OREM, Utah – The New Mexico State men’s basketball team fell 66-61 to Utah Valley, Thursday, Feb. 27, in Orem, Utah as sophomore center Sim Bhullar and junior guard Daniel Mullings each posted a double-double. NM State falls to 21-9 overall and 10-4 in Western Athletic Conference play and the Wolverines move into first place in the league standings at 11-3, while moving to 17-10 on the season.
Bhullar posted 10 points while grabbing a season-high 14 rebounds and adding six blocks. Mullings scored a team-high 19 points as he added 10 rebounds to go along with five assists and two steals. Junior DK Eldridge also scored in double-figures with 10 points, while he had the best night of all Aggies from the charity stripe hitting 5-of-6 free throws. NM State struggled as a team from the free throw line hitting 15-of-30, which could have been the difference of the game as UVU hit 24-of-30 free shots.
“I thought we played well defensively, but when you miss 15 free throws it’s really hard to win games on the road,” said head coach Marvin Menzies. “It was a very emotional game and now we have to move forward and get ready for Bakersfield.”
Both teams shot 37.5 percent from the field but the Aggies were out-rebounded by UVU 66-61. The Aggies were 4-of-15 from behind the 3-point arc and did well defensively holding UVU to 2-for-12 from 3-point range.
The Aggies fell behind 13-4 early in the game but used a 13-4 scoring rally, which was capped off by a Mullings lay-up and Aronis 3-pointer, to tie the game at 17-17 with 8:59 left in the half. NM State took its first lead of the game at 19-17 when Mullings buried two free throws with 8:23 on the clock. The Aggies extended their lead to as many as four at 24-20 when DK Eldridge hit two shots from the charity stripe with 2:47 left in the half. Utah Valley went on a 4-1 run to close the half with the Aggies lead 25-24.
Mullings led the way for NM State in the first half with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, while Bhullar pulled down 10 rebounds and posted three blocks in the half. NM State was only 6-of-14 from the free throw line but held the Wolverines to 0-for-6 shooting from behind the 3-point arc.
Utah Valley jumped out to a 32-29 lead to start the second half but NM State fought back and used a 14-7 run that was finished off with Mullings missing a lay-up but getting his own rebound to put the ball back in giving the Aggies a 43-39 lead with 7:25 left in the second half. NM State held a seven-point lead with 2:45 left to play when freshman Travon Landry hit a jump shot. Utah Valley then went on a 6-0 run to make it a 52-50 ballgame with 22 seconds on the clock. Mullings hit 1-of-2 free throws with 20 seconds left but Utah Valley was able to get a questionable foul called to go to the free throw line for three shots with four seconds remaining. The Wolverine shooter (Keawe Enos) hit all three charity shots to tie the game at 53-53 and send the game into overtime.
The Aggies shot 39.1 percent from the field in the second half and hit only 1-of-6 3-point attempts as UVU was 40.9 percent from the field. NM State out-rebounded the Wolverines 17-13 in the second half.
It seemed like overtime was decided by the fouls that were called on the Aggies and the ones that were not called on Utah Valley as NM State was called for five fouls compared to zero fouls called on UVU. The Aggies did not shoot a single free throw in overtime but Utah Valley hit 9-of-10 free throw shots. The Wolverines scored the first two points of overtime on free throws to take a 55-53 lead but Eldridge hit a 3-pointer to take a 56-55 lead with 3:07 on the clock. NM State was never able to regain the lead after that and ended up falling 66-61.
NM State heads to Bakersfield, Calif. to take on the Bakersfield Roadrunners, Saturday, March 1 at 8 p.m. (MT). The game will be aired over the radio with ‘Voice of the Aggies’ Jack Nixon giving the play-by-play on KGRT 103.9 FM in Las Cruces.