NMSU Men's Basketball Cruises To 80-60 Win At UTEP, Sweeps Season Series

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

EL PASO, TX - A game and career-high 18 points from AJ Harris along with three other players in double-figures gave the New Mexico State men’s basketball team its seventh-straight win over Battle of I-10 rival UTEP, 80-60, and its third-straight sweep of the Miners Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center.

The victory gave head coach Chris Jans his first rivalry sweep, who now joins Ken Hayes, Lou Henson and Paul Weir as the only coaches to sweep UTEP in their first year at the helm. In addition, this is the first time since the 1952-53 season that NM State has swept UTEP in consecutive games on its schedule.

“I don’t feel like this team is reliant on one of two guys to score,” Jans remarked in his postgame presser. “…I am in practice every day and I know what AJ [Harris] is capable of, I know what Sidy [N’Dir] is capable of, I know of Keyon [Jones] is capable of and Shunn [Buchanan]. We have other guys that can score the basketball. Hopefully this will boost their confidence going forward.”

Both the Aggies (5-1) and Miners struggled shooting in the first 10 minutes of action.

It wasn’t until the 8:15 in the first half before NM State began its blitz of the Miners with a 10-0 run sparked by a 3-pointer from N’Dir. The Aggies held UTEP without a field-goal during that stretch for 6:30 minutes until Omega Harris hit an 18-footer with 4:44 on the clock.

An 8-5 run ended the remaining 3:56 minutes of action thanks to a nice play at the rim by Las Cruces local Johnny McCants as NM State held a 37-23 lead into the break.

NM State had 11 turnovers in the first half compared to UTEP’s 12 as both teams were called for numerous traveling violations. However, NM State was able to take the lead at halftime thanks to it converting 12 UTEP turnovers into 16 points.

UTEP (1-6) was forced to call its third timeout of the game just 3:03 into the second-half after Harris bookended the 8-0 run with a pair of triples that gave NM State the 45-26 lead.

A 3-pointer by Shunn Buchanan followed by five-consecutive points from Keyon Jones then extended the Aggie lead to 59-40 at the under-eight media timeout (7:57). The lead for New Mexico State got as high as 24 points on two different occasions, first on a 3-pointer from N’Dir with 3:35 left to play and then again with 2:36 remaining when Eli Chuha hit the second of two free throws.

McCants was able to give NM State valuable minutes off the bench, finishing with eight points and five boards while posting a perfect 4-for-4 night from the floor. Jemerrio Jones added 10 points of his own and while pulling down 13 boards for this third-double-double of the season. N’Dir also chipped in with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists for NM State. Keyon Jones reached double-figures for the first time as an Aggie Thursday night with 10 points and seven rebounds.

POSTGAME NOTES
The last time NM State had four players reach double-figures came against UT Rio Grande Valley (3/4/17) at home…Jemerrio Jones now has three double-doubles on the year and 12 since joining the Aggies last season…the last time NM State defeated UTEP by 20 points on the road was in 2015, 73-53…with its 53.6-percent shooting Thursday night, NM State has now shot 50-percent or better in 3-of-6 games so far.

UP NEXT
New Mexico State now returns home for a 4 p.m. contest against Prairie View A&M on Sunday, Dec. 3. Aggie fans can purchase tickets for the game against the Panthers by visiting the Pan American Center ticket office, online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 575-646-1420.