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El Paso, TX (KTSM/CNN) — Daniel Mullings scored 26 points and went to the line 13 times, as NM State beat UTEP, 86-73, on Friday at the Pan American Center. The game featured a combined 53 fouls and 81 free throws and took nearly two and a half hours to complete.
The Aggies (3-1) shot 72 percent in the second half and 56.8 percent for the game. They also outrebounded the Miners (1-1) 37-23. NMSU made 32-of-47 foul shots, including 21-of-30 in the second half. UTEP finished 23-of-34 at the stripe.
“They thoroughly beat us on the boards, they were able to get themselves to the line 47 times which is a tribute to their offense, and they had a real ability to take it by us,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.
The tone was set early as UTEP’s John Bohannon, McKenzie Moore and Matt Willms all picked up two fouls in the first six minutes.
“I thought the game was established in the first [10 minutes] with seven fouls which put them in the one and one,” Floyd said. “They were able to utilize that and just drove us and took it by us. I think we were worried about fouling. They just did a great job. Their guards were good in transition and their big guys whipped us on the glass. This was a good Aggie team. We knew that coming over here and we just didn’t have any answers for them.”
The Miners led just once, at 4-3 in the first three minutes. They hung around the entire second half and actually tied the game at 37 in the first minute of the second half. It was a five-point game (56-51) with under 10 minutes remaining before things started to slip away.
The Aggies went on a 9-2 run to take their first double-digit lead (65-53) with 7:54 to play. UTEP couldn’t get closer than nine the rest of the way as the lead reached as many as 18 points.
NMSU made 13-of-18 shots in the second half. Mullings scored 15 points after halftime, connecting on 4-of-5 field goals and 7-of-11 free throws.
“What you take away from it was that you’re pitiful defensively,” Floyd said. “It’s one thing guarding guys that you’re more athletic than, it’s another thing that you don’t have the principles to stay between your guy and the basket. I’ve never had a team that left the basket that exposed all night long. That’s what I take from it.”
Sim Bhullar collected 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks for the Aggies, playing 23 minutes before fouling out. UTEP’s Moore also fouled out. Three Miners (Justin Crosgile, Cedrick Lang, Willms) ended the game with four fouls. A combined six players on both sides ended the night with three fouls.
Tshilidzi Nephawe had a near double-double for NMSU with nine points and 12 rebounds. Vince Hunter scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half for UTEP, while Julian Washburn (15 points) and Moore (12) also scored in double figures.
The Miners have some work to do, but it’s only Nov. 15. They’ll be right back at it on Sunday at 3 p.m. versus West Alabama in a Battle 4 Atlantis home game.
“It’s a shame we have to play in 24 hours,” Floyd said. “We need about six weeks of practice. I think we thought we were going to just get in a horse game and go outscore them and it was going to be fun.
“We shot 46 percent from the floor. You’d like to think maybe you go win a ball game if you’ve got some kind of identity. We have no identity. We don’t defend, I thought we played without poise, I thought offensively when we needed to settle down and go get a basket we just dribbled it in there and handed it to them.”
The rematch between the Miners and the Aggies is set for next Saturday (Nov. 23) at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
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