EDITOR’S NOTE: Full postgame press conference videos of UNM coach Paul Weir and NMSU coach Chris Jans attached at bottom.
LAS CRUCES — About 45 minutes before Tuesday night’s Rio Grande Rivalry tipped off in the Pan American Center, the Lobos and Aggies had to be separated and punches were reportedly thrown on Lou Henson Court.
That would be the last fight the Lobos would show for the night.
New Mexico State put together arguably as lopsided a first half as the 114 years of the series has seen en route to a 100-65 win over UNM, extending the Aggies’ win streak in the Rio Grande Rivalry to five victories for the first time since 1956 and 4-0 for second-year head coach Chris Jans.
It was also the largest margin of victory for the either team in the series for either team since a 37-point win for UNM in 1963 and for the Aggies since 1959, who also won by 37 that season.
“Speechless,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said after the game. “It’s what I told the team after the game. I wish … speechless. Sick to my stomach. Humiliated. Embarrassed. So many things I could elaborate on, but unfortunately at this point in time, it is going to remain an incredibly humiliating defeat and we have to move forward.”
For Jans, who has not only dominated the Lobos since being hired as Weir’s replacement in 2017, but also has started 4-0 against the Aggies’ other rival, the UTEP Miners, to become the first NMSU coach to start a career with back-to-back sweeps of both, the win was big. But not something he wants to dwell on much for now.
“I don’t think about it too much,” Jans said. “Certainly (people) have made notice of it. I’m proud of it. From my first interview, it was made clear how important these games were to the fan base, the administration, the community. So each year, we try to make sure that the guys (his players) who are new to this program understand what this means.”
Tuesday, it was an 11-0 lead that set the tone for the Aggies (7-1) onslaught. Picking a turning point in the game would suggest there was ever anything but a one-track performance from start to finish for the Aggies, who never trailed, led by as many as 41 points with 11:02 remaining in the game, got 14 players into the game, outrebounded the Lobos 50-28 and had a pair of players score more than 20 points (Ivan Aurrecoechea had 23 points and 11 rebounds and JoJo Zamora had a career-high 27 points with a 6-of-6 3-point shooting night.
Aggies senior Eli Chuha, who added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, summed up the night as best he could when a reporter asked if the Lobos quit.
“Yeah,” he said, almost hesitantly. “We made them give up a little bit.”
UNM, which ranked fifth in the nation entering the game in effective field goal percentage and third in 3-point field goal percentage, couldn’t hit a shot in the first half.
UNM (4-2) shot 23.3 percent in the first half (7-of-30 shooting) and 28.6 (4-of-14) from 3-point range.
Senior Anthony Mathis, coming off a seven 3-pointer performance in Saturday’s road win at Bradley and who entered Tuesday’s game leading the nation in 3-point shooting percentage, was held to five points on 1-of-8 shooting, including 1-for-5 from 3-point range. In his 24 minutes on the court, the Aggies outscored the Lobos by 38 points.
“Right now, before looking at the film, if I had to say what the difference in the game was, I thought their defense in the first 18 or so minutes was incredible,” Weir said. “And I thought that was the difference in the game.”
In the end, Weir was left trying to apologize for yet another Lobos loss, this one the worst in decades, to the rival Aggies.
“Sorry doesn’t do it any justice,” Weir said. “I’m sorry. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. It’s as embarrassed and as humiliated as one can be. … If there’s any solace, I’m feeling a million times worse than anything they can imagine.”
MANIGAULT: Lobos junior Corey Manigault played 7 minutes, 44 seconds in the first half. He was again benched for the second half for an undisclosed disciplinary matter, as he was in the UTEP game Nov. 24 in Dreamstyle Arena.
“Same thing as last time,” Weir said when asked to explain. “Coaches decision. Teachable moment.”
PREGAME FIGHT: The pregame scuffle, which witnesses say included shoving and punches thrown between both teams, wasn’t something Jans or Weir wanted to talk much about after the game. No player was disciplined Tuesday, but both coaches said they would look into it.