SPOKANE, Wash. – CJ Elleby scored 20 points as Washington State hung on to beat New Mexico State 63-54 on Saturday at the Spokane Arena.
Jeff Pollard added nine points and 10 rebounds for Washington State (5-4), which was picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 this season.
Jabari Rice and Trevelin Queen each scored 14 points for New Mexico State (5-5), the defending Western Athletic Conference champion, which had won both previous meetings of these teams.
This was Washington State’s annual game in Spokane, where they have an 18-17 record.
New Mexico State is now 0-5 in games played in Spokane. The losses included three NCAA Tournament games and one at Gonzaga.
In the first half, New Mexico State went on a 9-0 run to take an 11-8 lead.
But Washington State put together a 16-2 run of its own, capped by Marvin Cannon’s 3-pointer, to build a 27-16 lead late in the first.
Washington State led 30-21 at halftime, largely by holding the Aggies to 36% shooting while hounding them into 11 turnovers. Washington State shot just 32% in the first, but made seven 3-pointers while New Mexico State sank just two.
Elleby scored Washington State’s first nine points of the second half as the Cougars built a 39-25 lead.
Ivan Aurrechoechea had a pair of baskets as the Aggies scored 11 consecutive points to cut WSU’s lead to 39-36. The Cougars went more than four minutes without a field goal.
A pair of baskets by Pollard helped the Cougars push their lead to 53-41.
But Queen sank a 3-pointer as the Aggies cut WSU’s lead to 53-49.
But the Aggies could get no closer in the final minutes.
BIG PICTURE: The Cougars lead the nation by averaging just nine turnovers per game, while forcing 16 turnovers per game. Elleby came in averaging 20 points per game. … NMSU continues a three-game road swing with games Tuesday at Denver and Saturday at New Mexico.