Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
PHOENIX, AZ - The New Mexico State men’s basketball team hit a shooting-slump late in the game and fell to Grand Canyon on the road 83-71 in front of a packed GCU Arena.
Saturday’s loss drops NM State (22-4, 8-2 WAC) into second-place behind CSU Bakersfield (8-1) in the Western Athletic Conference standings.
Both teams went on quick runs to open the game as Ian Baker’s 3-pointer gave NM State its first lead, 9-8, heading into the first media timeout (15:37).
NM State faced a drought that lasted 4:25 before Matt Taylor was able to get a scoop layup to fall to make it 22-15 in favor of the home team.
After back-to-back baskets from Tanveer Bhullar, the Lopes pushed their lead to 31-20 before an 8-0 run ensued for the Aggies to cut the GCU (17-9, 6-3 WAC) lead down to 31-28 with 3:39 left in the first frame.
Out of the final media timeout of the first-half, Baker and Johnathon Wilkins pushed the Aggie scoring run to 14-0 on back-to-back 3-pointers to take the 36-33 lead. However, Grand Canyon finished the final 1:34 of the frame on a 5-0 run to send the Aggies into the break trailing 38-36.
Wilkins came out of the break with a 5-0 run on his own, getting the opening layup and followed with his second 3-pointer. Joshua Braun gave GCU the 44-42 lead, but consecutive jumpers from Baker followed by one from Chuha and a fast break layup from Matt Taylor made it 49-46 with 14:49 on the clock – forcing Dan Majerle to call a timeout.
The NM State offense began to flow like what Aggie fans were accustomed to early on in the second-half and forced a second GCU timeout after Braxton Huggins knocked down a 3-pointer from the baseline near the Aggie bench.
Back-to-back long-balls from Baker and Chancellor Ellis gave the Aggies their largest lead of the night, 62-52, with 11:45 left to play. A 5-0 run then ensued for the GCU to cut the NM State lead down to 62-57, which forced Aggie head coach Paul Weir to call a timeout.
With NM State leading 65-57, Grand Canyon used a 6-0 run to force Weir to call another timeout with 6:40 left on the clock. From there, the Lopes reeled off 19 unanswered points to put the game out of reach and hand the their second loss in conference play.
Baker flirted with a triple-double and finished with 19 points, eight boards and six assists. Chuha posted his 12th double-double of the season, putting up 17 points with 11 boards – five of which came off the offensive glass. Wilkins rounded out the list of double-digit scorers for NM State with 10 points and five rebounds.
New Mexico State will now get some rest before wrapping its time on the road in Western Athletic Conference play next Saturday at UT Rio Grande Valley (Feb. 18).
POSTGAME NOTES: Saturday’s loss was the first time the Aggies dropped consecutive games since falling in the WAC Championship game to CSU Bakersfield and Saint Mary’s in the opening round of the NIT…NM State has now reached double-figures in assists in 23-of-26 games with 17 at GCU.