New Mexico St. 88, Boise St. 69
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP)—Elijah Ingram scored 11 of his season high 25 points in the last 92 seconds of the first half and New Mexico State advanced to the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament with an 88-69 win over Boise State on Friday night.
New Mexico State (24-8) will play Utah State (23-10) Saturday with the winner getting the automatic NCAA tournament bid. Utah State upset No. 10 Nevada, 79-77. Nevada (28-4), the regular season league champion, is expected to get an at-large bid.
Reggie Larry and Eric Lane each scored 17 points and Coby Karl had 14 for Boise State (17-14).
Ingram, a streak shooter who missed 13 of 17 shots last week in a loss at Nevada, took over the Aggies’ offense just as it appeared to be stalling. Karl and Lane hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Broncos within 32-30 with 2:15 left in the first half.
It was all Ingram the rest of the half.
He hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and blew a kiss to the crowd as he headed back up the court. He followed with a three-point play, then hit another high-floating 3-pointer. Reggie Larry momentarily slowed down Ingram’s run with a basket, but Ingram finished his streak with a 5-footer in the lane that just beat the buzzer for a 43-32 NMSU lead.
Ingram slowed down in the second half and the Aggies’ big men took over. Seven-footer Martin Iti, 6-9 Tyrone Nelson and 6-7 Justin Hawkins dominated the Broncos inside as the Aggies had a 46-24 edge in rebounding.
A dunk by Iti on one of the Aggies’ 15 offensive rebounds, made it 49-34 three minutes into the second half and the lead grew to 58-41 when Ingram connected on his final 3-pointer of the night with 14:04 remaining.
Boise State would get no closer than 10 points—65-55 with 8:17 left—and the only drama left was when Karl knocked Nelson to the court as Nelson went in for a layup with 6:12 left and the Aggies up 71-56.
Karl was called for an intentional foul and New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus was hit with a technical. Theus, the former NBA All-Star, left the bench and rushed to where Karl and Nelson collided.
Here too the Aggies got the better of the Broncos. Karl and Nelson both hit their free throws off the intentional and technical foul calls, but on NMSU’s ensuing possession, Ted Knauber hit a 3-pointer.
After the game Karl and Nelson shook hands and hugged.
Ingram and Knauber combined to hit 9 of 11 3s. Ingram had five and Knauber four. Knauber finished with 12 points, Hawkins scored 17 and Nelson 10.
The 24 wins is the most for New Mexico State since 1995, when they finished 25-10.