LAS VEGAS (March 10)-The New Mexico State men's basketball team won its third WAC Tournament Championship in school history with an 82-57 win over No. 5 seed Louisiana Tech.
The Aggies (26-9) earned their 19th NCAA Tournament appearance with the victory and their second WAC title in three years. Redshirt senior forward Wendell McKines guided the Aggies with his 20th double-double of the season with 27 points and 14 rebounds on 12-of-16 shooting.
Junior forward Tyrone Watson and freshman guard Daniel Mullings supplied 12 points each. Senior center Hamidu Rahman added nine points and three blocked shots, and senior guard Hernst Laroche had eight points, six rebounds and six assists in the title game.
McKines was named the WAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, while Laroche and Watson earned all-tournament team honors.
The Aggies had a 38-20 halftime lead with 34 points scored in the paint in the first 20 minutes of action. NM State shot 54.8 percent from the field (17-of-31), while the defense held Louisiana Tech to 25 percent (9-of-36). McKines led the Aggies with 12 points and 12 rebounds at the break, and Watson had 10 points.
The Aggies controlled the first half from the opening tip and scored the first eight points of the game. NM State steadily built a 10-point lead, 14-4, at the 14:13 mark on a layup from Watson.
The Crimson and White offense continued to produce and increased the lead to 20 points, 36-16, with 1:53 left in the first half after a McKines layup.
The Aggies started the second half strong and scored eight of the first 10 points. NM State hit its first 6-of-7 shots in the second half and extended the lead to 52-26 with 15:05 to play on a McKines jumper. The Aggies maintained control and pushed the advantage to 31 points, 57-26, with 13:17 remaining on a 9-0 run that was capped off with a Laroche bucket.
NM State shot 55.9 percent (33-of-59) from the field for the game and scored 56 points in the paint.