LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State men’s basketball team used a big night from 3-point range to defeat Northern New Mexico in convincing fashion, 97-47, Saturday night inside the Pan American Center. The Aggies pick up their 10th win of the season and are now 10-5 while the Eagles fall to 10-7.
NM State shot 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from beyond the arc on Saturday, including shooting 76.9 from 3-point land in the first half. The Aggies finished with a total shooting percentage of 64.7 (33-of-51) while holding Northern New Mexico to 27.1 (19-70).
“We played some very unselfish basketball and we executed pretty well,” said head coach Marvin Menzies. “It is great to see our team continue to develop. We have to continue to move forward.”
NM State also outrebounded the Eagles, 37-35, and had a team season-high 19 assists while causing 16 Eagle turnovers.
Senior guard Kevin Aronis, who started the game in place of Aggie leading scorer Daniel Mullings, and sophomore forward Matej Buovac each had career nights to lead NM State. Aronis and Buovac each marked a career-high 18 points to top the Aggie scoring list, doing most of their damage from beyond the arc. Aronis finished 6-of-10 from 3-point range while Buovac was 4-of-7.
NM State had a total of six players finish with double-digit points. Junior guard DK Eldridge marked a total of 16 points while redshirt junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe added another 10. Freshman guard Ian Baker, seeing his first action as an Aggie, finished with 12 points.
Sophomore center Sim Bhullar also dropped in 12 points while also leading NM State with 10 rebounds. Bhullar also recorded five blocks to put him in a tie with former Aggie Hamidu Rahman with 137 total blocked shots. Both now stand at No. 2 in the all-time block list, 63 behind the all-time leader James Monroe who finished his Aggie career with 200 blocks.
NM State took control of the game early, scoring the first seven points of the contest. The Aggies sank their first-seven 3-point attempts of the game en route to taking an early double-digit lead. Aronis led the three-point brigade with four of the seven. With 13:59 left in the first half, Aronis tied his career high of 12 points by sinking his fourth three to give NM State a 24-6 lead.
The lead would continue to grow throughout the half, ballooning to 20, 38-18, after a three from Eldridge with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
Aronis’ fifth-consecutive 3-pointer of the game gave the Aggies a 43-18 advantage with 7:09 left in the first half while also bagging a career-high 15 points for the 6-3 NM State guard.
Northern New Mexico’s only three of the first half came from guard Mathew Brito. His three brought the lead back to 20, 43-23, with 5:43 left in the half. NM State, however, finished the half with a 14-5 run.
Baker marked five of the final seven NM State points of the half, capping the Aggie scoring with a three with under 30 seconds left in the half to give NM State its biggest lead of the game at 57-26.
The Eagles concluded the half by sinking a couple of free throws, to cut the Aggie lead to 57-28 at the half.
NM State shot 74.1 percent from the field (20-of-27) in the first half, by far its best shooting performance of any half this season. The percentage was heavily aided by a 76.9 shooting percentage (10-of-13) from beyond the arc. The Aggies also played well defensively in the half, causing 10 Northern New Mexico turnovers which led to 14 Aggie points.
Aronis’ 15 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting led NM State at the half. Eldridge also finished in double figures with 10 points while also leading the team in rebounds with four.
The scoring and the speed of the game slowed down considerably in the second half as the Aggies caressed their lead. NM State outscored the Eagles, 12-8, during the first 10 minutes of the half.
Back-to-back threes by Aronis and Buovac gave the Aggies a 38-point lead, 77-39, with 7:45 left in the contest.
Another Buovac three gave NM State a 92-45 lead with just over two minutes to go. As in the first half, Baker closed out the half with five points to give the Aggies the 50-point victory.
NM State will now look forward to playing its final game of the 2013 calendar year when it takes on South Alabama on Saturday, Dec. 28, inside the Pan American Center. Game time is set for 7 p.m. (MT) with radio coverage on KGRT 103.9 FM with Jack Nixon giving the play-by-play.