MEN'S BASKETBALL BATTLES NEW MEXICO STATE TO THE FINISH, BUT FALLS IN THE END
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Sacramento State outscored New Mexico State in the second half, 40-38, but could not overcome a poor shooting first half as the Aggies defeated the Hornets, 76-65, in a non-conference men’s basketball game Thursday evening at the Pan American Center. The two teams were playing for the first time ever.
After shooting just 26.5 percent (9-34) from the field in the first half, the Hornets caught fire in the second half, shooting 57.1 percent (16-28) and cutting New Mexico State’s lead to eight points (70-62) with 1:05 to play. However, New Mexico State scored the next four points to squash the Hornet rally and eventually win by an 11-point spread.
Sacramento State’s threesome of junior Justin Eller (team-high 18 points and seven rebounds), junior Antonio Flaggs (16 points) and senior Randy Adams (career-high 12 points to go along with six rebounds) combined to score 46 of the Hornets’ 65 points.
With the loss, Sacramento State dropped to 1-8 overall this season, and 0-6 on the road. Tonight’s contest completed a stretch in which the Hornets have played five games in 11 days. New Mexico State improved to 3-4 overall, including 3-0 on its home floor. The Aggies just finished a three-game road trip and were making their first appearance at home since a 90-66 defeat of Pepperdine on Nov. 21.
“Not that we are into moral victories, but I was happy the way we bounced back from the Utah Valley game,” Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. “I think tonight was a step in the right direction and we did a very nice job in limiting our turnovers (season-low seven miscues). We lost this game during the later stages of the first half when we couldn’t get anything going.”
After a jumper from Flaggs cut New Mexico State’s lead to three points (23-20) with 6:13 remaining in the first half, the Aggies went on a 15-5 run over the final 5:43 to take a 38-25 halftime lead. Sparking the run was the Aggies’ Robert Lumpkins who knocked down a three-pointer, and converted on a putback layup as the first half buzzer sounded.
New Mexico State then began the second half on a 13-6 run to take a game-high 20-point lead (51-31) with 13:52 remaining in the contest. However, Sacramento State immediately responded with a 14-4 run over the next 5:34 to close within 10 points (55-45) with 8:18 left. Eller scored the first nine and eventually 11 of the team’s 14 points during the run, and Flaggs added a three-pointer.
The Hornets and Aggies exchanged buckets during the final eight minutes of the contest, as Sacramento State got as close as eight points after Adams converted a layup with 1:05 to play. New Mexico State, however, immediately responded with a pair of free throws from Wendell McKines, and a dunk from McKines to put the game away.
Sacramento State finished the contest shooting 40.3 percent (25-62) from the field, 30.0 percent (6-20) from beyond the arc and 81.8 percent (9-11) from the free throw line. In addition, the Hornets were able to stay close with New Mexico State despite receiving just five points from the team’s leading scorer Loren Leath. Sacramento State committed just seven turnovers while scoring 13 points off 11 New Mexico State miscues. The Aggies controlled the glass, however, outrebounding the Hornets, 49-32, including 20 offensive rebounds which resulted in 18 second-chance points.
New Mexico State finished the game shooting 45.7 percent (32-70) from the field and 27.8 percent (5-18) from the three-point line. The Aggies were led by Troy Gillenwater (18 points, seven rebounds), McKines (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Jonathan Gibson (16 points, 6-of-8 from the field).
For the Hornets, Eller went 8-of-16 from the field, Adams 5-of-10, and Flaggs 5-of-8. Junior Mike Edwards finished with six points, five rebounds and two blocked shots, and junior Jared Stigall added six points on 2-of-2 shooting from beyond the arc. Stigall is now 9-of-17 from the three-point line this season. Adams’ 12 points surpassed his previous career high of nine, set earlier this year against Cal State Bakersfield.
Sacramento State will take a season-high eight days off before returning to action on Dec. 20 at Wyoming. The Hornets have just four non-conference games remaining on the schedule before jumping into Big Sky Conference play on Jan. 2 against defending league champions Portland State.