SEATTLE – Red shirt junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe posted a career-high 22 points to lead the New Mexico State men’s basketball team to a 92-77 win over Seattle U, Saturday, Feb. 8 in Key Arena. The Aggies are now 18-8 on the year and 7-3 in Western Athletic Conference play. Seattle U falls to 11-11 overall and 3-6 in league play.
Nephawe went 10-of-14 (71.4%) from the field and hit 2-of-3 free throws while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. He also added two blocks and had one steal on the defensive side of the court while playing 37 minutes. Five other Aggies scored in double figures with junior Daniel Mullings putting in 16, junior DK Eldridge scoring 15, and junior KC Ross-Miller adding 13.
“We did a good job limiting their threes in the second half and also outrebounded them in the second half, which were adjustments that we talked about at halftime,” head coach Marvin Menzies said. “Chili [Nephawe] got into a flow and Sim [Bhullar] was sitting because of a coaching decision. Bhullar gave us great 15 minutes of playing time but we decided to go Chili because he was playing well.”
NM State won the rebounding battle in the second half 17-13 and allowed only two 3-pointers, while forcing eight turnovers.
Senior Renaldo Dixon was 3-of-8 from the field and 5-of-7 from the free throw line for 11 points and fellow senior Kevin Aronis added 10 points that included three treys and a free throw. The Aggies as a team shot 57.6 percent from the field while holding the Redhawks to a 43.5 field goal shooting percentage. NM State posted nine blocks with center Sim Bhullar leading the charge with four. Dixon and Nephawe added two blocks a piece. The Aggies had seven steals on the night with Ross-Miller coming up with a game-high three steals and Mullings adding two.
The Aggies started the game down 8-6 early on but used a 9-0 run that was capped off with a 3-pointer by Ross-Miller at 15:31 mark giving the Aggies an 11-8 lead. NM State used another 13-6 run, that included a trey by Aronis with 10:56 on the clock. The Aggies went up by as many as 12 at 28-16 when Aronis made 1-of-2 free throws with 9:56 left in the first half.
The Redhawks crept back into the game when Trent Clarence hit a 3-pointer making it a four-point ballgame at 5:03 in the first half. NM State finished the half strong scoring six of the final eight points of the half, with a layup from Mullings, a jumper from Ross-Miller and a put-back lay-in from Bhullar. The Aggies, who were led by Aronis’ 10 points, finished the half leading 45-36.
NM State was outrebounded in the first half (19-17) but shot the ball really well, finishing with a 65.5 field goal percentage. The Aggies went 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc with Aronis making three of the first half treys.
The Aggies came out and started the second half using a 12-7 run to take a 57-43 lead. NM State took its largest lead of the game at 65-47 when Nephawe hit a jump shot for his 15th point of the game with 12:40 left to play. Turnovers plagued the Aggies and Seattle U was able to pull back to within 10 at 74-64 with 7:07 in the second half.
NM State extended its lead using an 8-3 run to go up 82-67 with 4:22 left to play while Nephawe scored his 22nd point of the game on a dunk, capping off the run. Ross-Miller would score the 92nd point of the night for the Aggies when he hit a 3-pointer from the middle of the floor with 47 seconds remaining. Seattle U put in one more basket with 39 seconds remaining making it a 92-77 game and the Aggies would go on to pick up win No. 18 of the season.
The Aggies return home and will attempt to get revenge on Kansas City, Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. (MT). The game will produced for TV by the AggieVision Production team and will also be on the radio with “Voice of the Aggies” Jack Nixon giving the play-by-play action.