NMSU Men's Basketball Routs UTRGV

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Backed by Zach Lofton’s season-high 34 points, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team routed UT Rio Grande Valley 90-67 early Saturday evening inside the pan American Center. The win pushes NM State’s win-streak now to nine-straight and keeps the Aggies undefeated in Western Athletic play, 7-0.

In a game full of highlights for NM State, senior Jemerrio Jones had a big night and pulled down a career-tying 20 rebounds to go with 10 points and five assists for his 14th double-double of the year. Jones last grabbed 20 boards in 2015 against Temple College (Feb. 21) while at Hill Junior College.

Jones’ 20 boards made him the 12th Aggie to pull down at least 20 rebounds and was the 24th time an NM State player pulled down 20-plus in a single-game.

The Aggies (20-3, 7-0 WAC) got off to slow start and trailed the Vaqueros by as much as seven (9-2). However, the offense slowly began to waken and finally took a 24-21 lead on a deep 3-pointer from Lofton – his second of seven in the game – with 8:01 left in the first half.

From that point on, New Mexico State never looked back as it finished off the half with an 18-9 run capped off by J. Jones, who fittingly scored on an offensive put-back for the 42-30 lead. NM State dominated the paint in the first-half, outscoring UTRGV 26-4.

The Vaqueros (12-12, 3-4 WAC) started to hit their shots in the second-half and cut the Aggie lead to 46-40 at the first media break (15:17). NM State’s offense came out of the timeout firing on all cylinders and went on a 13-2 run behind 3-pointers from Keyon Jones and Lofton – who exchanged four-straight triples to extend the Aggie lead to 59-42 within a 3:21 minutes span.

After the media timeout, Lofton exploded for another seven-straight points to put the Aggies ahead 68-47 with 8:22 left in the game after knocking down a pair of free-throws. UTRGV never quit and got within 75-61 of New Mexico State thanks to an 8-0 run with 4:57 on the game clock.

Unfortunately for the Vaqueros, the Aggie offense didn’t cool down with its reserve players slowly entering the game with K. Jones giving NM State its largest lead of the game with 36 seconds remaining and the shot-clock winding down.

But, before the Aggies walked away with a convincing 90-67 victory, J. Jones became the first Aggie since Pascal Siakam (23) to pull down at least 20 rebounds in a single-game with 3:32 left in the game on an offensive board and put-back.

Lofton scored 20 of his 34 points in the second half on 6-of-8 shooting – four of which came from downtown…Jones was a beast on the glass in the first half, pulling down 13 of his 20 in the first 20 minutes…the Aggies dominated the paint against UTRGV, outscoring the Vaqueros 40-14…NM State also converted 18 UTRGV turnovers for 24 points…the Aggies finished the night shooting 55.9-percent from the field while the Vaqueros were just 33.8-percent from the floor…the 33 field-goals Saturday night was just the eighth time NM State has made 30-plus field-goals in a single-game.

“We just talked about that it’s going to be harder the second time around. There are no secrets anymore. The advantage that maybe we have as a first-year program … they don’t how we play. Our schemes, our calls, our sets. They’re foreign to the coaches that have been in this league and to the returning players as well. We are not foreign anymore. They know more about us. We’ll have to tighten up everything and try to guard against being complacent. This group has proven to be hungry and pretty hard workers in practice. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and try to get ourselves ready to prepare every game.” – Aggie head coach Chris Jans

New Mexico State remains at home the following week as it begins the second-half of conference play. First up for NM State will be CSU Bakersfield on Thursday, Feb. 8, before entertaining Grand Canyon for a 7 p.m. (MT) game on Saturday, Feb. 10, as part of its Pack the Pan Am promotion.