LAS VEGAS (March 16)-The New Mexico State men's basketball team defeated UT Arlington, 64-55, to win its second consecutive WAC Tournament Championship. The Aggies (24-10) have won three WAC titles in four years and earned their 20th NCAA Tournament berth. NM State is the first team to win back-to-back WAC Tournament Championships since Hawai'i in the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
Sophomore guard Daniel Mullings and freshman center Sim Bhullar led the Aggies with 16 points each. Bhullar recorded his second consecutive double-double and the third of his career with 15 rebounds along with five blocked shots. Bhullar was named the WAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, and he is the first freshman since BYU's Shawn Bradley earned the award in 1991. Mullings was also named to the WAC All-Tournament Team.
Senior forward Bandja Sy was also in double-figures with 10 points on a 3-of-4 shooting performance from the 3-point line. The Aggies shot 42.6 percent from the field (20-of-47).
At halftime, the Aggies had a 32-30 lead after finishing the half with five unanswered points. Mullings and Bhullar both had 10 points at the break. Bhullar also had 10 rebounds.
The Aggies started the game with a good defensive effort and held UT Arlington to a 0-of-5 shooting performance. NM State had a quick 7-1 lead at 15:39 on a three-point play from Bhullar.
After trading baskets for three minutes, the Mavericks used a 10-2 run to take a 19-15 lead at the midway point of the half. There were eight lead changes and five ties in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Aggies started the second half with a 5-0 run for a 37-30 lead at 17:55 to force UT Arlington to take a timeout. NM State extended the rally to 14-4 for its first double-digit lead of the game, 46-34, at 13:47.
NM State went on to take a 13-point advantage, 51-38, when Sy hit a 3-pointer with 11:35 remaining. The Mavericks responded with a 9-0 run to cut the Aggies' lead to four, 51-47, at 7:57.
UT Arlington continued to chip away at the Aggie lead and cut it to three, 52-49, with 6:47 to play. The Mavericks forced the Aggies to make free throws and didn't allow a field goal for over 10 minutes. NM State was 9-of-16 from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes.
When UT Arlington trimmed the lead to three points again, 56-53, sophomore guard Terrel de Rouen hit a jumper at 1:24 to give NM State a 58-53 advantage. The Aggies sealed the win at the free-throw line with a 4-of-8 performance in the last minute of action.
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