EL PASO, Texas (Nov. 28)-The New Mexico State men's basketball team suffered a tough one-point loss, 55-54, at I-10 rival UTEP. Senior forward Tyrone Watson led the Aggies (3-4) with 13 points.
With a 1:34 remaining in regulation, the Aggies had a 54-50 lead after sophomore guard Daniel Mullings tipped in a layup as the shot clock expired. The Miners (2-4) then cut NM State's lead to one, 54-53, with a three-point play with 27.2 left.
Following an Aggie turnover on the next possession, junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe was called for his fifth foul, while going for a rebound that sent freshman forward Chris Washburn to the free-throw line for two shots with 5.9 seconds to play. Nephawe fouled out with nine points. Washburn made both free throws, 55-54, to give UTEP its first lead since 4:23. At the buzzer, Mullings 3-pointer bounded around the rim but didn't fall.
The Aggies started the second half with a four-point lead and extended it to six, 40-34, when junior guard Kevin Aronis sank a 3-pointer at 15:03. NM State maintained an advantage until a pair of UTEP free throws tied the contest at 46-46 with 6:12 to play. Two minutes later, the Miners had its first lead of the second half, 48-46, but the Aggies answered with two Nephawe free throws to even the score on the next trip down the court, 48-48,
The NM State defense followed with a steal and fast break layup to regain the lead, 50-48. After UTEP knotted the game, sophomore guard K.C. Ross-Miller hit a jumper for two of his nine points, which were all scored in the second half, for a 52-50 lead with 2:39 left.
In the first half, Mullings nailed a jumper at the halftime buzzer to give the Aggies a 32-28 advantage at the break. Mullings had five points on a 2-of-2 shooting performance. Watson posted a game-high 13 points to help the Aggies to 50 percent (11-of-22) shooting at halftime.
After scoring first, the Aggies reclaimed the lead in the first half, when freshman center Sim Bhullar hit a pair of free throws at 6:47 to push NM State ahead, 21-20. Mullings followed with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession for the Aggies' largest lead of the first half, 24-20.
The Aggies return to the Pan American Center to host Southern Mississippi, Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.