(Courtesy: NMSU Athletics)
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - With the toughest parts of its non-conference portion in the rearview mirror, the NM State men's basketball team set out on a quest over its final two non-league tilts to locate various players up and down its roster who could play factors as key contributors once Western Athletic Conference action starts up.
It may have found just such a performer in Marchelus Avery.
Avery put forth his best performance in an NM State uniform by going for a team and career-high 22 points, Teddy Allen added 20 more markers and finished a rebound shy of a double-double as the Aggies concluded the non-conference portion of their 2021-22 slate by hammering UT Permian Basin, 84-59, Monday night inside the Pan American Center.
NM State hiked its record to 11-2, marking the third time in head coach Chris Jans' tenure in Las Cruces in which the team won 11 of its first 13 contests of the season.
• NM State could do no wrong through the opening five minutes and change as Allen and Avery led a 14-0 run by the home team to start things off. Those two Aggies netted 12 of their team's 14 points through the first 5:13 with each hitting a three-pointer to help the home team get the upper hand early on.
• The Falcons finally found their footing on offense after 7:02 of game time had elapsed. Keyon Craddock canned a mid-range jumper while started a 7-2 scoring surge for the visitors. That run pulled UT Permian Basin within single digits, 16-9, and showed the NCAA Division II opponent wouldn't go away easily in the first frame.
• Three-pointers from Virshon Cotton and Levar Williams on consecutive NM State possessions pushed the Aggies' lead back to 13 with 8:16 to go in the frame.
• UT Permian Basin still didn't pose too much of a threat for the Aggies with five minutes to go in the stanza. Following a three-pointer courtesy of Allen which made matters 35-23 in favor of the hosts with 5:17 left, NM State missed its next six shots from the field and committed a trio of turnovers.
• Those Aggie miscues allowed UT Permian Basin to seize control of things for a bit. Miles Daniels concluded a 9-0 run by the Falcons by drilling a three-pointer with 62 seconds left. That triple shrank NM State's once double-digit lead to 35-32.
• Able to recover heading into the locker room, the Aggies received a one-handed jumper from Allen in the lane before Yuat Alok swished a straightaway three-pointer as time expired in the half. Those two buckets allowed NM State to carry a 40-32 lead into the halftime break.
UT Permian Basin went 6-of-12 (50-percent) from long range in the frame and shot 48.1-percent (13-of-27) in total through the opening 20 minutes of action - figures which were better than NM State's shooting splits of .467/.400/.667 through the half.
• UT Permian Basin kept hanging around through the first five minutes of the deciding frame. Lemmie Howard hooked in a one-handed shot in the paint that brought the visitors within nine, 47-38, with 15:08 left.
• Following that shot, NM State grabbed control and didn't let it go. Will McNair Jr., converted a hook shot of his own with 15:04 left, kick-starting a 12-0 Aggie scoring surge in the process. Through the run, Avery, Alok and Allen each hammered home slam dunks while Mike Peake put in a three-pointer to help the cause.
• Allen's rim-rocker with 12:39 to go pushed the hosts' lead to 59-38 and the hosts' lead didn't dip below 16 points for the rest of the night.
• NM State's largest lead of the night was 30, 84-54, following Clayton Henry's three-point make with 1:56 to go.
• The Aggies outscored the Falcons by a 44-27 margin in the second half to run away with the win.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Avery's 22 points came on a splendid 8-of-10 effort from the field as well as a 5-of-7 showing from the free throw line. The Richmond, Va., product added seven rebounds and two of the Aggies' 18 assists.
• Allen shot just 5-of-12 from the field, but again did well at the free throw line. His 8-of-9 mark allowed him to finish with 20 points while his nine rebounds were a game-high. Alok added 14 points, seven rebounds and two of the Aggies' five blocked shots on the night.
• Levar Williams gave NM State an offensive boost off the bench, too, going for 10 points on a 4-of-7 shooting effort. That helped the Aggies hold a 33-13 (+20) edge in bench scoring over their Texas foes.
• Mario McKinney Jr., passed out a team-high four assists and 18 of the Aggies' 29 field goal makes were assisted on.
• Eight of the 10 NM State players who saw the court finished with points.
• Johnny McCants, Nate Pryor, Jabari Rice and Donnie Tillman all did not play for NM State, saving their strength for the team's upcoming WAC slate.
• Daniels was a bright spot for UT Permian Basin in its setback, going for a game-high 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting. His eight rebounds were a team-high, too.
• NM State picked up its first wire-to-wire win of the season, never trailing at any point throughout the tilt.
• The Aggies pushed their winning streak to six games while their 11 wins are the most by any WAC team as of this moment.
COMING UP NEXT
• The target will be on the Aggies' backs from the get-go once Western Athletic Conference play begins in a little over one week's time. NM State's first league contest of the season sends the preseason WAC favorites to Seattle, Wash., for a Thursday night showdown with Seattle U. Tip-off inside the Redhawk Center on Thursday, Dec. 30 is set for 8:00 p.m. MT.