A huge offensive turnaround thanks to career-high 31 points from AJ Harris and season-high 20 points from Terrell Brown saw the New Mexico State men’s basketball team outlast Battle of I-25 rival New Mexico Saturday evening in front of 14,393 hostile fans at Dreamstyle Arena.
With the win, NM State extends its win-streak against UNM to four-straight. The last time the Aggies won four-straight against the Lobos came during the 1993-94 seasons. Coach Jans is now 6-0 in rivalry games since taking the helm.
With the narrow 44-38 lead heading into the break, New Mexico State (3-1) came out guns blazing against the Lobos (2-1) and went on a 16-6 tear for the 60-44 lead before Corey Manigault connected on a pair of free-throws to stop the bleeding.
However, the Aggies kept the pedal to the metal for their biggest lead of the game, 71-52, after Shunn Buchanan hit the front end of two at the charity stripe with 11 minutes to go. The lead would be matched two more times from Clayton Henry both instances.
Harris, who scored 22 of his 31 points in the second-half, continued to knock down shot after shot throughout the final 20 minutes – including a 4-of-4 effort from beyond the arc during that stretch.
But, the bad guys slowly bit away at the Aggie lead. Fast-forward to just 1:10 left to play and New Mexico State saw its lead dwindle to 92-84 after a lay-in from Anthony Mathis for the Lobos.
Despite efforts from Mathis, who had 22 points, and Vance Jackon’s team-high 27 points, which gave the Aggies a scare right down the wire when Mathis picked up a Jackson miss for a put-back, making it 96-94. The Aggies, however, persevered and hung on for the 98-94 victory when C.J. Bobbitt sank both free throws with 0.7 seconds left in the game.
The first fives minutes of the game saw the defense on both teams put the pressure on both offenses with the Aggies trailing UNM 6-5 out of the media break after Ivan Aurrecoechea hit the front-end of his two free-throws.
A 7-0 run for the home team saw them take a 13-5 lead before a three from Brown followed by a steal by Jabari Rice that he took coast-to-coast bring NM State within 13-10 with 11:11 remaining in the first half.
The scoring continued for NM State after Harris knocked down a jumper coupled with a 3-pointer from Rice made it a 12-0 run for the Aggies and forced a Lobo timeout and NM State on top 17-13.
Back-and-forth action between the two squads ensued before Mohamed Thiam took over for the Aggies and scored the nine of the final 13 points in the half – giving NM State a 44-38 lead heading into the break.
In addition to the breakout offensive night from Harris and Brown, Thiam finished with nine points and nine rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting – including a pair of big jams. Eli Chuha chipped in with seven points and seven boards while Aurrecoechea and Rice added seven points of their own.
BY THE NUMBERS
As a team, New Mexico State combined to shoot a .565 clip from the floor a 52-percent from 3-point land (12-for-23)…last time NM State shot 55-percent or better from the floor was against UMKC (.563) on Feb. 24…NM State outrebounded the Lobos 31-22 while the Aggie bench scored 48 points to UNM’s 36…the last time NM State had two players score 20-plus points in a single game was against Grand Canyon in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game on March 10 of this year…the last time NM State hit 30 or more field-goals in a game was against UTRGV in the final game of the regular-season last season…