BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Junior Tshilidzi Nephawe and sophomore Sim Bhullar each tallied a double-double to lead the New Mexico State men’s basketball team to a 72-57 victory over Bakersfield, Saturday, March 1 in Bakersfield, Calif.
Nephawe posted a game-high 15 points to go along with a career-high 16 rebounds, while Bhullar marked 13 points, 12 rebounds and a team-high five assists to help the Aggies moved to 22-9 on the season and 11-4 in Western Athletic Conference play. Bakersfield falls to 12-17 overall and 5-10 in league play with NM State clinching at least the No. 2 spot in the WAC Tournament.
“It was a very good effort by the guys, especially by our two big-men as the put in 38 and 40 minutes each,” said head coach Marvin Menzies. “There were so many things that all the guys did, but I couldn’t believe our bigs finished with the minutes they did. Travon Landry was solid for us tonight and it’s great because he is willing and able to learn.”
Freshman guard Travon Landry finished the evening playing a career-high 29 minutes finishing with a career-high 12 points. Bhullar, who played 38 minutes against the Roadrunners, broke the single-season record for blocked shots when he swatted a ball away with 18:37 on the clock in the first half. He held the previous record of 85 blocks in a season last year, and now has 89 blocks this year.
The Aggies as a team shot 51 percent on the evening and held Bakersfield to 31.8 percent from the field. Junior guard Daniel Mullings scored 14 points, while junior guard DK Eldridge added 12.
Bakersfield started the game on an 8-2 run, but a Mullings to Bhullar alley-hoop cut the lead in half at 8-4 with 14:42 on the clock in the first half. Nephawe worked hard for a layup and gets fouled in the process at 12:16 mark. He made the free throw giving the Aggies their first lead at 9-8. NM State took a 22-10 lead with 5:02 on the clock after going on a 20-2 scoring run. The Aggies would eventually head into the locker room with 33-20 lead.
The NM State defense was stellar in the first half holding the ‘Runners to a 25 percent shooting percentage while blocking nine Bakersfield shots.
The Aggies went up by as many as 18 after Nephawe tipped the ball in at the 14:51 mark in the second half. They continued to play tough defense and it showed when Mullings got a steal and took the ball down the court for a high-flying dunk to give his team a 54-38 lead with 10:58 left to play. Another steal by Mulling led to another Mullings-to-Bhullar lob just 20 seconds later.
Landry hit two free throws with 8:09 left to put NM State up by 18 again and the Aggies would hold on to win by 15 at 72-57.
The Aggies wrap up the regular season when they take on Grand Canyon on ‘Senior Night,’ Thursday, March 6 with tip-off set for 7 p.m. (MT). The AggieVision Production team will produce the game for television while fans should check with their cable or satellite provider for show times. ‘Voice of the Aggies’ Jack Nixon is scheduled to provide play-by-play action for radio on KGRT 103.9 FM in Las Cruces.