Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
SAN DIEGO, CA - Hot shooting and 14 second-half points from Jemerrio Jones powered NM State past San Diego, 56-51, Saturday afternoon at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. The win pushed NM State to 5-2 on the year and a perfect 4-0 in the San Diego Classic.
Down 42-40 with 6:52 left to play, NM State used a 9-2 run capped off by an and-1 from Jones gave the Aggies a 49-44 lead. From that point on, NM State never looked back as they finished the game with eight-straight points from the free-throw line.
The win on Saturday gave the Aggies and first-year head coach Paul Weir his first road victory of the season as well as NM State’s first non-rivalry, non-conference road win since Dec. 14, 2013, at Drake – 81-69.
“Second half just had an overall pace to the game that was the pace we wanted,” Weir said. “When we finally got the game at the pace we wanted, we were obviously more successful.”
Both teams struggled on the offensive end 8:31 minutes into the game as the two combined to shoot 1-for-18 with seven turnovers. The only field goal for either team at that point was a 3-pointer from Ian Baker.
NM State was able to take a 13-9 lead out of the media timeout at the 7:25 mark thanks to Braxton Huggins’ fourth-consecutive free throw. However, a jumper and pair of free throws from USD’s Brett Bailey knotted things up at 13.
The Aggies headed into the locker room trailing San Diego 23-20 thanks to a jumper from Baker as time expired in the first half. NM State was able to stay within striking distance of the Toreros behind an 8-for-10 effort at the line in the first half despite turning the ball over nine times and shot just 5-of-23 from the floor. The home team also struggled from the field, hitting just 8-of-28 shots but turned the ball over just three times.
“Obviously, first 25 minutes was rough,” said Weir. “We worked through a really tough shooting night. Thought we got some pretty good looks at the rim, it just didn’t happen to go down and that’s happened to us in the past. But, we did a much better job getting to the free-throw line and creating stuff on our defense. First half we had nine turnovers and they had three. We basically flipped that in the second half and I thought that was the key to the game.”
NM State’s shooting woes continued as it went 0-for-3 from the floor as it trailed USD 30-22 at the 15:41 media timeout. Matt Taylor gave the Aggies their first field goal of the second half on a floater in the paint at the 14:06 mark.
With the Aggies trailing 32-26, N’Dir’s pull-up jump-started the Aggie offense that was highlighted by Jones – who scored 11 of NM State’s 16 points to tie things up at 40 with 7:17 remaining in the game on a free-throw from Jalyn Pennie.
New Mexico State outscored San Diego 36-28 in the second half and turned 11 offensive rebounds into a 13-3 edge in second-chance points. The Aggies reached the line 31 times and knocked in 24 while the Toreros shot just 7-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Baker finished with a team-high 15 points on 3-of-9 shooting, two of which came beyond the arc, and 7-of-8 from the line with five boards. Huggins cooled down from downtown, but knowcked down 9-fo-10 at the free-throw line to finish with 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Eli Chuha chipped in with nine boards as well.
The Aggies now return home to the friendly confines of the Pan American Center for a three-game homestand where they are 4-0 on the year. NM State will first square off against Air Force at 7:30 p.m. (MT) on Wednesday, Nov. 30, followed by Long Beach State (Dec. 3) and Battle of I-25 rival New Mexico (Dec. 10).