Aggies clutch down the stretch in much needed 67-60 win over UVU


Jabari Rice goes off for a game-high 20 points over Utah Valley.

The New Mexico State men’s basketball team pulled out a momentous win over Utah Valley Friday night, holding off a fervent comeback effort by the Wolverines in a 67-60 victory that brings the Aggies to .500 on the season and 3-5 in the WAC. 

A slow start for both teams saw neither side get out in front early, but. a little 6-0 run gave the Aggies and early 22-16 advantage. Their advantage would climb to nine after a late Jabari Rice three-pointer, but the Wolverines would claw back to enter the half down 30-24.

An immense first half on defense set the Aggies up for success, with UVU shooting just 37% from the field and hitting two of their 10 three-point tries — a welcomed improvement to an aspect of the game that has hampered the Aggies during their COVID-riddled early season.

It was clear the game wouldn’t blow open from the jump in the second half, with Utah Valley scoring five straight points to cut their deficit to one, but the Aggies would make get things started back up from the free throw line — a trend that made a world of difference as the game would go on.

Around the eight-minute mark, Utah Valley would pull back even at 48- 48 after a Jamison Overton layup, and soon thereafter take the lead after Overton scored another two. After Overton’s miss of the and-one free throw, though, the Aggies would tie things up at 50-50 and reclaim the lead and momentum behind a Evan Gilyard bucket from beyond the arc.

Utah Valley tied the game back up with 1:51 left at 60-60 coming off a pair of free throws but clutch free throw shooting down the stretch would see the Aggies close things out, with the team finishing 21-of-25 from the charity stripe compared to a decisively underwhelming 7-of-13 from the line by UVU, who would fail to score for the remainder of the game.

Jabari Rice led all scorers with 20 points on the night, with Gilyard and Donnie Tillman reaching double-digit scoring to highlight a while somewhat struggling, balanced offensive attack — the Aggies shot 37% from the field and 35% from deep, but saw over five players score more than seven points.

Holding on down the stretch shows the fortitude this NM State team has played with despite the adverse conditions they’ve had to face this season, responding to last night’s heartbreaker where UVU managed to complete the comeback and knock off the Aggies 69-66 that, ironically, came down to some missed Rice free throws admirably and getting back on track as they charge into the back half of the conference schedule.

That charge will continue next weekend, with the Aggies traveling to Stephenville, Texas to take Tarleton State in their next series.

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