The Lobo fans who opted not to leave early when UNM fell behind nearly 20 points with under 10 minutes to play were treated to an exciting nine minutes of basketball and a near comeback win for New Mexico over in-state rival New Mexico State.
Three Lobos finished the game in double figures, including redshirt sophomore Vance Jackson with a team-high 27 points, but the comeback fell just short as UNM lost the first meeting of the 2018-19 Rio Grande Rivalry 98-94 at the Pit on Saturday afternoon.
Senior guard Anthony Mathis and junior forward Corey Manigault joined Jackson as a trio of 20-point scorers for head coach Paul Weir, as the Lobos shot an impressive 60% from the floor.
But it was UNM’s inability to play strong team defense and a monster game from NMSU’s Al Harris that proved to be the difference in the game. Harris, a 5-9, 163-pound guard from Dayton, Ohio scored 31 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the floor, including a perfect six of six from behind the arc.
The transfer from Ohio State was only one of two Aggies in double figures on the day, including fellow guard Terrell Brown, who scored 20 points in 30 minutes of play off the bench.
Although UNM outshot NMSU 59.6% to 56.6% from the field and 55% to 52.2% from three-point land, second-chance points fueled by NMSU’s plus-nine rebound advantage and UNM’s inability to stop Harris from making big shots down the stretch fueled the Aggie victory.
As is often the case in the rivalry game between UNM and NMSU, the Pit was packed, and the fans were loud.
“First, thank you so much to all of the fans that came out today,” head coach Paul Weir said after the game.” It was an exceptional sign of how far I think we’ve grown and where our program is hopefully headed. Unfortunately, the result is not what we wanted. It’s incredibly disappointing, and inevitably that falls on me.”
The 2-1 Lobos look to get back on track next Saturday when they host the UTEP Miners at DreamStyle Arena at 5:30.