Hawkins struggles but leads Aggies over Lobos 71-62
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP)—Justin Hawkins recovered from an 0-for-5 first-half shooting effort, scoring 12 points, and freshman Wendell McKines had 15 rebounds as New Mexico State beat New Mexico 71-62 on Tuesday night.
The Aggies (4-6) blew a 21-point lead in the second half of a 75-72 loss to visiting North Texas last weekend, but they raced ahead shortly after halftime in this one, then made sure they stayed there.
With Hawkins struggling to a 3-of-14 shooting performance from the floor, his teammates picked things up.
Hatila Passos was a force inside, scoring 12 points, Chris Cole added 11 and Jonathan Gibson 10, including a 3-pointer and a dunk during an 11-5 burst that stretched New Mexico State’s lead to 57-44 with 5:11 remaining.
The Lobos (7-2) cut it to 67-60 on a three-point play by Jamaal Smith with 39.1 seconds to go, but New Mexico made all 12 of its free throws in the final 2:14 to seal it up. Hawkins was 6-for-6 from the line in that stretch.
Chad Toppert led the Lobos with 20 points, hitting 6-of-7 from 3-point range, and Smith scored 17. New Mexico standout J.R. Giddens was held to four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
New Mexico State used a 44-28 rebounding advantage to control the interior and relied on a backcourt press to disrupt New Mexico’s guards, nullifying the Lobos’ dangerous transition game.
The Lobos shot 38 percent from the field, hitting 21-of-55.
This was the 199th game in the series, which dates to the 1904-05 season. New Mexico leads 105-94, and the Aggies get another chance to close the gap when the teams meet again in Albuquerque on Dec. 19.
It also was the first glimpse at the Rio Grande Rivalry for the first-year coaches in the series—New Mexico’s Steve Alford and New Mexico State’s Marvin Menzies.
Last weekend, in an 85-77 loss at Mississippi, Giddens missed all six of his attempts, then went 0-for-2 in the first half against NMSU. He finally broke through on a 14-foot jumper to open the second half.
But that was New Mexico’s only bucket as the Aggies started with an 8-2 burst, capped by Hawkins’ first basket on a dunk when the Lobos left him open under the hoop.
It put New Mexico State up 36-28 and even when the Lobos cut it to 39-36 after Toppert hit two 3-pointers, the Aggies fired it up again, scoring the next seven points for a 46-36 lead with 9:43 to go.