Aggies just miss Sweet Sixteen in gruelly 53-48 loss to Arkansas

Shelly Doyle

More stories from Shelly Doyle

On Saturday evening, the New Mexico State Basketball campaign came to a close in a haphazard battle with the Arkansas Razorbacks. The devastating loss was felt by Aggies nationwide as the hopes for a Sweet Sixteen spot haven’t been realized since 1992.

The first frame proved difficult to watch, with extremely messy play and with both teams combined to go only 15-of-52 (.288) from the field through the opening 20 minutes of action. A lackluster performance offensively from the Aggies gave Arkansas the edge with players like JD Notae contributing a lofty 10 points to a 15-2 run giving them a 26-17 lead at the break.

Hometown hero Johnny McCants ended his career in an elite and commendable fashion, with every single fan seeing his true heart for this team throughout the game. His all around brilliance was on display as he finished with 16-points, 12-rebound double-double to go along with two blocked shots, a pair of assists and two steals. Emphasizing their fight and making the game far from over, McCants and McNair Jr., accounted for all but two of the Aggies’ points through a 16-6 scoring surge in the second giving NM State its final lead of the game (33-32). 

Working from a nine point deficit a glimmer of hope was provided soon after Rice drained a triple working within two (48-46) with 11 seconds left keeping Aggie fans on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately the free throw line proved lethal with the Razorbacks going 22-of-25 (88-percent) from the line. Once the final buzzer sounded, Arkansas was +15 in free throw attempts (25-10) and +16 in terms of free throws made (22-6) which ultimately determined the outcome of the gut wrenching game. 

Although a heartbreaking turn of events, these Aggie seniors left it all on the court and gave Arkansas a battle all the way to the last few seconds. NM State compiled a mark of 27-7 which included a 14-4 mark in Western Athletic Conference (WAC) action to finish out the year. Great contributions from young players like Will McNair and Mario McKinney Jr. give a glimpse into the future of the program and the continued potential for this Aggie team.

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