29 more shots than CBU, NM State was not able to take advantage…NM State once again shot poorly from the field, hitting just 31.1-percent (23-of-74) of its shots to CBU’s 48.9-percent (22-of-45)…NM State is now 12-2 all-time in league-opening games and 9-2 when those games have been on the road…NM State is now 0-3 this season when trailing at the half.
The Aggies now return home to the friendly confines of the Pan American Center next week for its Western Athletic Conference home-opener. First up for the Aggies will be Grand Canyon on Thursday, Jan. 10, for a 7 p.m. (MT) tip-off before playing host to CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 4 p.m. (MT).