Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Rice is vital to Aggies’ second-half rise in the 77-71 win over UTEP

Press release from NM State Athletics

Last season the opportunity was denied to tangle with their longtime rivals in the frontier.

After a strong second half, Rice scored 12 of his team-strong 15 points in the last 21 minutes of play and an important 21-9 NM state run over a period of almost six minutes in the crucial frame proved the difference as the Aggies a 77-71 win stopped over UTEP at the Pan American Center.

FIRST HALF• Two newcomers to Battle of I-10 helped the Aggies take the lead 7-2. Teddy Allen’s put-back floater in the lane opened the scoring before Donnie Tillman hit a powerful one-handed slam home. Jabari Rice managed a fast-break triple to end the Aggies’ early scoring round.• Against the strong start of the Aggies, UTEP hit the home team with an 8-0 run, which ended with a 5-24 layup by Jamal Bieniemy to give the guests an 8-7 lead.• From there the Aggies took the momentum away for the rest of the frame. Leading a 12-5 NM state surge was Yuat Alok, mated on a driving layup before hitting a corner triple that broke a 12-12 deadlock.• Twice at Tillman’s foul line extended the hosts’ lead to 19:12, 10:52 minutes from time.• NM State’s lead rose to double digits before the opening stanza ended. Threatening to run away with things, NM State received consecutive free throws from Marchelus Avery to increase their lead to 12, 28-16, with 5:24 from halftime horn.• However, UTEP was not ready to let their longtime rivals run away with things. The Miners finished halfway with a 14-7 run, largely because they spent a lot of time on the free throw line. Seven of the miners’ points during this climb were from the charity streak when Bieniemy swabbed three while Souley Boum and Tydus Verhoeven swung a pair each.• Half of the last 10 points in Aggies’ verse were also from free throws, with Virshon Cotton streaking a pair with eight seconds remaining to give NM State a 35:30 lead at break.

SECOND HALF• After finishing with just three points in the first 20 minutes of play, Rice came alive for the Aggies in the last 20 minutes. Seven of the Aggies’ first nine points in the final frame came from the hands of the Houston, Texas product when NM State reduced its lead to a double-digit 43-33 at 5:00 p.m.• UTEP has not yet let things get out of hand and has kept things tight with its own insult. Twice, after the Aggies increased their lead to 10 or more, UTEP reduced it to seven. The last of these events happened when Jamari Sibley converted a layup to do things 49-42 with 13:27 remainder.• In an attempt to leave their Texan enemies in the dust, NM State launched a large-scale assault on the miners from a great distance. With a 21-9 run that spanned the next 5:49, Tillman, like Allen, spun a pair of triples, which helped increase the Aggies’ lead to 70-51 with 7:38 remaining.• Maybe put on cruise control a little too early, NM State UTEP finished the game with a 20-7 run through the last 6:19. It didn’t matter, however, as the Aggies’ lead proved too great for the miners to overcome.

MAIN PERFORMER / REMARKABLE STATISTICS• Another even performance led the Aggies to victory. Twelve of Rice’s team-high 15 points came in the second half, while Allen and Alok scored 13 chips each. Alok was particularly efficient from the field and went 6v8 to win.• Tillman turned a 12-point outing on 4-of-7 to round out NM State’s four double-digit goalscorers.• Johnny McCants was his usual all-rounder for the Aggies, finishing with six points, nine rebounds at clearance, two assists and one shot blocked.• In his first game of the season, Boum scored the top 23 points for the Miners, who suffered their first setback of the season.• The latest edition of the Battle of I-10 featured 52 combined free throws, with NM State hitting 17 of 30 on the stripe. UTEP converted 10 of its 19 attempts from this distance.• NM State has extended its winning streak over UTEP to two games since December 3, 2019, and head coach Chris Jans is now 6-1 against UTEP in his tenure as chief executive of the Aggies.• With the win, NM State has won nine of its last 10 and 14 of its last 16 games against UTEP.• NM State are 2-0 for the third time in Jans’ tenure. The Aggies also won their first two games of the 2020-21 and 2018-19 seasons.

NEXT COMES• For the first time this season, NM State will take its show to the streets. The Aggies are traveling to South Carolina to attend the Myrtle Beach Invitational 2021 next week. NM State, which is guaranteed to play three games at the HTC Center in Conway, SC, opens its three-game list with a showdown against A-10 enemy Davidson. The tip for the second all-time meeting between the Aggies and Wildcats is scheduled for Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. MT.

Comments are closed.