FINAL: New Mexico State 78, New Mexico 76 (OT)
• NMSU circus shot goes in at buzzer then Aggies stomp on Lobo at center court. AD Eddie Nuñez goes out there to get them off.
• Series splits 1-1 pic.twitter.com/rGy5TZi76K
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) December 7, 2021
If absence makes the heart grow fonder for those in love, taking the Rio Grande Rivalry away from the Lobos and Aggies for a year seems to have only intensified the hate.
After 40 minutes wasn’t enough to settle a heated rivalry rematch on Monday night in the Pit, Aggies guard Nate Pryor hit a twisting, right-handed layup with his back to the basket as the overtime period expired, giving the New Mexico State Aggies an emotional 78-76 overtime win over the UNM Lobos in front of an announced crowd of 13,019.
And the celebration that followed will go down in the rivalry’s lore every bit as much as the improbable final shot.
Aggie players, saying they were reacting to Lobo players showing disrespect in the Pan American Center in last week’s 101-94 victory in Las Cruces, began gathering at the center of Bob King Court and stomping on the Lobo logo — a celebration that egged on a heated crowd and was finally brought to an end when UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez and several members of the NMSU coaching staff ushered the celebrating Aggies off the court.
“I’m not going to justify what our kids did, I was focused on the fact we made the basket and I kept waiting for (the referees) to go to the review,” said NMSU coach Chris Jans, who has technically coached in eight rivalry games with UNM, though he missed last week’s in Las Cruces due to COVID protocols.
“So I didn’t see it right away, otherwise I’d have been out there earlier trying to stop it. But just for some context, when we got beat soundly at our place (last week), there was some of that by their players. And I’m not gonna lie to you, I showed my team (the video of that). … It was motivation.”
As for his coaching counterpart, Lobos first-year coach Richard Pitino, the postgame antics don’t overshadow the lost opportunity he feels slipped through his team’s fingers.
“I’m more offended by our defense in the last play,” said Pitino. “I’m not gonna worry about other people’s team. What I know is we had a couple breakdowns down the stretch that cost us an opportunity to sweep New Mexico State. We didn’t do it.”
The Aggies improve to 7-2 with the win while the Lobos fall to 5-4 and suffer their first loss in the Pit of the season.
As for the game itself, it may not have been packed like ones in the past, but it’ll go down as one of the most exciting. Sitting courtside as his Iona Gaels are on a 9-day break between games was Pitino’s father, Rick Pitino, who posted on Twitter during the game, “The Pit is absolutely one of the great venues in college basketball. Incredible fan support and game production.”
Like last week in Las Cruces, the Lobos got plenty of offense from guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. (26 points) and Jaelen House (21 points), while NMSU again got plenty from Teddy Allen (20 points). And UNM led most of regulation.
But unlike last week, when NMSU needed a second player to step up to make a run at the Lobos, Monday night in the Pit they got it in the form of 6-foot-11 graduate transfer Yuot Alok, who came off the bench to score 19 for the Aggies, including six of the team’s 10 in overtime.
Sixth-year Aggie and Las Cruces native Johnny McCants hit a bucket with 3.7 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 68-68 and force the extra period.
The Aggies had a 76-72 lead with under one minute remaining in the overtime when a House basket with 48.3 seconds remaining pulled the Lobos within two and then a Mashburn bucket with 25 seconds left tied the game 76-76, setting up the final play.
NMSU’s Jabari Rice was being defended one-on-one at the top of the key by Mashburn with 4 seconds left when he began a drive to the basket. As he entered the paint, House collapsed in to help on defense, leaving Pryor alone on the perimeter for a pass from Rice.
Pryor had an open lane to the hoop, though a mishandle of the ball as Lobo defenders caught up to him made him spin away from the basket over his right shoulder and away from the basket, flinging the ball up over his shoulder for the game-winner.
NMSU outscored UNM 66-32 in the paint and outrebounded the Lobos 45-41. The Lobos outscored NMSU at the free throw line 14 to 2, but it was the nine misses at the line that Pitino lamented after the game.
BOX SCORE:New Mexico State 78, New Mexico 76 (OT)
MORE COVERAGE: Read Emptying the Notebook column HERE.
VIDEO: Here’s a LINK to the postgame presser with Richard Pitino and Chris Jans: