Aggie Men's Basketball Loses 74-72 To UTEP As Second Half Rally Falls Just Short

Tyrone WatsonThe New Mexico State men's basketball team's second half rally fell just short on Tuesday night as they lost 74-72 to rival UTEP. The Miners sweep the season series after winning 73-56 in El Paso one week ago.

The Aggies and Miners traded the lead back and forth in the first half until the 5:43 mark when Troy Gillenwater was called for a technical foul with the teams tied at 30. Randy Culpepper hit both free throws to give the Miners a 32-30 and they would not trail the remainder of the game. Just seconds later the Miners would get a steal by Randy Culpepper who was fouled hard by Abdoulaye N'doye as Culpepper attempted a dunk on the fast break. N'Doye's foul was called intentional giving the Miners two free throws and the ball which they turned into four points and a six point lead at 36-30 with 4:35 left in the half.

Randy Culpepper scored 25 of his 32 points in the first half including 14 straight and 16 of UTEP's final 20 points to send the Aggies into halftime trailing 40-35.

The Aggies trailed by nine points early in the second half but cut the deficit down to six points at 49-43 with 14:13 left to play as Troy Gillenwater completed a three point play.

The Miners would extend their lead out to 12 points with 10:23 left to go as Christian Polk scored two of his nine points. The Aggies still trailed by 12 points with 5:48 left to play after a three pointer from Polk found the bottom of the net.

The Aggies would cut the deficit to nine points after Christian Kabongo converted one of two free throws to make the score 69-60. A layup by Troy Gillenwater and a three pointer by Bandja Sy would pull the Aggies to within four points at 69-65 with 1:56 left to play.

The Aggies would cut the deficit to three points on a Hernst Laroche layup with 54 seconds remaining. After Julyan Stone hit one of two free throws to put the Miners up by four points at 71-67, Laroche would again get a layup to cut the deficit to just two points at 71-69 with six seconds remaining. The Aggies would quickly foul Christian Polk who hit both free throws with five seconds left. Laroche would bury a three pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one point. The Aggies would foul and with less than one second left in the game Randy Culpepper would hit one of two free throws to seal the Aggies' fate.

The Aggies once again out-rebounded UTEP this time by 14, 42-29. The Aggies missed 11 free throws in the game and shot just 41 percent from the floor compared to UTEP's 50 percent. The Aggies and Miners each hit seven three point baskets.

Troy Gillenwater led the Aggies with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Christian Kabongo added 13 points. Tyrone Watson scored eight points and Tshilidzi Nephawe added four points and three rebounds as he started for injured center Hamidu Rahman.

The Aggies fall to 2-5 on the season and host in-state rival New Mexico on Saturday in the Pan American Center at 7:00 p.m. (MT).