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Aggies get to say aloha to nation on Christmas Day

When Chris Jans was hired last spring as New Mexico State men’s basketball coach, he talked about that expectations for the program will be to win championships.

The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic was included in that.

The Aggies now have that opportunity after the program’s biggest win for the program in a very long time, knocking off No. 6, and previously unbeaten, Miami 63-54 in the Diamond Head Classic semifinals Saturday night in Honolulu. NMSU (11-2) will face Southern Cal (8-4) for the tournament championship Monday at 4 p.m. on ESPN2 (and 99.5 FM in Las Cruces, 1150 AM in Albuquerque).

The Aggies have performed well on big stages the past week and have another chance today against a Pac-12 team.

“We will be the only game playing at that time,” Jans said. “There will be a lot of eyes on us and what an opportunity for our program and our kids to show America and those who follow college basketball what we are all about.”

The win over the Hurricanes on Saturday is the Aggies’ first win over a Top 10 team since beating No. 7 UNLV during the 1989-90 season and it’s NMSU’s first win over a Top 25 team since beating No. 13 Nevada during the 2006-07 season.

“It’s a defining program win,” Jans said. “We don’t get many opportunities like this to play a highly-ranked team on a neutral court. When you have those opportunities, you must take full advantage of it. Couldn’t be more proud for a group of a guys than I am right now.”

Saturday was the first time in 10 years NMSU played a ACC team. It’s the first win for NMSU over a ACC team since beating Virginia during the 1997-98 season, which also was in Hawaii.

“I am happy for our fan base,” Jans said. “We have an outstanding fan base, a passionate fan base and I know they are cheering loudly back home.”

WAC HONORS: Aggie guard Zach Lofton was named Western Athletic Conference men’s player of the week for the second consecutive time and third this season. He scored a game-high 15 points with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals vs. Miami. … The Aggie women’s Gia Pack grabbed the WAC’s honor for women, averagubg 21 points and 10 rebounds as NMSU (5-7) split two games at the Long Beach State tournament.

The Journal contributed to this report.