NMSU Men's Basketball Opens Jans Era With 81-55 Victory Over East Central Oklahoma

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A huge second-half surge coupled with great performances from veteran players powered the New Mexico State men’s basketball team past East Central Oklahoma in its season and home-opener Friday night inside the Pan American Center.

With the win, the Aggies are 68-42-1 when playing in season-openers and 55-18-1 when both their season and home-openers were on the same night. NM State is also 82-27-1 all-time in home-openers now after the win on Friday night.

“I think the best part about the first half was the fact that we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Aggie head coach Chris Jans said. “We went 1-for-16 and we were still ahead and I thought that was a great sign. Something that we’ll continue to preach to them about the defensive rebounding part because that’s why we were ahead, because our defense was pretty good. Our rebounding was excellent and in the second half, we had a little flurry - got a lead and then our size, athleticism and depth against a Division II time kind of took over.”

Both teams struggled shooting out of the gates for most of the first-half. However, the Aggies slowly clawed their way back, getting their first lead at the 7:17 mark when Zach Lofton knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing and gave NM State the 14-12 lead.

East Central University responded and took a 21-18 lead at the final media timeout with 3:20 left before the break. From there, it was all New Mexico State as the Aggies went on a 13-4 run and headed into the locker room with a 31-25 lead.

During that 3:20 stretch, the Aggies finally hit their stride, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor and scored 10 of the 13 points in the paint – led by Lofton’s 14 points.

Building off its surge in the final 3:20 minutes of the first-half, NM State came out guns blazing and went on a 9-0 run before Da’Rion King put an end to the frenzy at the 17:14 mark. NM State’s lead got as high as 26 with 41 seconds remaining on a deep jumper from freshman Gabe Hadley.

The Aggie duo of Jemerrio Jones and Lofton took over in the second-half, scoring a combined 23 points to ECU’s 30 the entire second-half. Lofton finished with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting with six rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.

Meanwhile, Jones had a monster game on the boards, tallying 19 points and 19 rebounds. The senior forward had 12 points and 10 boards alone in the second half. Of the 19 rebounds, 10 came on the offensive end. His 19 rebounds was a Division I record and was one shy of tying his career-high set on Feb. 21, 2015, against Temple while at Hill Junior College.
Rounding out the double-digit scoring for New Mexico State was Ohio State transfer AJ Harris, who finished with 12 points and six assists with a pair of steals.

Aggie Debuts
Harris, Lofton, Hadley, Shunn Buchanan, Kortrijk Miles, Gordon Leston and Johnny McCants all made their debut in the Crimson & White on Friday. Of the seven, three scored their first collegiate points while six of the seven scored their first points as an Aggie.

By the Numbers

With the win, first-year head coaches are now 18-9 all-time at NM State…Jans is now 2-0 in his debut as a head coach at the Division I level…Lofton scored the first bucket of the 2017-18 for NM State at the 17:07 mark of the first half…NM State out-scored ECU in the paint 50-14 while outrebounding the Tigers 59-30…the last time NM State had 50-plus rebounds was against UT Rio Grande Valley (51) on March 4, 2017.

Up Next

New Mexico State now turns its focus on #22/22 Saint Mary’s, who it’ll square off against at 8 p.m. (MT) on Monday, Nov. 13, on Comcast Hometown Network. The game can see across California (except in Los Angeles) as well as online.