The Aggie men's basketball team held off Louisiana 82-76 on Tuesday night in Las Cruces as Gordo Castillo finished with a game-high 20 points including four three pointers. Hernst Laroche finished with 19 points and six assists but none bigger than his find of freshman Tshilidzi Nephawe with 14 seconds left to play as Nephawe took the Laroche feed and slammed home the dunk to give the Aggies a critical four point lead. The Aggies would cap the game with a steal by Tyrone Watson who fed the ball to Laroche for a layup as time expired to give the Aggies the six point victory and their fourth win in a row.
The Aggies built an 11 point lead six and a half minutes into the first half going up 16-5. The Aggies would maintain the 11 point lead with 8:34 left in the first half as the Aggies led 26-15 after a pair of free throws by Tyrone Watson, however, the Cajuns would go on an 18-6 run to take a one point lead at 33-32. Christian Kabongo would give the Aggies the lead right back with a layup but with 54 seconds left in the half the Cajuns would retake the lead on a jumper by Bryan Mbamalu. The Aggies would force an Mbamalu turnover with 30 seconds left to play and Hernst Laroche would put in a layup with one second left to give the Aggies a 36-35 halftime lead.
The Aggies would open up the second half on a 9-0 run to take a 45-35 lead with 18:14 left in the game but the Cajuns would again go on a run tying the game at 47 with 13:44 left in the game. The Cajuns would continue the run and take a four point lead at 53-49 with 12:06 left to play after a layup by Josh Brown but a five point run by Gordo Castillo on a three and a pair of free throws would give the Aggies the lead back at 54-53. The Cajuns would build their lead back to four points at 61-57 but the Aggies would retake the lead at 62-61 after a pair of free throws from Laroche.
The Cajuns would retake the lead as Courtney Wallace would get a layup and get fouled hitting the free throw to take a 68-67 lead with 4:51 left to play. The Cajuns would extend to a three point lead but the Aggies would get a pair of free throws from Castillo and a dunk by Tshilidzi Nephawe to take the lead at 71-70. The score would be knotted at 73 when Gordo Castillo would hit a three pointer with 1:39 left to play giving the Aggies the lead for good. The Cajuns would trim the lead to just two with 46 seconds left but Hernst Laroche would drive the lane and find an open Nephawe who would finish with an emphatic dunk to give the Aggies a four point cushion with just 14 seconds left. The Aggies would force a Cajun turnover with three seconds left and Tyrone Watson, who played the final 7:41 with four fouls would find a streaking Laroche who would get a layup as time expired for the 82-76 victory.
The Aggies finished the game shooting 49.1 percent from the field and hit 6-of-14 three point attempts. The Aggies were solid from the free throw ine hitting 74.1 percent for the game including a 15-of-18 performance in the second half.
The Cajuns were led by Bryan Mbamalu who finished with 16 points. The Cajuns hit 43.3 percent of their shots from the field and finished 7-of-14 from behind the three point arc. The Cajuns hit 17-of-23 free throws.
The Aggies were out-rebounded 48-23 and allowed 23 Cajun offensive rebounds. The Aggies countered the rebounding advantage by forcing 23 UL turnovers while committing just 12 turnovers. The Aggies would score 33 points off of the Louisiana turnovers.
The Aggies improve to 6-7 overall and host St. Mary's on Thursday evening in the Pan Am.