NMSU Men's Basketball Wraps Up WAC Regular Season Title With Win Over UMKC

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Whatever was said at Friday's practiced worked for first-year Aggie head coach Chris Jans Saturday night as his team pounded UMKC at home 82-58 and claimed the Western Athletic Conference title outright moments after its win when Grand Canyon topped Utah Valley at home.

The win propelled the Aggies to 24-5 overall on the year and 11-2 mark in conference play. NM State also captured its third regular-season title in four years. In addition, it was the seventh-straight season New Mexico State has won 23 or more games in a single-season.

NM State looked much more like its old self in the opening five minutes of play in the Pan American, knocking down 5-of-6 from the field – including back-to-back 3-pointers from AJ Harris that gave NM State the 14-5 lead.

A trio of triples from UMKC (10-20, 5-8 WAC) brought the visitors within 24-16 of the Aggies. Midway through, a quick 7-0 spurt by the NM State put them on top 33-18 with 6:30 left in the first half.

New Mexico State's defense was active, holding the 'Roos to just 33.3-percent shooting in the first half while NM State was 60.7-percent from the floor to take a 40-28 lead into the break. The Aggies held an 18-8 advantage in the paint before finishing the night scoring 52 of its 82 points in the lane.

The Aggie defense continued to shine in the second-half and allowed the offense to go on a 10-2 run heading into the media break with 15:24 on the clock and the 50-30 lead.

NM State and UMKC then exchanged buckets from for next nine-plus minutes before a 7-0 run by the 'Roos cut the Aggie lead to 63-49 after a pair of free-throws from Isaiah Ross at the 6:25 mark.

However, New Mexico State answered with a 12-0 run of its own that was capped off by Eli Chuha completing an and-1 out of the media break for the 75-49 lead with 3:15 remaining in the game.

It was only fitting that senior Jemerrio Jones gave NM State its largest lead of the game with a three-ball at the 1:38 mark before exiting the game. The 6-5 forward finished with another monstrous night on the boards for his 17th double-double of the year with 15 points, 23 rebounds and seven assists to go with his two steals and a block.

Chuha finished with 15 points as well on 7-of-9 shooting with four boards while Zach Lofton and Harris each had 13 points to pace NM State.

NM State dominated the paint against UMKC, scoring the Roos 52-16…the Aggies also turned 11 UMKC turnovers into 20 points…the 36 field-goals by NM State was the most this season…with nine turnovers Saturday night, it was NM State's seventh game where it kept its turnovers in the single-digit range…the last time an Aggie had 23 rebounds in a game was Pascal Siakam against UTEP on Dec. 2, 2015…Jones joins an elite group of rebounds in NM State history who have recorded 20-plus boards four times their careers in Sam Lacey and Billy Joe Price…Jones and Lacey (6, 1969-70) are the only Aggies to record four or more 20-rebound games in a single-season.

"Anytime you win a championship it's awesome, but to do it in front of your home crowd and have a crowd like we had tonight is great. I had no idea what the numbers were, but it looked really good from my perspective where I sit and stand. I'm very happy to have them come out and support these seniors and this team. Hopefully this will be our last home game of the season. I'm just really proud of our players, we haven't been playing as well as of late but I thought our response this evening was really great." –Aggie head coach Chris Jans

The Aggies wrap up the regular-season next Saturday, March 3, at UT Rio Grande Valley for a 6 p.m. (MT) showdown on the WAC Digital Network.