NMSU Men's Basketball Survives Battle With UC Irvine In Overtime, 85-79

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - With the game tied at 74 and 2:54 left to play in overtime, Braxton Huggins and Jemerrio Jones teamed up for 12 points as the Aggies survived a pesky UC Irvine team 85-79 Monday night in the Pan American Center.

“I showed them some stats after the game, and the three stats we really key in on during a game are rebounds, fouls and turnovers," head coach Paul Weir said. "I put the 3-point shots at the top of the board, the foul count, the rebound count and the turnover count. We won all of those and that’s why we won the game. If the turnovers were flipped, the rebounds were flipped or the fouls were flipped, we would have lost tonight.”

UCI (5-8) struck first in the overtime period, but was answered with a short jumper from Jones in the paint. After a miss from the Anteater’s John Edgar Jr, Huggins drained back-to-back 3-pointers followed by a nice layup from Jones that gave NM State (11-2) the 82-74 lead and 34 seconds left to play.

A three from Edgar Jr. cut the Aggie lead to 82-77 with 27 seconds remaining as UCI head coach Russell Turner immediately called the timeout. A free throw from Jermaine Haley followed by two from Huggins sealed the deal with 12 seconds remaining.

Monday’s win extended NM States winning-streak to nine and pushed its home win-streak to 17, dating back to last season.

Huggins finished with another 24-point with six rebounds on 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point rage – including two in overtime. Jones’ big night consisted of 23 points, a season-high and Western Athletic Conference game-high 18 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and fourth in the last five games. Eli Chuha picked up his fifth double-double of the year and second-straight with 10 points and 12 boards.

Aggie floor general Ian Baker added eight points and five boards, but dished out a season-high eight assists.

New Mexico State struggled coming out of the gates and shot just 38-percent from the floor (9-of-24), but trailed just 23-20 midway through the first-half despite UCI’s Jaron Martin scoring 17-straight points for the Anteaters – including 5-of-5 from 3-point range.

The Aggies headed into the break trailing 39-38 despite making four more field goals than the visiting Anteaters, who were 7-for-11 from 3-point range – five of which came from Jaron Martin early in the game.

After the offensive board from Wilkins, Haley rewarded him with an alley-oop from opposite the Aggie Bench which put NM State on top 46-41. UC Irvine knotted things up at 48 after Martin knocked down his sixth 3-pointer of the game, but Huggins started heating up and hit back-to-back triples to put the Aggies on top 54-51 with 11:33 left to play.

UC Irvine took the lead for the first time with 9:18 left to play in the second half. Down 70-67 with 2:23 left to play, Huggins drained three-straight shots at the charity stripe and squared things up at 70. Anteaters regained the lead on a Martin jumper, but clutch free throws from Jones knotted things up at 72 once more.

New Mexico State had to go the length of the court with 0.5 seconds left in regulation, but a pass from Chuha to Haley was just a tad bit long to send the game into overtime.

The Aggies dominated in the Anteaters in every special category tonight: points in the paint (40-30), points off turnovers (18-4), second chance points (26-6) and bench points (29-26).

New Mexico State will now get some much needed rest heading into Christmas break before returning to Lou Henson Court at 7 p.m. against Eastern New Mexico on Dec. 27. The ENMU game will be second opportunity for fans to take advantage of the 4-for-$40 ticket promotion where fans gets four tickets, four hot dogs and four soft drinks. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Pan American Center Ticket Office or by phone at 575-646-1420.

POSTGAME NOTES: The last time NM State won nine-straight was back in the 2014-15 season…the seven turnovers by NM State is the lowest this season, beating the previous of nine set against Air Force…Monday’s 36.1-percent shooting from the floor was the first time NM State shot below .500 in five games…this is the third time the Aggies have had two players tally a double-double in a single game and the 10th time an NM State player has recorded a double-double…this is the second time this year that Huggins has had back-to-back 20-plus points.