New Mexico State falls to GCU in WAC-opener, snaps conference record


Johnny McCants leads Aggies with 13 points and eight rebounds.

New Mexico State’s overwhelming stretch of dominance in the WAC and over “rival” Grand Canyon came to an end Friday night, with the Aggies falling 70-62 to end their 31-game win streak in the WAC and eight-game streak over the Lopes in their first conference game of the season.

NM State got off to a scorching start, taking a 13-4 lead in the game’s opening minutes, but a near-five minute scoring drought coupled with the Lopes eventually knocking down their open looks evened things out quickly, with GCU tying things back up at 18-18 and a big chunk of the rest of the first half largely staying within a one-score.

Grand Canyon got out in front after knocking down seven straight shots and carried a seven point lead into the half after back-to-back Alessandro Lever three-pointers in the final two possessions before the break, but considering the Aggies’ struggles from the field after their strong start, a far from daunting lead. NM State was able to hang around despite GCU’s 64% shooting thanks to their crashing the offensive glass, where the Aggies ended up out-rebounding the Lopes by a 17-to-3 margin.

The Aggies’ shooting woes would only persist into the second, though, going nearly nine minutes without making a field goal following a half-opening layup courtesy of Jabari Rice, but some suffocating defense and constant attacking of the basket and drawing fouls — the double bonus was reached with over 12 minutes left — would help NM State close the gap.

A Rice three-pointer would end that drought and mark only the second made three-pointer for NM State since they knocked down their first three to start, signaling a mini-momentum shift for Chris Jans’ side.

NM State would claim their first lead of the second half moments later at 50-48 after a C.J. Roberts and-one, but another drought from the field in the final six minutes of the game gave GCU an opening they would not miss.

The Lopes would reclaim their lead with a Mikey Dixon three and not look back, doing no worse than trade buckets or free throws with the Aggies and nail their last three looks to ice the game.

GCU’s zone gave the struggling Aggie shooters fits, forcing a 5-for-28 performance from beyond the arc that saw NM State shooting just 31% from the field compared to a 53% showing from the Lopes, who knocked down 39% of their attempts from down town. A lopsided rebounding output in favor of the Aggies wasn’t enough to make up for the bad shooting, and GCU’s cohesive offense that saw 18 assists on 26 made field goals would prove too much to overcome in NM State’s second game against a DI opponent of the season.

The Aggies won’t have to dwell on the loss long, with another opportunity to get back in the win column in their rematch against GCU tomorrow night.

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