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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — New Mexico State University center Sim Bhullar posted his fourth straight double-double as the No. 2-seeded NMSU men’s basketball team defeated the seventh- seeded Seattle U Redhawks 70-68 in the Orleans Arena Thursday.
Bhullar scored a season-high 24 points while pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds in one of the biggest performances of his career. Bhullar, a sophomore, added five blocked shots and three assists as the Aggies advanced to tonight’s Western Athletic Conference tournament semifinals.
The Aggies pummeled the Redhawks’ defense in two regular season meetings, scoring nearly 100 points in both of those two games, but the Redhawks were up the challenge Thursday.
“I am happy that we are still playing and I thought Seattle played really well and they gave it their all,” Aggie head coach Marvin Menzies said afterward. “You have to give credit to their team because they did a fantastic job and they were really prepared for us. Our guys showed heart in the second half and hitting free throws could be the difference of the game.”
The Aggies advance to face No. 6 Bakersfield at 9:30 p.m. in tonight’s WAC semifinal round. The WAC championship game is Saturday.
Junior guard DK Eldridge added 19 points going 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
The Aggies as a team came up big, going 25 of 29 from the free throw line (86.2 percent) with Daniel Mullings hitting 6 of 6 and Renaldo Dixon going 4 of 4 at the stripe.
Seattle U led in the first half, due in part to 16 NMSU turnovers. NMSU took an early 12-10 lead Thursday, but Seattle U found some momentum and went on a 10-4 run to take a 22-14 lead.
The Aggies trailed by six with 1:06 left in the half but scored four straight points, which included a dish-and-dunk from Dixon to Bhullar to make it 33-31 heading into the locker room.
Seattle aU’s defense in the first half held Mullings scoreless, only the second time this season that happened.
The Aggies fell behind by as many as six at 45-39 early in the second half but went on an 11-4 run over 8:43 to take a 46-45 lead.
The Aggies held the momentum picked up their biggest lead of the game at 61-52 with just over three minutes left in the contest.
The Redhawks hung around and pulled to within one with Seattle’s Isiah Umipig draining a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining.