With 1.9 seconds left on the clock, JoJo Zamora drilled a corner three by the Aggie bench and gave the New Mexico State men’s basketball team a thrilling 75-72 victory over Washington State Sunday evening at Orleans Arena to conclude the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
With the win, the Aggies became just the fourth team since 2002 to beat three different teams twice in a single-season during non-conference play and go 6-0. Other teams include, Jackson State (2003), NM State (2003) and CSU Fullerton (2008).
Zamora finished with a game-high 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including a 6-of-8 night from 3-point range on top of his seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. The 28 points and seven assists is a new season-high for the senior. He was also named to the All-Tournament team after his explosive performance Sunday night.
After last night’s slow start to the game, NM State (10-3) came out with a much different type of energy and jumped out to a 14-6 run capped off by a pull-up jumper from AJ Harris to force a WSU timeout at the 15:47 mark.
Zamora continued to power the Aggie offense into the next four-plus minutes while the defense turned five Cougar (7-5) turnovers into 10 points for the 22-10 edge with 11:04 on the clock in the first half.
Washington State began to hit some shots, but it was answered each time by a Zamora 3-ball or basket in the paint by the Aggies. The senior guard continued to wreak havoc on the WSU defense, torching the Cougars for another 3-pointer for his 21st point of the night out of the 6:47 media break.
The Aggie lead got chipped away in the final 3:47 minutes of the half, but a late bucket from Ivan Aurrecoechea on a pass from none other than Zamora gave NM State the 41-31 lead at the break. Zamora finished the half with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting, five of which came from 3-point range.
NM State and WSU exchanged baskets at the start of the second-half, but a quick 6-0 spurt by WSU on back-to-back triples cut the Aggie lead to 47-43 and forced a New Mexico State timeout. However, that timeout didn’t keep WSU from shooting the 3-ball and come within 47-46 of NM State before Terrell Brown answered with a triple of his own to make it 50-46 at the 11:52 media break.
Another 3-pointer followed by an and-1 by Washington State’s Ahmed Ali tied things up at 54-54 before a steal and dunk the other way gave WSU its first lead of the game, 56-54 at the 8:36 mark. However, Zamora tied things up back up on the next possession for New Mexico State as both teams headed into the under-eight media timeout (7:44) knotted up at 56-56.
Washington State picked up its first lead of the game when CJ Elleby hit both of his free-throws 20 seconds into the resumption of play, 58-56. From there, the lead bounced back-and-forth between the two squads before a steal by Zamora led to a fastbreak lay-up from Harris.
A huge block on the defensive end from C.J. Bobbitt saw NM State go up 70-67 after a lay-up from Brown. But, the Cougs did not back down and clawed its way back to tie the game up at 72-72 with 7.0 ticks left to play before the game-winning shot from Zamora.
Chuha, who gave NM State the 72-69 lead before WSU tied it up with a three, finished with his second double-double of the season – posting 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting with 12 boards. Meanwhile, Harris finished with 15 points of his own.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Aggies dominated WSU in the paint 40-22 while NM State’s bench was outscored 21-19 in a rare occurrence…NM State forced 14 turnovers and had an early edge in points off turnovers before WSU finished with a 22-14 advantage over the Aggies in that category.
New Mexico State will get a short break for the holiday season before regrouping in Las Cruces to prepare for Colorado State on Sunday, Dec. 30. The Aggies and Rams are scheduled to tip-off at 2 p.m. (MT) on AT&T Sports Network.