ALBUQUERQUE — Even though New Mexico State jumped out to an early 18-point lead, Aggies coach Marvin Menzies knew it was going to take a big play at the end to secure a win against rival New Mexico.
That’s exactly what he got when Renaldo Dixon batted away a fastbreak layup attempt with 34 seconds remaining that would have tied it.
Instead, New Mexico State held on for a 67-61 victory over the Lobos.
“There’s got to be a player that does something special to win a game like this,” Menzies said.
The Aggies (9-5) had just seen a 61-54 lead with 1:03 left whither to 61-59 when Arthur Edwards snared an errant pass and headed toward the Lobos’ end. He dished it off to Cullen Neal, who drove to the basket.
“I knew he was going to go challenge,” Menzies said. “I saw him running for it and timing it up. I was thinking just don’t foul him, just don’t foul him, just don’t foul him. And there was a man in between him, he actually came from behind his own teammate to make the block. So that makes it even more fantastic.”
That was the game’s key play, said New Mexico coach Craig Neal.
“You’re down two with 40 seconds to go with a chance to tie and we didn’t tie it,” he said. “And they finished the game.”