NMSU Men's Basketball Closes Out Road Trip With 66-53 Win Over Bakersfield

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

BAKERSFIELD, CA - Another second-half surge on defense propelled the New Mexico State men’s basketball team past a physical CSU Bakersfield team 66-53 Saturday night in the Icardo Center.

The win wrapped up an eight-game road trip for the Aggies (15-3, 3-0 WAC) that’ll span for 37 days between home games when it takes Lou Henson Court on Thursday, Jan. 18, against Seattle U. During that long stretch away from home, the Aggies went 7-1 with wins over Illinois, Davidson and then-No. 6/7 Miami.

Only two other teams had more days between home games were Penn and Harvard – who went 6-2 and 2-6, respectively – with 39 days between home contests. The win also pushed NM State’s win-streak in true road games to six – which is good for the fifth-longest in the nation behind Wichita State (11), Middle Tennessee (11), Saint Mary’s (10) and Kansas (10).

“We are ready to come home,” Aggie head coach Chris Jans said after the win. “It’s been a month-long road trip and these young men have forged a special bond and toughness about them that will serve us well going forward. We are excited to play in front of our passionate fan base, and I hope they welcome them home with a special home-court advantage.”

The play that turned the tide in the game was at the 11:47 mark when Eli Chuha found a wide open Shunn Buchanan for the three that put NM State on top 36-33 – a lead it would not relinquish. That and the 3-pointer from Zach Lofton prior to Buchanan’s sparked a 25-11 run that gave New Mexico State a 55-44 lead with 3:33 left to play.

Out of the final media break with 1:14 on the clock, an emphatic dunk from Sidy N’Dir on the in-bounds pass sealed the game as CSUB (7-11, 0-3 WAC) fans filed out of the Icardo Center.

Both teams struggled offensively for most of the first half. The Aggies were held scoreless for 5:03 minutes before Jemerrio Jones hit a jumper. Before that, the ‘Runners had gone on a 7-0 run where four of their seven points came at the free-throw line.

Back-to-back baskets from Jones and Jonathon Wilkins then brought NM State within 16-12 of CSUB with 7:42 remaining in the first half. That sparked the Aggie offensive and allowed NM State to use a 10-4 run in the final 3:44 of play in first half for the 26-25 lead at halftime.

Lofton, the frontrunner for the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week, was once again the leading scorer Saturday night. The grad transfer finished with 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 from deep, to go with another perfect night from the line (8-for-8).

Chuha, who had 16 of the team’s 20 points off the bench, scored 14 of his 16 points in the second-half – including a stretch that last 6:37 minutes where he scored 10 of NM State’s 12 points during a critical juncture of the game.

Jones, who was limited to 24 minutes of play, finished with four points and eight rebounds while AJ Harris once again managed the offense meticulously with six points and six assists with a pair of steals.

BY THE NUMBERS
NM State is now 14-0 when leading at the half and 13-0 when it has more assists than its opponents…the Aggies have also won 11-straight when holding opponents below 40-percent shooting…edge by just one rebound Saturday night, the Aggies have now only been out-rebounded five times this season with their only loss coming against then-No. 21/22 Saint Mary’s in those five games…with 15 assists tonight, it is only the sixth time NM State has dished out 15 or more dimes in a game this season...on top of its staunch defense in the second-half, the Aggies were also shot 50-percent from the floor – knocking down 13-of-26 shots.

UP NEXT
The Aggies finally make their return to the friendly confines of the Pan American Center for the first time in 37 days as they play host to Seattle U (Jan. 18) and Utah Valley (Jan. 20). Adam Young (@youngpbp) will have the call on both games with Rus Bradburd serving as the analyst on the broadcast while US Bank/NM State Hall of Famer Jack Nixon has the call on 99.5 FM Zia Country.