Junior guard Daniel Mullings, who earned all-tournament team honors, scored a team-high 21 points against the Rainbow Warriors. The last time Mullings scored at least 20 points was on March 7, 2013 during a 78-60 win over Louisiana Tech. He and Ross-Miller combined for an 18-of-24 night at the free throw line.
“The ten free throws in a row K.C. [Ross-Miller] hit could be the difference in the game,” head coach Marvin Menzies said in a postgame interview. “I was really pleased with his performance at the line, especially with the way we started the tournament.”
NM State shot 25-of-40 at the free throw line in the season opening loss to Western Michigan, Nov. 8.
The Aggies shot 57 percent (30-of-52) from the field on Tuesday morning and held Hawai’i to a 42 percent field goal percentage. Sophomore Sim Bhullar made his presence known in the middle posting a game-high four blocks to go along with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 30 minutes of play.
“I thought the guards did a good job and at the end of the day it was great that we had some depth on our team,” Menzies said. “[Remi] Barry has had some ups and downs but it’s early in the year and he is really improving. I gave him some credit after the last game because he handled his role and was such a team-guy for us. Because his attitude was right, he had a great game.”
NM State shot 74 percent from the field in the second half (14-of-19) and went 19-of-26 at the free throw line. The Aggies started the second half 7-of-9 from the field with their largest lead of the game at 64-52 with 11:53 left in the contest.
The Aggies put together a solid first half taking a nine point lead heading into the locker room with junior guard DK Eldridge leading the way with 11 points, while Mullings added nine. Bhullar and Barry each tallied seven points in the half.
It was an intense start for both teams and it seemed as if the officials wanted to keep control of the half by calling a combined 23 fouls in the half with 12 on NM State and 11 on Hawai’i. The Aggies battled to take a five point lead with 9:30 on the clock after a nice jump shot by Ross-Miller.
The Aggies extended their lead to eight when Tshilidzi Nephawe hits two free throws at the 7:50 mark in the first. NM State tallied three offensive rebounds, but Barry powered the ball up for two points to give his team a 10-point lead with 6:20 left in the half. He followed that with another bucket extending the lead to 35-23 with 5:57 on the clock. UH began to pressure the Aggie ball-handlers forcing NM State to turn the ball over six times in the last five minutes. An alley-hoop from Ross-Miller to Bhullar late in the half gave the Aggies a 46-36 lead, although Hawai’i hit a free throw with two seconds left to make it a nine-point ball game at the half.
NM State controlled most of the second half, opening up the half with two separate 6-2 runs, extended their lead to 63-50 with 12:34 to go in the game. Hawai’i continued to battle the Aggies cutting the lead to four points at 85-81 with :37 seconds remaining, before Ross-Miller hit his 10-straight free throws to give NM State the 95-88 win.
Western Michigan, NM State and Hawai’i finished the tournament with identical 2-1 records. Western Michigan claims the title on the tiebreaker for least points allowed in the tournament.
The Aggies head back to Las Cruces to open their home schedule, Friday, Nov. 15 at 7p.m. against I-10 rival UTEP. For tickets call the Pan American Center ticket office at 575-646-1420.