LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State men’s basketball team lost its first home game of the season, and first in 16 contests at home, after falling to New Mexico, 79-70, Wednesday, Dec. 4, inside a packed Pan American Center. The Aggies are now 7-3 on the season while the Lobos improve to 6-1.
NM State had not lost a home matchup in almost a year. UNM also handed the Aggies’ their only home loss during last season’s schedule.
The Lobos held a 10-point advantage at the half and NM State just could not cut into that lead during the second half of play. Every time the Aggies made a run, UNM answered right back.
NM State finished the game shooting 38.7 percent (24-62) from the field to the Lobos’ 43.1 (22-51). But it was shots from beyond the three-point arc that separated the two teams. The Aggies only sank 21.1 percent of their threes (4-19) while UNM made half of its threes (6-12). 14 turnovers also did not help the NM State cause.
One bright spot for the Aggies was their free-throw shooting. NM State was perfect from the line in the second half and finished the game shooting 90 percent (18-20) from the charity stripe.
Junior guard Daniel Mullings led the Aggies finishing with a team-high 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting and also added six rebounds. Senior forward Renaldo Dixon was right behind with a career-high 15 points. Sophomore center Sim Bhullar was the only NM State player to finish with double-digit rebounds, marking 10.
The Aggies scored the first three points of the game, but UNM quickly answered with two-consecutive 3-pointers to take an early 6-3 lead. Three points would tie the biggest lead NM State would see throughout the game.
The first eight minutes of the game saw the rivals go back-and-forth trading buckets and turnovers.
Trailing 13-16, Aggie senior guard Kevin Aronis was fouled on a three-point attempt. Aronis sank all three free throws to tie the game at 16 with 12:03 left in the first half.
Unfortunately for NM State, the Lobos proceeded to go on an 8-0 run to take a 24-16 lead. The Aggies fought back and a Dixon dunk cut the lead to 28-23 with 7:30 left in the half.
UNM would take its largest lead of the contest with 3:34 left in the half, a lead of 10, at 35-25. A Bhullar shot in the paint would cut the lead to eight at 37-29 with under a minute left, but the Lobos scored on their final possession on a slam dunk by forward Nick Banyard to match their largest lead of the game, 39-29, heading into the locker room.
NM State was hurt by nine turnovers in the half and an 0-of-5 showing from beyond three-point range. UNM, on the other hand, only had four turnovers and made over half of its 3-pointers (4-7) for a 57.1 percentage. The Aggies shot 33.3 percent (9-27) from the field to the Lobos’ 46.7 (14-30).
NM State was led by Mullings and Dixon in the first half, both of whom finished with six points. Bhullar, meanwhile, led the team with seven rebounds.
The Aggies came out on fire at the beginning of the second half. Mullings sank his first-three shots and a couple of free throws to help NM State start the half on a 10-4 run to cut the UNM lead to 43-39 with 16:48 left in the contest.
With 13:13 left, the Aggies finally sank their first three of the game. The K.C. Ross-Miller trifecta once again cut the lead to four at 48-44. But the Lobos came right back. UNM guard Kendall Williams sank a three of his own on the Lobos’ next possession and fellow guard Cullen Neal made three free throws after being fouled from beyond the arc to once again extend the UNM lead to 10 at 54-44.
The Lobos would maintain a double-digit lead throughout the middle portion of the half. Trailing 44-56 with nine minutes left in the game, Dixon converted on an and-one to trim the lead into single digits at 56-47.
The Aggies made one final effort to come close by going on a 6-0 run. Freshman guard Travon Landry marked five-consecutive points, and after two free throws by junior guard DK Eldridge NM State only trailed by six at 62-56 with 5:52 left.
But the Aggies just could not get over the hump during the 211th meeting of the I-25 rivals as the Lobos maintained their double-digit lead throughout the closing moments of the game. A couple of give-me buckets by NM State would end the game at 79-70.
It does not get any easier for the Aggies as they next travel to play Gonzaga on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 9 p.m. (MT) in a nationally televised matchup on ESPNU. The Bulldogs are currently ranked 15th and 19th in the polls.
The road trip will continue next week as NM State travels to Tucson on Wednesday, Dec. 11, to play the University of Arizona. The Wildcats currently sit at No. 2 in the polls and could potentially be the No. 1 team in the country by the time the Aggies come knocking.