Given the circumstances, New Mexico State might even be delighted to see one of its two biggest men’s basketball rivals again Saturday night, when UTEP comes to the Pan Am Center for a 7 p.m. clash.
As one of the oldest rivalries around, the Miners and Aggies have played at least on an annual basis since 1923 except for interruptions caused by World War II and last year’s COVID pandemic. It was the first time the two teams hadn’t played since 1944. NMSU holds a 116-102 edge all time.
Both teams are 1-0. Chris Jans’ New Mexico State squad opened Tuesday with a 62-51 home win over UC Irvine, sparked by Nebraska transfer Teddy Allen’s game-high 14 points. Hometown guy Johnny McCants scored four points but also had a game-high eight rebounds and career-best four blocks.
UTEP opened with an 85-57 win Tuesday over NCAA Division II Western New Mexico in Joe Golding’s debut as coach. Golding is notable for coaching Abilene Christian to a stunning upset of Texas in a 3-vs.-14 NCAA Tournament matchup.
Jamal Bieniemy pumped in a game-high 23 points in UTEP’s opener. The Miners are hoping Souley Bourn, who has been recovering from a hand injury in October, is ready for the Saturday night showdown. He led UTEP in scoring last year with 18.8 points per game and is a preaseason All-Conference USA selection.
UTEP is seeking its first win in Las Cruces since beating the Aggies 74-72 on Nov. 30, 2010.
Saturday’s game will stream on ESPN+, the ESPN app and air on the Aggie radio network. Tim Hagerty will be on the call, since Jack Nixon will be with the New Mexico football team at Alabama.
ELSEWHERE: ESPN is reporting that Seattle University men’s head coach Jim Hayford has resigned, roughly a week after reportedly using a racial slur during a Nov. 4 scrimmage. Citing unidentified sources, Stadium reported that a Black player for Seattle used the slur during the scrimmage and, after being informed by game officials, Hayford repeated it in an effort to curtail its use.
The report said Hayford also repeated the word after a player used it during the summer.
Hayford has been at Seattle the previous four seasons and has a 64-55 overall record. Seattle is one of NMSU’s Western Athletic Conference opponents. The two teams are scheduled to play Dec. 30 in Seattle and Feb. 5 in Las Cruces.