New Mexico State 85, San Jose State 78
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Justin Hawkins scored 20 points and had seven rebounds and New Mexico State maintained a share of the Western Athletic Conference lead with an 85-78 win over San Jose State on Saturday night.
Shaun Davis added a season-high 17 points for the Aggies (17-4, 7-1 WAC) while Tyrone Nelson had 15 points and five rebounds.
Carlton Spencer scored 22 points and tied a school record with six steals for San Jose State (2-18, 1-7 WAC). The Spartans, who haven’t beaten New Mexico State since a 74-60 win on Jan. 8, 1996, were outrebounded 42-33 and trailed by as much as 20 points in the second half after leading early in the game.
The Aggies, just 6-24 two years ago, continued their impressive turnaround under second-year coach Reggie Theus and remained tied with No. 18 Nevada for first place in the WAC. New Mexico State defeated the Wolfpack 80-73 on Jan. 20. The two schools don’t play again until the regular season finale in Reno on March 4.
The Aggies weren’t at their best Saturday but had no trouble handling the Spartans, losers of 12 of 13. San Jose State made a late run at New Mexico State, pulling within 83-78 on a Spencer free throw with 10 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get any closer.
New Mexico State had won the four previous meetings between the two schools, including a 74-68 victory in Las Cruces on Jan. 6 in which the Aggies rallied from nine points down in the second half.
New Mexico State again struggled against the Spartans but this time the Aggies—first in the WAC in scoring and second in shooting—didn’t wait until the second half before making their charge.
After missing 13 of its first 20 shots and trailing 15-10 midway through the first half, New Mexico State broke out its offensive slump and took control of the game.
Fred Peete’s 3-pointer with 6:55 remaining gave the Aggies their first lead of the game and New Mexico State went 7 of 10 from the free throw line during a decisive 20-4 run to turn things around. Hawkins had 10 of his points during the stretch, including an emphatic dunk just before the buzzer to give the Aggies a 32-22 halftime lead.
The Aggies later built a 51-31 lead in the second half on Martin Iti’s free throw with 14:58 remaining before holding on for their 16th win in 17 games.