Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
LAS VEGAS, NV - The much anticipated rematch between New Mexico State and CSU Bakersfield has come to fruition as NM State defeated UMKC 78-60 late Friday night and into Saturday morning at the Orleans Arena.
With the win, NM State moves to 27-5 overall on the year and tied Lou Henson’s 1969-70 Final Four team for the most wins in program history.
The Aggies will also be making its sixth-straight appearance in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title game and ninth total appearance since joining the league 12 years ago.
Ian Baker and Braxton Huggins tied for a game-high 18 points while four other Aggies were hovering around the double-digit mark with eight or nine points.
An early shooting slump plagued the Aggies once again, but like clockwork, NM State found its rhythm and four-straight free-throws fueled an 11-0 run that forced UMKC (17-16) head coach Kareem Richardson to call a timeout.
The way NM State took the lead was similar to that of the quarterfinals game against Chicago State. After Eli Chuha tied the game up on an out of bounds play, a steal from Huggins led to another quick lay-in for Baker, 24-22. Matt Taylor then drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession that led to the timeout.
The Aggies finished out the remaining 7:15 minutes of action with a 14-7 run and took a comfortable 41-29 lead behind 56.5-percent shooting from the floor (13-of-23) – including 6-of-12 from downtown.
UMKC came out of the break shooting a bit better (4-of-8) by the 15:24 media timeout, outscoring the Aggies 10-4 to cut the NM State lead to 45-39.
With NM State struggling from the foul line, UMKC slowly got within 51-44 when Kyle Steward swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 12:06 remaining on the clock.
Try as they might, the Aggies weren’t quite able to pull away from the ‘Roos in the second half as they clung onto a 55-48 lead with 7:42 left to play. From that point on, the Aggies outscored the ‘Roos 23-12 en route to the 78-60 victory.
Huggins finished with 5-of-9 from the field, four of which came from downtown, while Baker was 6-of-12 on the night.
POSTGAME NOTES: The nine steals for NM State is the second-most this season behind the 10 at Seattle U (Jan. 26)…NM State’s seven blocks is a season-high that has been matched three other times…the Aggies have now reached double-figures in assists in 28-of-32 games on the year.