NMSU Men's Basketball Opens WAC Play With 77-64 Victory Over UMKC

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

KANSAS CITY, MO - The New Mexico State men’s basketball team extended its win-streak to 12 Thursday night as it overpowered UMKC 77-64 at Municipal Auditorium in a nationally televised game to open Western Athletic Conference play.

A career-high 31 point performance from Braxton Huggins coupled with a team-high six double-doubles from Eli Chuha along with a career-high 10 assists from Ian Baker fueled the Aggies in the win.

Thursday night’s win was yet another dominant performance for the Aggies (14-2, 1-0 WAC) as they led for almost the entire game besides the eight seconds that UMKC led after scoring the opening basket.

“We knew we wanted to play faster offensively,” Aggie head coach Paul Weir said. “We wanted to create a good transition game and keep our flow going offensively. I think over the last few weeks we have had some success finally getting our pressure defense going. That speeds up the game as much as the offensive side does. And once we get that tempo going like that, we feel our depth and our talent is as good as anybody in the league.”

After keeping it close with NM State early on in the first half, a 10-0 run by the Aggies stretched the NM State lead to 28-17 at the 11:51 media timeout. Eight of the points during that stretch came via the full-court pressure.

A 6-2 advantage in steals for NM State in the first half, three of which came from Baker, allowed the Aggies to take a 43-36 lead into the break. New Mexico State also converted nine first-half turnovers by the ‘Roos (7-10, 0-1 WAC) into a 13-4 edge in points off turnovers.

UMKC brought it within 47-42 of NM State with a 6-2 run out of the break, but a three from Huggins halted any steam the ‘Roos had out halftime.

From there, Chuha reeled off 10-straight points followed by another triple from Huggins to give NM State its largest lead of the night, 63-48, heading into the 7:10 media timeout. UMKC cut the lead to 70-61 with 3:08 left to play, but it was too little too late as the Aggies hung on for its ninth win on the road in the conference opening weekend.

Chuha finished the night with a career-high 20 points and 10 boards while Baker added 12 points, 10 dimes and five assists as the Aggie starters accounted for 68 of its 77 points.

NM State now turns its focus towards a 4-13 Chicago State team that lost its fifth-straight contest on Thursday to UTRGV, 83-64. The Aggies and Cougars are slated to square off on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 1:05 p.m. (MT) in Chicago to wrap up its two-game road-swing in the conference opener.

POSTGAME NOTES: The 20 first-half points from Huggins was the fastest to that mark by an Aggie this season…the last Aggie to dish out 10 assists was KC Ross-Miller back on Dec. 28, 2013, against South Alabama…Huggins was the first Aggie to score 30-plus points in a game since Pascal Siakam did it against Tennessee Tech at home last season (11/18/15)…the six triples from Huggins also ties a career-high that he set in NM State’s upset over Arizona State on Dec. 17…the last time NM State registered six blocks against a Division I opponent was its second game of the year at Colorado State…Aggies are now 9-0 when they win the opening tip…Thursday night was just the fourth time NM State has not pulled down double-digit boards on the offensive glass, its fourth in the last six games.