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New Mexico State shocks college basketball world with win over No. 6 Miami

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New Mexico State shocks college basketball world with win over No. 6 Miami

Zach Lofton led NMSU to a win over No. 6 Miami.

Zach Lofton led NMSU to a win over No. 6 Miami.

Zach Lofton led NMSU to a win over No. 6 Miami.

Zach Lofton led NMSU to a win over No. 6 Miami.

Chris Jans has officially taken New Mexico State basketball and put it back to a place that has not been seen since the Neil McCarthy days of the late-1980’s and early-1990’s.

The Aggies held the Hurricanes to 34 percent shooting percentage for the game and fended off a late rally to defeat No. 6 Miami 63-54 in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu inside the Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawai’i Saturday night.

It is NMSU’s first win against a ranked opponent since the program defeated No. 15 Nevada in 2007. The Aggies last beat a top-10 team in 1990 against UNLV, which was also televised on the ESPN Family of Networks.

“It’s a defining program win,” head coach Chris Jans said post-game.  “We don’t get many opportunities like this to play a highly-ranked team on a neutral court. When you have those opportunities, you have to take full advantage of it. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys than I am right now.”

With the win, the Aggies will now face Southern California in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.

“We have an opportunity on Christmas Day to play for a championship on the platform ESPN provides,” Jans said. “There will be a lot of eyes on us and it will be an opportunity for our program to show America what we are all about.”

The Aggies (11-2) led for most of the second half, but Miami head coach Jim Larranaga got his team into a full-court pressure defense after NMSU took their biggest lead of the game at nine with 5:57 left in the game after a Sidy N’dir 3-pointer made the score 52-43.

Miami (10-1) would close the gap with an 8-0 run over a 3:55 span to shrink the lead to one before Aggie guard Keyon Jones scored with 1:37 left to give the Aggies a three-point lead.

Miami would get to the foul line and make both free throws to make the Aggie lead just one, so with the game in the balance, the Aggies went to the one player that has endeared himself to the NMSU fanbase with his feverish scoring touch – Zach Lofton.

Lofton hoisted a 3-pointer four feet behind the line as the shot clock nearly expired and nailed it, giving NMSU a four-point lead with 57 seconds left.

NMSU guard AJ Harris would get a steal on the next possession, racing down the court for a lay-up to increase the lead back up to six with just 40 seconds left. The Aggies defended Miami’s desperation 3s well, and Lofton punctuated the shock wave sent through college basketball with a two-handed slam as time ran out.

“In our timeouts, we were really hammering (down) the point that we had to have that same urgency that we did coming from behind (against Davidson, Illinois, and New Mexico),” Jans said. “Zach’s 3 with the shot clock was kind of the separation point and took their air out and then AJ with the big steal… it was just talented players making plays.”

Lofton led the Aggies with 15 points and nine rebounds on the night, while Jemerrio Jones and N’Dir were the other Aggies to reach double-digits with 10 points each.

Miami came into the game with the clear size advantage, but after the Aggies fell behind 17-10 on the boards, they outrebounded the Hurricanes 33-21 the rest of the game.

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New Mexico State shocks college basketball world with win over No. 6 Miami