LAS CRUCES – On Johnny McCants’ game-winning shot from beyond half court Thursday night vs. Grand Canyon, “we found our way into Aggie lore,” second-year coach Chris Jans said. Longtime play-by-play announcer Jack Nixon quickly likened the dramatic result to landmark Aggie wins in 1978 vs. Larry Bird and Indiana State, and in 1990 over eventual champion UNLV.
Now, less than 48 hours later, New Mexico State (12-4, 1-1 Western Athletic Conference) will try to convert the unforgettable into the meaningful.
NMSU hosts first-place CSU Bakersfield (11-5, 3-0) Saturday and finds itself needing to hold serve at home to stay near the top of the WAC. As McCants delivered Thursday’s unlikely 77-75 win, earning a spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays at No. 2 with his arcing dagger along the way, Bakersfield won 75-69 at Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
So the Aggies don’t have time to soak in the glory – or, to be fair, fret about how a last-minute collapse nearly turned Thursday’s game into one of the program’s all-time disappointing losses.
It’s on to the next assignment, and if the visiting ‘Runners win today, they can build a cushion over the defending WAC champ Aggies that may take weeks to reduce, if at all.
Leading Bakersfield is 6-foot-1 Jarkel Joiner, who averages a modest 12.8 points per game, but he scored 24 at No. 7 Gonzaga and 18 at No. 20 TCU.
Ivan Aurrecoechea is the Aggies’ leading scorer (11.6) and rebounder (6.2) per game. With 20 points and 11 rebounds Thursday, he was the team’s star until the last second.
WOMEN: The Aggies (9-6, 1-1) try to bounce back from a disappointing Thursday loss at Grand Canyon today at Bakersfield (6-10, 2-1). Game time is 2 p.m., and the contest streams live on espn3.com.