(Courtesy: NMSU Athletics)
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - The new-look NM State Aggies began their season on the road and, for 20 minutes, looked like a formidable opponent for No. 16 Kentucky as they trailed by just eight points at the break inside Rupp Arena.
Eventually, Kentucky pulled away from the Aggies as they went on to defeat NM State 86-46 on Monday night.
NM State was led in points by Christian Cook and Jaylin Jackson-Posey who each finished the night with 10 points apiece.
However, they would be the only players to reach double digits for the Aggies on opening night.
Jackson-Posey also paced the Aggies in both rebounds (8) and assists (6). Meanwhile, Robert Carpenter nearly reached double digits as he posted nine points to go along with three rebounds in his 23 minutes off the bench.
The Aggies' opponent shot the ball exceptionally well as they finished with a 49% success rate from the floor.
Leading the charge for the Wildcats was highly touted recruit Rob Dillingham who posted 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. In total, John Calipari's squad had five players finish the night in double figures.
· After Kentucky scored the game's first points, the Aggies quickly responded by going on a 6-0 run thanks to a pair of back-to-back triples from Cook and Jackson-Posey. This would give NM State its largest lead of the game at four points.
· Unfortunately, the Aggies' lead big man, Kaosi Ezeagu got in early foul trouble as he picked up two fould in the first four minutes of play. This led to him only getting 19 minutes of action with most of it coming in the second half of play.
· Head Coach Jason Hooten did receive good minutes from reserve Robert Carpenter who scored all his nine of his points and grabbed all three of his rebounds in the first half.
· For the most part, the Aggies hung around in the first half as Kentucky's lead was no larger than seven points until the 8:13 mark in the first period. This would eventually be where the deficit would remain after 20 minutes of play.
· The blue blood Wildcats flipped a switch in the second half as they started to pull away and built their lead up to 14 points just over two minutes into the half.
· Eventually, NM State watched the lead balloon to 24 points as Kentucky put together a stretch of four minutes and 16 seconds in which it outscored the Aggies 11-0.
· The run was capped off by three points from the Wildcats' high-point man, Rob Dillingham. Dillingham would later serve as a catalyst to a 17-point run to end the game and hand Kentucky its first win of the season.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
· Eight different Aggies recorded playing time against the Wildcats – each of which logged their first minutes as members of the NM State program.
· The loss marked the first time that NM State dropped its season opener since the 2014-15 season, however, prior to Monday night, the Aggies had only faced two Division I opponents to kick off the season across the last eight seasons.
· While the Aggies only went to the charity stripe five times, they finished the night a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. This marks the first time since March 5, 2022, that NM State did not miss a free throw in a game. On that night, the Aggies were 2-for-2 from the line against the Wolverines.
· Kentucky took care of the ball quite well on Monday night as it recorded just six turnovers to mark the fewest by an Aggie opponent since Feb. 5, 2021, when California Baptist turned the ball over only five times against Chris Jans' Aggies.
· Last year, Kentucky finished second in the nation in rebound margin (9.3) and ninth in the country in rebounds per game (39.4) and while the Aggies were ultimately outdueled on the glass, NM State outrebounded the Wildcats 22-20 in the first half of play.
· The Aggies tallied 10 assists as a team on Monday night – a feat NM State only accomplished three times in its final nine games last season.
NM State now readies for its home opener on Wednesday night as they travel back to Las Cruces to host Sul Ross State on short rest. The bout versus the Lobos is scheduled to get underway at 7 p.m. inside the Pan American Center. Head Coach Jason Hooten will look for his first win with the program as the two sides meet for the 11th time in history.