NMSU Men's Basketball Falls At Utah Valley 86-79

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

OREM, UT - The New Mexico State men’s basketball team saw its 11-game winning-streak snapped Thursday night on the road at the UCCU Center against Utah Valley 86-79 as the top-two teams in the league went toe-to-toe.

Thursday night’s loss now has NM State 22-4 overall on the season and 9-1 in Western Athletic Conference play. However, the Aggies still have a two-game cushion in league play against UVU and Seattle U – who have three losses each – with four games remaining in the regular-season.

NM State got off to a quick start, draining back-to-back three-balls, but then saw Utah Valley (18-8, 8-3) answer right back with six-straight of its own. The teams went back-and-forth from that point as both squads exchanged short runs. However, a 6-0 run by Utah Valley powered by Brandon Randolph gave the Wolverines a 27-24 lead and forced an Aggie timeout.

From there, the Wolverines never gave up their lead the rest of the half despite a challenge from New Mexico State via triple from Sidy N’Dir to bring the Aggies within 38-37 of UVU with 26 ticks left, but a 3-pointer from Kenneth Ogbe with three seconds remaining on the clock sent NM State into the locker room down 41-37 for the second-straight game.

Johnathon Wilkins brought NM State within 43-42 of Utah Valley in the opening minutes of the second-half with a bucket and 3-pointer. Zach Lofton then put NM State on top 50-49 at the 15:32 media break on a steal and finish on his third-straight basket.

Lofton then got another steal and layup, this time an and-1 that put the Aggies on top 62-60 with 9:33 on the clock.

A blocked N’Dir 3-pointer on the corner by the bench led to a trey on the other end for UVU and the 71-68 lead, which forced an NM State timeout with 4:41 left to play. UVU’s 10-0 run during that 3:01 minute span after the game was tied at 66-66 forced another Aggie timeout with 3:24 left to play and NM State behind 76-68.

Out of the media break, a pair of free-throws followed by a nice feed from N’Dir to Jemerrio Jones brought NM State within 76-72 of the Wolverines. A 3-pointer and breakaway dunk had UVU with 81 points, but free-throws from Lofton after each score kept NM State within striking distance of the Wolverines, 81-76, with 59 seconds left.

A steal on the long in-bounds from Johnny McCants gave AJ Harris a huge 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining, but it was the last basket the Aggies would see fall in the 86-79 loss.
In a game where the lead changed 10-of-11 times in the second-half, including seven second-half ties, 11-of-22 shooting by UVU beyond the arc coupled with 19-of-21 from the free-throw line was something the Aggies couldn’t overcome.

Lofton finished with a team-high 19 points while N’Dir settled for 13 points and Harris with 12. Jones was not his usual self, posting eight points with six rebounds while Keyon Jones and Eli Chuha settled for nine points apiece.

“We’re extremely disappointed. A lot of credit has to go to Utah Valley. They were excited to play us, they were ready and they played an awfully good game. If you would have told me before the game we would shoot 55 percent on the road with 23 assists on 31 baskets, normally our defense and rebounding would have been good enough to carry us to a victory. But tonight it wasn’t. It’s going to be a quick turnaround and we have a lot of work to do with our team. We have to figure out a way to regroup and game-plan in a short amount of time.” – Aggie head coach Chris Jans

The Aggies trailed at halftime for the second-straight game, it trailed just once prior to the last two games…NM State started the game assisting on 10 of its first 10 shots before finishing with 23 – good for second-most this season…the Aggie defense was not its normal self, turning the opposing team over just 14 times while getting out-rebounded for just the fifth time this season, 27-25. NM State allowed Utah Valley to shoot a season-high 58.3-percent from the field for any opponent.

New Mexico State stays on the road as it travels to the Pacific Northwest for a Saturday matinee contest against Seattle U on Feb. 17 for a 2 p.m. (MT) tip-off on the WAC Digital Network.