Las Cruces, NM — The New Mexico State men’s basketball team used a 21-point advantage in the second half to pull away from Bethune-Cookman University, 79-56, Monday, Nov. 25 inside the Pan American Center.
The Aggies have now won six-straight games after losing their season opener and improve to 6-1 on the season. NM State also picked up its 14th-consecutive home win dating back to last season. The Wildcats, meanwhile, fall to 2-4 on the season.
The Aggies outscored BCU 47-26 in the second half to turn what was only a two-point lead at the half, 32-30, into a blowout win in front of the home crowd.
NM State finished the night shooting 56 percent from the field (28-of-50) while holding the Wildcats to 45.3 percent. The Aggies also shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range (6-of-14) and 77.3 percent from the free-throw line (17-of-22) while outrebounding BCU 34-22.
Redshirt junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe led the Aggies tying a career-high of 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting. The seven field goals were also a career-high for Nephawe. He also had 18 points during the Aggies season opener against Western Michigan. Nephawe also tied for the team-high in rebounds with nine, falling one rebound short of a double-double.
Junior guards Daniel Mullings and DK Eldridge each added 13 points for the Aggies while senior forward Renaldo Dixon put in 10 points while also tying Nephawe with nine rebounds to lead NM State. Like Nephawe, Dixon fell one rebound short of a double-double.
It was a sloppy start to the game as each team had four turnovers within the first eight minutes. BCU made the first field goal of the night, a 3-pointer by guard Mikel Trapp. The Aggies, however, scored the next eight points with Eldridge marking the first five and Nephawe adding a couple in the paint.
But again, NM State turnovers kept the Wildcats close. BCU would tie the game at nine before a couple of buckets inside the paint by Dixon gave NM State a four-point lead with 11:28 left in the half.
The Wildcats would not flinch, however, as once again they would pull even with the Aggies at 17 with 7:35 left in the half.
BCU, who finished the half by going 4-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc, would drain two-consecutive 3-pointers late in the half to take a 27-25 lead. The same stretch saw Nephawe score six-straight points for NM State, the final two tying the game at 27 with under two minutes left in the half.
Aggie center Sim Bhullar’s first points of the game gave NM State a two-point lead with 50 seconds left in the half, but Wildcat guard Malik Jackson came right back with another BCU three to give the Wildcats a one-point lead with 18.3 seconds left. The Aggies would score the final points of the half, however, as freshman guard Travon Landry hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to give NM State a 32-30 halftime lead.
The Aggies shot 47.8 percent from the field in the first half (11-of-23) to the Wildcats’ 54.2 percent (13-of-24). NM State would only go 2-of-8 from beyond the arc while BCU shot 80 percent, but the Aggies did shoot well from the charity stripe, finishing at 80 percent in the first half on 8-of-10 shooting. Both teams had trouble holding on to the ball as NM State had eight turnovers in the half while the Wildcats were right behind with seven turnovers.
The Aggies were led by Nephawe who finished with nine points and a couple of rebounds in the first half. Eldridge was right behind with eight points while Dixon had six points and led NM State with five rebounds in the half.
After BCU tied the game with the first bucket of the second half, The Aggies proceeded to go on a 10-0 run to open up the game. The run was highlighted by a Bhullar and-one on a slam dunk and a 3-pointer by Mullings. The run was punctuated by a shot in the paint by Eldridge to give NM State a 10-point lead with 16:10 left in the game.
Nephawe started making his presence felt in the lane on both sides of the court, picking up defensive and offensive rebounds and marking six points in the paint. A 3-pointer by Eldridge with just over 11 minutes left in the contest gave the Aggies a 20-point lead.
For the first time in a couple of games NM State began draining its threes as they finished the second half by sinking 4-of-6 threes in the half. A three by Aggie senior guard Kevin Aronis gave NM State an insurmountable 63-42 lead with nine minutes left in the game.
Mullings would proceed to take over the latter portion of the game, scoring six-straight points for the Aggies and then dishing a no-look pass for a Dixon dunk that gave NM State a 72-49 lead with under five minutes remaining in the contest. From there the Aggies cruised to the 23-point victory.
NM State will now try to increase its home-winning streak to 15 on Wednesday, Nov. 27, as it hosts Prairie View A&M. The game is set to start at 7 p.m. (MT) inside the Pan American Center.