EDINBURG, Texas – The New Mexico State men’s basketball team spread the ball around offensively and defeated the Texas-Pan American Broncs, 78-61, in Edinburg, Texas, Thursday night. The Aggies moved to 21-8 on the year and 10-3 in Western Athletic Conference play, while UTPA falls to 8-20 overall and 4-9 in league action.
Junior guard Daniel Mullings scored a team-high 18 points shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 7-of-9 from the free throw line. Sophomore center Sim Bhullar was too much for the Broncs in the middle as he added 15 points going 7-of-8 from the field and the Aggies as a team posted 36 points in the paint.
NM State finished the game shooting 68 percent as a team, after shooting 80 percent in the second half. The Aggies dished out 18 assists with Mullings leading that category dropping six dimes, while junior KC Ross-Miller added five assists.
“It was a fantastic offensive display in the second half and the guys got great looks at the basket,” said head coach Marvin Menzies. “Sim [Bhullar] was a little more aggressive in the second half and that led to easy buckets. Sometimes the offense will win games for you, but at the end of the day if we want to continue to be successful, the defense needs to play well.”
Junior forward Tshilidzi Nephawe added 12 points and senior forward Renaldo Dixon put in 10 points hitting 5-of-6 shot attempts. The Aggies out-rebounded the Broncs by a 31-19 margin and easily out-blocked UTPA 8-1. Mullings led the Crimson and White on the boards with seven, while Bhullar, Nephawe and DK Eldridge pulled down five boards each. Bhullar led the Aggie defense with three blocks.
The Aggies were the first team to 10 points, as Mullings hit two free throws with 14:05 on the clock in the first half giving his team a 10-6 lead. NM State held the momentum and Nephawe boosted that momentum with a put-back layup and free throw to give NM State a 21-16 advantage. The Aggies used that boost and scored five straight points to take a 10-point lead at 26-16 with 6:59 in the half.
UTPA, although, took the momentum away from the Aggies and went on a 15-5 run with approximately five minutes of play to pull to within three points at 31-29. After the final media timeout of the half, UTPA tied the game at 31-31 on a layup and with :41 seconds remaining in the half, NM State trailed for the first time at 33-31 when the Broncs hit two shots from the free throw line. The Aggies did, however, tie the game up heading into the locker room when Mullings tossed the ball to Bhullar for a nice alley-hoop dunk.
The Aggie finished the half shooting 57 percent from the field and out-rebounded UTPA 17-13. Four different Aggies tallied at least six points with Dixon leading the way with eight points. Mullings pulled down a first half-high five rebounds.
NM State came out and scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 40-33 lead. The Aggie lead was extended to 10 points again at 45-35, when Eldridge hit 1-of-2 free throws with 14:46 on the clock in the second half. The Aggies never trailed again and took their largest lead of the game at 64-48 after two free throws by Mullings. Aronis hit a 3-pointer with 3:35 left in the game giving the Aggies a 71-54 lead before closing out the game to win 78-61.
The Aggies have a week off before heading to Orem, Utah to take on WAC leader Utah Valley on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. (MT). That game will air on the radio with ‘Voice of the Aggies’ Jack Nixon giving the play-by-play action on KGRT 103.9 FM in Las Cruces.