HONOLULU – The New Mexico State men’s basketball team fell 70-64 to Western Michigan in the season-opener, Friday, Nov. 8, on day one of the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Rainbow Classic. The Aggies start the year 0-1 and Western Michigan moves to 1-0.
The difference in the game could have been NM State’s 62.5 shooting percentage from the free throw line, including a big miss from the charity stripe in the last minute of play, and WMU’s efficiency from the 3-point arc, going 10-of-25 (40%) to score 30 of its 70 points. The Aggies did, however, have more points in the paint (28-16), more points off turnovers (13-4), more second-chance points (26-13) and more points from the bench (18-12).
“We made only one 3-pointer in 11 attempts and you won’t win many games doing that,” head coach Marvin Menzies said. “We had great looks at the basket and the shots just didn’t go down. We knew coming into the game that if we could control the 3-point line we would be in good shape.”
Redshirt junior Tshilidzi Nephawe tallied a career-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting but faltered at the line going only 2-of-7. He also pulled down eight boards on the night with NM State out-rebounding Western Michigan 47-30.
Junior Remi Barry was the only other Aggie with double-digit scoring figures as he tallied 10 points going 3-of-8 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. He finished the night with six boards, five of them coming on the offensive side of the court.
The Aggies trailed by as many as five early in the first half at 13-8, but a nice scoring run by NM State that was topped off by a Nephawe 10-foot jumper tied the game at 13-13. The game would be tied twice more at 15 and 17 before the Aggies eventually took a 24-23 lead when Travon Landry hit a 3-pointer from the corner. It was NM State’s first lead of the game since 2-0. Western Michigan took advantage of an 11-4 scoring run to end the half, however, as NM State trailed heading into the locker room, 32-28. The Aggies outrebounded the Broncos by 10 in the first half but WMU hit four 3-pointers compared to NM State’s one.
The Broncos’ biggest lead of the night came right after halftime when they scored the first five points of the half to take a 37-28 lead. Nephawe tallied only two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half as his team shot 54 percent from the free throw line during that time span. NM State fought back and pulled to within two points at 65-63 when Barry hit two free throws with 22 seconds left on the clock. After a couple of free throws by the Broncos, Nephawe was fouled intentionally, which gave the Aggies an opportunity to gain some ground. Nephawe hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it a 67-64 game but that is as close as the Aggies would get. NM State called a timeout with two seconds remaining, but it did not have one, so a technical foul was called giving the Broncos two free throws to go along with another free throw attempt because of a foul called on the Aggies.
“This was a great opportunity to pick up a quality win against a quality team, so it’s disappointing we couldn’t pick up the win,” Menzies said.
NM State faces Tennessee State Saturday, Nov. 9, at 8 p.m. (MT) in the Stan Sheriff Center with radio coverage on KGRT 103.9 FM as the ‘Voice of the Aggies,’ Jack Nixon, will be giving the play-by-play action. Score updates will be available on Twitter @NMStateAggies.