NMSU Men's Basketball Pulls Away Late In 75-56 Win Over Rival UNM

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - “I’ve seen it in his face that he (Jans) really wanted this game and we really wanted the game for him,” senior guard Zach Lofton commented. “We like him a lot and to get this win for him, it’s lovely man.”

That was the sentiment by both Lofton and sophomore Sidy N’Dir in the postgame presser Friday night after the New Mexico State men’s basketball team pounded Battle of I-25 rival New Mexico 75-56 in the Pan American Center.

Lofton and N’Dir led the way in former Aggie head coach Paul Weir’s return with 28 points and 14 points, respectively. The graduate transfer poured in 23 of his 28 points in a dominant second-half performance where he was 7-of-11 from the field – including a perfect 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.

NM State (2-1) started a little slow on the offensive end, and shot just 1-of-8 from the floor at the 15:42 media timeout. However, a 3-pointer from N’Dir sparked the Aggie offense to a 16-8 run and 19-16 lead with 9:07 left to play in the first half.

Some back-and-forth ensued before UNM took a 22-21 lead with 6:19 left in the first stanza on a Vladimir Pinchuck layup. However, that was the last lead the Lobos (2-1) would have the rest of game.

Shooting at the line, in both the first and second-halves, proved to be critical as the Aggies took a narrow 31-28 lead into the break.

Lofton came out firing in the second-half, scoring eight of the first 11 points to put the Aggies on top 42-33 at the 14:58 media timeout. UNM kept hanging around for the next 10 minutes answering each time the Aggies would score.

It wasn’t until with 6:07 left to play that things got interesting when Troy Simons picked up his second technical foul after jawing with Jemerrio Jones – who was also given a technical foul.

At the time of the double technical, NM State held a 54-47 lead. Lofton then took over once more with 4:14 left to play when he converted on an and-1 to make it an 11-point game, 63-52.

Eleven points and 2:38 minutes later, Jans and the Aggies saw their lead balloon to 73-55 when a pair of free-throws from N’Dir ended Lofton’s scoring streak.

It was a fitting end to the rivalry win Friday night when Las Cruces native and Oñate High School graduate, who redshirted last season, put the finishing touches in the victory with bucket and gave NM State its largest lead of the night, 75-56.

Eli Chuha finished the game with 13 points and seven boards, five of which came on the offensive glass in the win. Jones was up to his usual self on Friday night, scoring seven points with a game-high 16 rebounds – his third-straight game with double-digit boards.

When asked what was said as a staff and team heading into Friday’s contest with the narrative around Weir’s return, Jans said, “Yeah, believe it or not we never talked about it. Our staff never talked about it, our team never talked about it. I don’t know what they talked about when we weren’t around, but we never addressed it one time. It was business as usual and we left it up to the media and the fans and didn’t discuss it. We tried to stay as focused as we can and tried to figure out a way to beat the opponent.”

With the win Friday night, Jans joins 12 other Aggie head coaches to beat New Mexico in their first meeting in the Pan American Center and the ninth head coach to beat the Lobos on his first try. Coincidentally, the last four head coaches for New Mexico State have beaten UNM at home for the first time while three of those four beat UNM in their first try.

BY THE NUMBERS
New Mexico State has now pulled down 50 rebounds or more in two of its first three games…Aggie head coaches are now 12-11 all-time when facing the Lobos for the first time at home...the last time NM State won two-straight games against the Lobos was from 2006-07…the Aggies doubled up the Lobos on the glass, out-rebounding them 50-25, including a 25-9 advantage on the offensive glass.

UP NEXT
The Aggies will get a few days rest before continuing its homestand on Wednesday, Nov. 22, when it plays host to Colorado State. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in the Pan American Center as NM State looks to make good on its lost last year in Ft. Collins. Fans can purchase tickets for Wednesday’s game at the Pan American Center ticket office, online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 575-646-1420.