NMSU Men's Basketball Holds Off UTEP 62-58 To Sweep Season Series

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

EL PASO, TX - Defense lifted the New Mexico State men’s basketball team Wednesday night at the Don Haskins Center over Battle of I-10 rival UTEP for its ninth-consecutive victory over the Miners.

The win also made Aggie head coach Chris Jans just one of two head coaches to sweep UTEP in their first two seasons at the helm – joining Lou Henson (1966-68). The last time NM State won nine-straight games against UTEP started on Feb. 1, 1967 went through Dec. 12, 1970 for 10-straight.

"I knew this was going to be hard," Jans said post sweep. "Coming over here, rivalry game, a proud program, coaches are doing a good job, players have bought in. We expected kind of what we got. I was curious to see how we would be. I was curious what our mindset was and I thought it was really good."

NM State and UTEP both had tough starts to the first-half with both offenses struggling. However, a rebound by Jabari Rice led to a fast break layup from JoJo Zamora broke the scoring drought for both teams and gave NM State the 9-8 lead. UTEP answered on the other end, but Ivan Aurrecoechea had an easy bucket in the paint once again to make it 11-10 in favor of the Aggies (5-1) at the 11:48 media break.

With a lull on offense once again for both teams, the Aggies fell back on its defense and drew a pair of charges against the Miners (2-4) to keep the 12-10 lead after Johnny McCants hit the front end of his two free-throws.

Neither team really found its groove in the half, but UTEP was able to hit a couple shots despite being turned over several times by the Aggies. A 24-19 advantage for UTEP didn’t last long before a 9-0 run saw the Aggies regain the 28-26 lead on a 3-pointer from Keyon Jones heading into the break.

The Miners took a quick 33-31 lead in the opening minutes of the second-half, but that was short-lived when NM State reeled off a 13-0 run for the 44-33 lead – which forced a UTEP timeout.

A 6-0 run ensued for UTEP, which cut the Aggie lead to 47-42 with 9:56 left in the game and forced NM State to call a timeout. However, the Aggies kept their composure thanks to a 3-ball from Clayton Henry followed by a driving layup from Shunn Buchanan brought the lead back up to 54-47 with 7:37 left in the game.

Back-to-back buckets by the home team coupled with turnovers and missed shots in the paint by NM State saw the Miners crawl within 56-52 of NM State with 4:12 on the clock. UTEP made it a one-possession game three separate times, the last coming with six seconds remaining on a jumper from Efe Odigie. During that stretch, the Aggies once again drew charges to help them offset their offensive struggles.

Aurrecoechea finished the game with a season-high 15 points and six rebounds to lead NM State while Henry chipped in with nine points and five boards. Jones also added eight points for the Aggies to go with his two rebounds and two assists.

BY THE NUMBERS
As a team, NM State was able to finally take a 21-17 edge in points off turnovers against the Miners off 22 turnovers…Aggies have now turned their opponents over 20-plus times in back-to-back games…the 32-26 deficit in rebounds was just the second time NM State has been out-rebounded through six games.

UP NEXT
New Mexico State now returns home for a pair of games. First on the docket is Washington State out of the Pac-12 Conference on Saturday, Dec. 1, before Battle of I-25 rival New Mexico comes to town on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Both games are slated to tip-off at 7 p.m. (MT).