Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
TULSA, OK - The beloved 14th-seeded New Mexico State men’s basketball team saw its season come to a close on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against the third-seeded Baylor Bears in the BOK Center.
NM State (28-6), who made its 20th all-time appearance to the Big Dance, gave BU a run for its money before the Bears – who are ranked No. 12/11 in the latest AP and USA Today Polls – went on a run in the second half to extend their season 91-73.
New Mexico State came out as focused as it has ever been, knocking down 4-of-8 shots from the floor – including a five-footer from Jemerrio Jones that gave the Aggies an 8-3 lead heading into the first media timeout (15:17).
Baylor (26-7) came out of the media break poised and used an 11-0 run to take a 14-11 lead before Ian Baker’s jumper ended the scoring drought for NM State. With Baylor’s top post player Johnathan Motley on the bench with two fouls, NM State slowly got within striking distance of the Bears, 18-17, with 7:31 left in the first frame.
Both teams started knocking down shots in the latter half of the first frame as NM State first took the lead on back-to-back buckets, 26-24. However, a three from Baylor’s Al Freeman on the other end regained the lead for the Bears.
With two seconds remaining, Braxton Huggins drained a three to give the Aggies a 40-38 lead heading into the locker room.
New Mexico State was able to take the lead over Baylor thanks to five first-half assists from Jemerrio Jones while finishing the half 5-for-5 from the floor as a team. The Aggies and Bears combined to go 11-for-13 heading into the break and had seven lead changes in the last 4:18 minutes as well.
The third-seeded Bears came out shooting even better than they did in the first-half, knocking down 12-of-19 shots. That red-hot shooting by BU put NM State into a 70-53 deficit with7:34 left to play in the game.
NM State matched Baylor point-for-point in the last 7:34 minutes of action at the BOK Center, however, the 20-7 run by the Bears to open the second-half was too much to overcome for the Aggies.
Ian Baker wrapped up his Aggie career with a team-high 19 points on 6-of-18 shooting, five assists, three steals and a pair of rebounds. Huggins matched Baker’s 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting – including three from downtown. Eli Chuha was the third Aggie to record double-figures, chipping in with 11 points and six boards. Jones was held to four points, but was able to pull down six rebounds and tied his season with seven assists.
Baylor finished with five players in double-figures, including a season-high 21 from Freeman. Motley scored all 11 of his 15 points in the second half to go with his 10 rebounds for BU.
By the Numbers
The Aggies held a 22-20 edge over Baylor in paint at the end of 20 minutes, but the Bears roared back with a 30-6 advantage in the second half…NM State shot just 36.7-percent from the floor in the second half while Baylor shot a .594 clip…the 22 point loss was the largest margin of defeat for the Aggies this season, previous high 19 at CSU Bakersfield (Feb. 9)…New Mexico State is now 7-22 all-time in the NCAA Tournament with this loss and have dropped 10-straight now.
#2 Braxton Huggins
On how special this team was this year…
I agree. The season is very special, not only because the wins, like the 20-game winning streak. Just because of all the hard work we put in. The first day of practice at White Sands I'll never forget. I remember that day like it was yesterday, throwing up like so many times. I never thought it would end. And we made it here just because of all that hard work we put in.
#4 Ian Baker
On his time at New Mexico State…
I would say my four years at New Mexico State, I had a blast. I can't really -- like I told him, I just can't really -- I don't know what would be my most memorable thing at New Mexico State. I'm going to have to take some time and sit back and think about everything that happened.
But overall I love my experience that I had at New Mexico State. I'm glad I came there. Like I told -- I don't know, I told one of these people here the other day that in a million years I would have never thought I would have ended up at New Mexico State but it was the place for me and I'm glad I ended up there.
Head Coach Paul Weir
On where he thought the biggest growth was for the team…
You know, I don't even know how much I've told these guys. When we went into the season, we had this plan, this idea of where we were going to go, and I don't know if any of us really knew it was going to work, but we just all got in the boat together and decided to give this thing a run.
And this team I just told them after the game has taught me a lot about emotion and energy and togetherness and those values that maybe some people think is lost. It's not lost. It's real, and I learned that it's real from these guys.
We beat a lot of teams this year that we weren't supposed to beat. We beat a lot of teams that were flat out better than us. We were trying to do it against one more team tonight and we were trying to do that with I think what we showed for 20 minutes which is a team that just plays really hard and together, and to bottle that was a lot of fun for me. I think it was really fun for them, and it made it a really great year.