NMSU Men's Basketball Downs Rival UTEP 59-56 In Battle Of I-10 Rematch

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The year was 2015-16. That's the last time - prior to this season, of course - that a UTEP men's basketball team had opened up a season with five or more consecutive wins.

Much like they did almost a half-decade ago, the Miners rolled into the Pan Am Center Tuesday night hoping to remain perfect and continue one of their program's best starts to a season.

Just like what transpired in 2015-16, however, New Mexico State made sure their longtime rivals' unbeaten run would come to an end in one of college basketball's most hostile environments.

C.J. Bobbitt capped off a season-high 14-point performance by hitting four important free throws in the final 55 seconds, UTEP missed a pair of game-tying tries from long range in the game's final six seconds and the Aggies earned a measure of revenge against the Miners with a 59-56 victory in latest edition of the Battle of I-10 Tuesday night inside the Pan Am Center.

• Trailing by five, 13-8, with 9:47 remaining in the opening frame, the Aggies hit their age-old El Paso adversaries with a 17-5 run through the ensuing 7:31 to take control.
• William McNair put a charge into the pro-Aggie congregation for the first time by punching down a powerful driving dunk over a pair of UTEP defenders. That dunk was countered with a 5-0 run by the Miners that put them ahead 11-6.
• Ivan Aurrecoechea broke an 18-18 deadlock with a pair of makes at the foul line with 3:18 to go. Those free throws were followed up with a Terrell Brown three-pointer as well as a driving layup by Bobbitt that hiked the Aggies' lead to 25-18 - their largest of the half - with 2:16 remaining.
• Jabari Rice poured in seven points for New Mexico State in the first half as the Aggies held the Miners to only five points over the last 3:42 of the stanza.

• Though the Miners came close to grabbing the lead on a number of occasions in the deciding frame, they never did. Seven of the Aggies' first nine points in the frame came courtesy of McCants who delivered down low time and time again to keep his team in front.
• Bryson Williams converted a UTEP layup with 15:43 to go that knotted matters for the final time (34-34) before Ivan Aurrecoechea pushed the Aggies ahead for good with a driving layup at the 15:13 mark.
• Twice before the 10-minute mark the Miners managed to pull within one point but each time Bobbitt delivered the goods to up the Aggies' lead. A Williams free throw make trimmed New Mexico State's lead to 38-37, but Bobbitt buried a corner three-pointer on the Aggies' ensuing possession. Following a long ball by Souley Boum to cut the Aggies' lead to one once again, Bobbitt called swish on another long-range try.
• Shunn Buchanan delivered his second - and final - three-pointer of the night that countered a driving score by Williams and made matters 47-42 in favor of the home team with 11 minutes to go.
• In order to build their lead up even further, the Aggies held UTEP scoreless for a stretch of 3:11. Rice put the finishing touches on a 5-0 Aggie run by drilling a tip-in layup following a missed triple by Terrell Brown.
• McCants found Bobbitt cutting to the rim and the junior's feed to the senior was on the money. Bobbitt's uncontested layup upped the Aggies' lead to 54-47 with 6:03 left and the home team would need each point of that lead to hang on.
• Bobbitt's layup was the final field goal of the game for the Aggies, but the Miners couldn't hit anything either. UTEP converted just one field goal through the last 5:12 before Bobbitt stepped to the foul line to end it.
• The senior went 4-for-4 at the foul stripe through the last 55 seconds and missed three-pointers by Williams and Jordan Lathon in the waning seconds sealed the Aggies' victory.

• Six of the last seven points scored by the Aggies came courtesy of Bobbitt who pumped in a team and season-high 14 points in the win. Another reason why the Aggies secured the win was because of their play on the interior. New Mexico State owned a 32-22 (+10) edge in points in the paint.
• Powered by the play of McCants (13 points) and Rice (10 points), the Aggies enjoyed a 25-4 edge in bench scoring that helped them win the night.
• Though it came in his team's first loss of the season, the Miners' Williams conjured up the latest in a long line of big-time performances. Williams poured in a game-high 27 points and finished one rebound shy of a double-double by grabbing nine. Discovering his long range touch, Williams went 4-for-6 from three-point land and 9-of-13 from the field as a whole.
• Boum contributed 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting and without Williams' 9-of-13 mark from the field the Miners shot just 9-of-33 (27.3-percent) from the field in their first setback of 2019-20.
• New Mexico State has won 10 of the last 11 games against their longtime rivals and handed UTEP their first loss of the season for the second time since the 2015-16 campaign. That year, the Miners sported a 6-0 record before the Aggies put the clamps on their rival's perfect start with a 73-59 victory in Las Cruces.

• With their final home court non-conference rivalry tilt of the season in the books, the Aggies hit the road for three consecutive games in three different states. That run begins Saturday in Spokane, Wash., when New Mexico State dukes it out against Pac-12 adversary Washington State at noon MT.