NMSU Prevails in Final Seconds Over UTEP in Battle of I-10, 72-69
In a back-and-forth contest that featured 10 lead changes and seven dies, NM State guard Sir'Jabari Rice nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to lift the Aggies over UTEP, 72-69, on Friday night.
In front of 6,392 fans at the Haskins Center, the UTEP men's basketball squad (4-3) didn't quit all night, but ultimately fell in the rivalry series. NM State coach Chris Jans, who returned to the bench following a stint with COVID-19, has now beaten UTEP seven of the eight matchups between the schools. The Aggies have won 12 of the last 13 matchups in the Battle of I-10.
“We kept fighting, kept competing” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We weren’t as efficient as we wanted to be, but the bottom line is we couldn’t get enough stops. They’ve got a good team. It was a good college basketball game. Both teams competed and got after it.”
Souley Boum (19 points), Jamari Sibley (18) and Jamal Bieniemy (11) all scored in double figures for the Miners on Friday.
The first half was largely a back-and-forth war. UTEP took an early 5-4 lead but they allowed NM State to go on a 9-0 run early into this game. The Miners chipped at the 15-5 lead NMSU held, thanks to a couple of 3-pointers by Boum. After a 7-1 run by the Miners, they cut the Aggie lead to four points, 20-16 with 6:44 left in the half. From that point, both teams traded leads, as UTEP was able to tie the game, 30-30 with less than 30 seconds left. However, the Aggies capitalized on a late basket and went into the half with a 32-30 lead.
UTEP led the rebounding margin, 20-16, at the break. The problem for the Miners came on offense. They shot a discouraging 39% from the floor and 33% from 3-point range in the first half. NM State shot 46% from the floor and hit 40% of their 3-point attempts.
To open up the second half, UTEP took the lead at the 12:57 mark, 41-39. However, they played the majority of the second half without forward Tydus Verhoeven, who dealt with foul trouble and back spasms all night.
NM State built a 14-3 run in the second half and led 59-52 with 5:37 left in the game. Then, the Miners found some life when Bieniemy hit a pair of clutch shots and lifted the Miners on a 7-0 run.
Both teams held leads in the final three minutes of the game. UTEP, who was down by as many as seven points with just over four minutes left, tied the game, 69-69, with the final possession going to NM State. Rice nailed the jumper with 1.6 seconds left and UTEP was unsuccessful in their attempt on a buzzer-tying shot.
The Miners won the rebounding margin (32-27) but allowed NMSU to shoot 57% FG, 40% 3-point FG and 62% from the charity stripe.
Up next: UTEP will face No. 8 Kansas on Tuesday, Dec. 7 on the road.
“Kansas is one of the best college basketball teams in the country,” Golding said. “They’ve got a hall of fame coach and NBA players It’s another opportunity for us to get better.”