House, Lobos keep Aggies in the dark - Albuquerque Journal

House, Lobos keep Aggies in the dark

Lobos forward Jay Allen-Tovar
UNM’s Jay Allen-Tovar dunks the ball on NMSU’s Mike Peak during Tuesday’s game at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces. The Lobos won, 101-94. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

LAS CRUCES – The guys who had never been a part of their adoptive state’s biggest sports rivalry made sure to leave their imprint on it in a hurry.

In a game that featured a 50-minute delay due to a power outage on the New Mexico State University campus, Lobo newcomers Jaelen House (31 points) and Jamal Mashburn Jr. (19) lit up the Pan American scoreboard in a 101-94 UNM win over the host Aggies in the first time the rivalry has been played in Las Cruces in just over two years.

“We made big offensive plays,” said Richard Pitino, the first-year Lobos coach also experiencing his first taste of the in-state rivalry. “We finally outrebounded a team, which was great to see. I’m really happy for our players, happy for our fans. I know how much it means to them.”

The Lobos (5-3) never gave into the hostile Pan Am Center fans (an official attendance was not reported) and never gave them much reason to erupt like they wanted to.

NMSU’s largest lead in the game was just four points and despite closing the margin to within two a couple times in the second half, the Aggies (5-2) never led after a House bucket with 5:38 left in the first half made it a 32-31 game.

The Aggies, playing for the second-consecutive game without head coach Chris Jans in the building due to COVID-19 protocols (the school has not said whether he has COVID-19), got 31 points from Teddy Allen and Jabari Rice scored 14 of his 21 points (to go along with eight assists) in the second half, trying to will NMSU to a win. But the Lobos never flinched, answering every second-half run made by NMSU, out-rebounded the 10 1/2-point betting favorite Aggies 39-35 and iced the game by hitting 12 of 14 free throws in the final 1:53 of the game.

“Free throw shooting was terrific. That’s not a fun thing to say, but they were going to foul us and try to beat us at the line and we made big free throws,” Pitino said. “We made some big offensive plays, but we set the tone with rebounding. We had not been physical. We had not been tough. And we won a war down there.

LIGHTS OUT: During the first media timeout of the game at the 15:18 mark of the first half, right as NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia was presenting a signed basketball to a game sponsor at center court, the lights in the Pan Am Center went out.

While fans initially roared – apparently believing it was an elaborate in-arena light show for Nusenda Credit Union – it was quickly apparent when only half the arena’s lights came on that the power was out.

It ended up leading to a 50-minute delay that also cut the online stream of the game to fans watching from outside the arena. Both team’s radio play-by-play announcers called the remainder of the game from cell phones.

At halftime, Jay Allen-Tovar (15 points, 11 rebounds) put UNM up 49-42 with a layup at the buzzer. Game officials wanted to review it and even asked the courtside broadcast crew if they had any video of the play. They did not. No review, seven-point Lobos lead.

Aggie senior Johnny McCants, the Las Cruces native in his sixth year at NMSU, was held to 4 points and two rebounds in just 13 minutes as foul trouble marred his night.

While NMSU plays at UTEP later this week, the Lobos host the Aggies in the Pit on Monday in the second half of the annual home-and-home rivalry.

“Great win. Jaelen House was terrific,” Pitino said. “… Now let’s pack that place (on Monday).”

UP NEXT: For the Aggies, NMSU plays at UTEP on Friday at 6 p.m.

For the Lobos, UNM hosts NMSU in part 2 of the Rio Grande Rivalry in the Pit on Monday at 7 p.m.

BOX SCORE:New Mexico 101, New Mexico State 94

MORE: For more analysis, notes and other odds & ends from Tuesday’s game, read the Emptying the Notebook column.


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