NMSU Men's Basketball Hangs On For 72-67 Win In Denver

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

DENVER, CO - It wasn't without its fair share of dramatic moments - far from it, in fact - but at the end of the night the New Mexico State men's basketball team did just enough to put its first road victory of the season in the books.

Senior guard Shunn Buchanan drilled a pair of clutch free throws with nine seconds remaining which allowed the Aggies to make it a two-possession game, Trevelin Queen came up with a game-clinching steal on the Pioneers' final possession and New Mexico State hung on to secure a 72-67 victory over Denver Tuesday night at Magness Arena. The win was the second-straight for the Aggies in the Summit League/WAC Challenge after defeating North Dakota State in their season-opener one season ago.

Playing the Pioneers for the first time since 2013, the Aggies came out of the gates scorching hot and constructed a formidable-looking 18-point lead in the opening stanza. Time and time again, however, Denver chipped away as they hoped to remain perfect at home.

• Apparent to all onlookers inside Magness Arena was the Aggies' sense of urgency - especially on the offensive end - out of the gates. Starting its offensive onslaught early, New Mexico State pummeled the Pioneers with a 23-8 scoring flurry through the game's first nine minutes which forced the hosts to play catch-up for the rest of the night.
• Eight different Aggies put in points during that surge to start the game including McCants who scored five in a row for his squad with a powerful fast-break slam followed up with a corner three-pointer.
• Ivan Aurrecoechea put the finishing touches on the Aggies' massive scoring spurt by displacing his defender down low and converting an uncontested layup that hiked the visitors' edge to 23-8 with 11:01 left.
• New Mexico State's lead continued to grow, reaching 19 when Queen's second three-pointer of the tilt made matters 32-14 with 6:47 to go. That's when the Pioneers decided to make it a game.
• Denver outscored New Mexico State 14-5 through the last 6:26 of the half, with Ade Murkey and Jase Townsend serving as the individuals who powered the Pioneers' offense. Townsend connected on long-range hits on consecutive Denver possessions following Queen's triple while Murkey got loose for a pair of easy layups. Murkey's final close-range banker pulled Denver within nine, 37-28, at the half.
• The Aggies sank seven of their eight three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes of action and shot 43.8-percent (7-of-16) from long range in that same span. That helped the visitors wrap up the frame with a 48.4-percent (15-of-31) success rate from the field.

• Wanting to push their lead back to double digits as quick as possible once the second half started, the Aggies did that by watching Aurrecoechea start a 6-0 run by going to work on the block. Jabari Rice continued to make his presence known, too, netting back-to-back baskets after the Spaniard's hook shot.
• Rice's baskets caused the Pioneers to call time, and out of the stoppage they went on a 6-0 run to make it a single-digit game once again.
• Powering a 7-0 Aggie run, Queen drove baseline for a two-handed flush before dropping a defender and drilling a straightaway three-pointer. On the very next possession, Buchanan picked off an errant pass and fed Rice for a fast-break jam which pushed the Aggies' edge back to 15, 54-39, with 8:50 left.
• Still the Pioneers would not roll over. A 6-0 run capped by a Robert Jones put-back layup off of a missed free throw by Murkey pulled Denver within 54-46 with 5:39 left. Aurrecoechea kept the Aggies alive, though, scoring the next six points for the visitors with a strong array of moves down on the block.
• Queen calmly sank a pair of shots at the charity stripe to push his team's lead back to double-digits, 65-55, with 2:21 remaining. Denver, however, continued to rely on the high-scoring duo of Murkey and Townsend to give it a chance at victory.
• A three-pointer by Townsend gave the Pioneers hope with 24 ticks left and made matters 69-65. After Shawn Williams went 1-for-2 at the stripe, Murkey was fouled with 18 seconds to go and connected on both of his tries from the foul line to cut the Aggies' lead to 70-67.
• Fortunately, Buchanan converted his two shots from the line to help lock up the win.

• Rice led a quartet of Aggies who finished with double-digit points by pouring in 18 on 7-of-11 shooting. Joining with 10 or more points were Queen (15), Aurrecoechea, (14) and McCants (12).
• Queen neared a double-double, too, by passing out a game-high and career-high seven assists. Rice was close to a double-double, too, after he grabbed a game-best eight rebounds. Together, Aurrecoechea, McCants, Queen and Rice combined to shoot 24-for-38 (63.2-percent) from the field in the win.
• Buchanan's game-changing efforts were not solely limited to the offensive side of the court. The senior came up with a game-high four steals and dished out two of the Aggies' 12 assists in the team's first true road victory since a 92-58 romp over Chicago State in the Windy City on March 2, 2019.
• Outside of Murkey and Townsend, the Pioneers' couldn't match the Aggies' offense punch man-to-man. Townsend amassed a game-high 29 while Murkey chipped in 22, but Denver received just 16 points from the remaining seven players who took part in Tuesday's matchup.
• The Aggies improved to 2-0 all-time in Summit League/WAC Challenge games while Chris Jans moves to 5-0 all-time against opponents from the state of Colorado while serving as New Mexico State's head coach.

• One stop remains on the Aggies' three-game road trip: Dreamstyle Arena - known throughout the college basketball landscape as The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. New Mexico State heads there Saturday for the second round of the Battle of I-25 and it will tangle with age-old in-state foe New Mexico at 5:00 p.m.