NMSU Men's Basketball Defeats Air Force 78-70

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Another solid shooting effort in the second-half, from Joe Garza and Eli Chuha extended the NM State men’s basketball home winning-streak to five on Wednesday with its 78-70 win over Air Force in the Pan American Center.

It was also NM State’s first victory over a Mountain West Conference opponent that isn’t New Mexico since Nov. 24, 2001, when the Aggies defeated San Diego State 94-76 at home.

“I thought we had a really good run there in the second half,” Aggie head coach Paul Weir said. “We were trying to turn it into our pace for a game, which was up and down. I think we did that for enough stretches over the course of the game and we were able to win. We went through some stretches where they were on a run and they were playing it how they wanted to, but I think we got it enough in our favor to make things happen for us.”

The first half started off a bit slow, but a 10-2 run by NM State (6-2) capped off by a 3-pointer from Sidy N’Dir gave the Aggies a 17-11 lead at the 11:27 mark. However, the Falcons responded out of the media timeout and went on a 14-4 run of their own and forced an Aggie timeout with 5:43 left in the first half down 25-21.

Back-to-back buckets in the paint from Johnathan Wilkins cut the AFA (5-3) lead to 27-25, but the Aggies headed into the locker room down 31-27. N’Dir led the way for NM State in the first half with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers while Jemerrio Jones posted six points with five rebounds, three assists, block and steal.

Air Force took its largest lead of the game in the opening minute of the second-half when Frank Toohey drained a 3-pointer. A quick five points from N’dir afterwards followed by a lay-up and triple from Ian Baker gave NM State the 37-36 lead with 16:42 on the clock.

The Aggies held the lead from that point on until the 5:37 mark when AFA’s Jacob Van sank both of his free throws to tie the game up at 60. A timely 3-pointer from Garza, a Las Cruces High School grad, pushed the NM State lead to 65-60.

With NM State leading 69-65, Van drained a three and brought Air Force within one point, 69-68, with 2:04 left to go as head coach Dave Pilipovich called a timeout immediately after the shot. Garza again came in clutch off the bench for NM State, knocking down his third 3-pointer of the game, off the baseline. He then banged a pair of free throws and gave NM State a six-point cushion before finishing with a season-high 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting – all from downtown.

As a team, the Aggies finished the night shooting 51.7-percent from the floor, including a hot 53.8-percent from 3-point range. Jones and N’Dir both finished with a team-high 15 points while Jones led the team with seven boards and a season-high seven assists. Baker also wrapped up the night with seven dimes for NM State.

New Mexico State remains home this weekend as it entertains Long Beach State for a 7 p.m. tilt on Saturday, Dec. 3. The first 1,000 Aggie fans will get their hands on the second installment of the Aggie snapback hats.

POSTGAME NOTES: The last time New Mexico State opened the year 5-0 at home was during the 2008-09 season when it went 6-0…his is the second time this season NM State has dished out 15-plus assists with its 17 tonight…this is also the third time NM State has made 30-plus field-goals in a game…the win moves the NM State win total in the Pan American Center to 594…Baker’s seven assists was one shy of tying his career record of eight set this past season at Grand Canyon on Jan. 9.