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NMSU earns regular season conference title

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By The Staff

Whatever was said at Friday’s practice worked for first-year Aggie head coach Chris Jans Saturday night as his team pounded UMKC at home 82-58 and claimed the Western Athletic Conference title outright moments after its win when Grand Canyon topped Utah Valley at home.

The win propelled the Aggies to 24-5 overall on the year and 11-2 mark in conference play. NMSU also captured its third regular-season title in four years. In addition, it was the seventh-straight season New Mexico State has won 23 or more games in a single-season.

“Anytime you win a championship it’s awesome, but to do it in front of your home crowd and have a crowd like we had tonight is great,” Jans said. “I had no idea what the numbers were, but it looked really good from my perspective where I sit and stand. I’m very happy to have them come out and support these seniors and this team.”

NMSU looked much more like its old self in the opening five minutes of play in the Pan American, knocking down 5-of-6 from the field – including back-to-back 3-pointers from AJ Harris that gave the Aggies the 14-5 lead.

A trio of triples from UMKC brought the visitors within 24-16 of the Aggies. Midway through, a quick 7-0 spurt by the NMSU put them on top 33-18 with 6:30 left in the first half.

New Mexico State’s defense was active, holding the ‘Roos to just 33.3-percent shooting in the first half while NMSU was 60.7-percent from the floor to take a 40-28 lead into the break. The Aggies held an 18-8 advantage in the paint before finishing the night scoring 52 of its 82 points in the lane.

The Aggie defense continued to shine in the second-half and allowed the offense to go on a 10-2 run heading into the media break with 15:24 on the clock and the 50-30 lead.

NMSU and UMKC then exchanged buckets from for next nine-plus minutes before a 7-0 run by the ‘Roos cut the Aggie lead to 63-49 after a pair of free-throws from Isaiah Ross at the 6:25 mark.

However, New Mexico State answered with a 12-0 run of its own that was capped off by Eli Chuha completing an and-1 out of the media break for the 75-49 lead with 3:15 remaining in the game.

It was only fitting that senior Jemerrio Jones gave NMSU its largest lead of the game with a three-ball at the 1:38 mark before exiting the game.

The 6-5 forward finished with another monstrous night on the boards for his 17th double-double of the year with 15 points, 23 rebounds and seven assists to go with his two steals and a block.

Chuha finished with 15 points as well on 7-of-9 shooting with four boards while Zach Lofton and Harris each had 13 points to pace NMSU.