New Mexico St. 77, Louisiana Tech 70
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP)—Tyrone Nelson scored a season-high 26 points, six of them in a row in an early second half run, as New Mexico State beat Louisiana Tech 77-70 in the quarterfinal round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament Thursday night.
The No. 2 seeded Aggies (23-8) outscored the Bulldogs 11-1 in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half to break it open. The Aggies led 70-51 with 4:09 left before Tech closed the gap with some late 3-pointers by guard Trey McDowell.
The 23 wins is the most for New Mexico State since the 1998-99 season, when the Aggies lost to Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That was also the last time the Aggies made the tournament.
Despite the win, New Mexico State remains a bubble team heading into Friday’s WAC semifinals against Boise State (17-13).
Nelson hit a jumper in the lane, added a layup and connected from 14 feet early in the second half run. Hatila Passos hit a free throw and 7-footer Martin Iti turned a Louisiana Tech turnover into a dunk to put the Aggies up 51-33 with 15:48 left.
Louisiana Tech (10-20) couldn’t slow down the Aggies’ uptempo, above-the-rim offense and the seventh-seeded Bulldogs couldn’t handle New Mexico State’s defensive pressure during that decisive stretch.
McDowell led the Bulldogs with 24 points and hit 6 of 12 3-pointers. He had seven points in a 13-5 run by the Bulldogs that trimmed the Aggies’ lead to 56-46 with 9:30 left.
Justin Hawkins scored 14 for NMSU, 13 of them in the first half when the Aggies hit 14 of 25 shots for a 40-32 lead at the break.