LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- A word of caution for all travelers to Las Cruces: be ready to ball. In front of a raucous crowd measuring over 11,000 Panamaniacs, NM State (11-12, 5-3 CUSA) stormed back in the second half to notch a 67-65 victory over Jax State (11-12, 3-4 CUSA) on Saturday night.
Christian Cook led the Aggies for the second game in a row, putting up 17 points with a trio of 3-pointers. An efficient shooting performance from the field (49%) and from long range (38%, nine 3-pointers made) paved the way for the Aggies second straight win, improving their record from inside the Pan Am to 11-1.
As a team, the Aggies shot nearly 50% from the field, finishing 26-53 (.491) – a significant advantage over a Jax State team which finished 24-63 (.381).
- Despite the Aggies coming away with the tip to start the game, Jax State found its way onto the scoreboard first as a Gamecock jumper ended a streak of five empty possessions combined between the two sides.
- Eventually, Kaosi Ezeagu tallied the first Aggie points of the game as he second early offensive rebound turned into two of the Aggies' ----- second chance points in the first half. Offensive rebounds were a theme throughout the opening 20 minutes of action as Jax State hauled in eight while the Aggies pulled down five.
- Following a 27-point outburst on Thursday night, Christian Cook's hot-shooting carried over to Saturday as he drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to account for the first Aggie three-ball of the night.
- Following a 9-2 Gamecock run that allowed the visitors to build a seven-point lead, the Aggies responded with an 8-2 run of their own to reduce the deficit to one point with 1:30 remaining in the half. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks would produce a 4-0 run to close out the period with a five-point advantage.
- Entering the game, Jax State's KyKy Tandy was the scoring leader in Conference USA – averaging nearly 19 points per game, however, the Aggies limited him to just three points in the first half of play.
- Following the break, Jax State opened the second period on a 10-2 run to immediately build an 11-point lead less than three minutes into the half.
- An eager crowd was then brought to life by a 12-2 run from the Aggies that was fueled by 10 points from Christian Cook who is amid his best stretch of the season.
- This stretch from Cook also seemed to ignite the rest of his teammates as Jordan Rawls and Tanahj Pettway added to the barrage before Cook hit another jumper to help NM State build a two-point lead with seven and a half to play.
- Later, Rawls found Kaosi Ezeagu with a smooth dish under the rim to set the big man up. The mannequin-esque physique of Ezeagu was then put on full display as he slammed home a two-handed dunk that ultimately broke a piece of the backboard – causing a brief stoppage in play.
- The halt seemed to negatively impact the Aggies as their momentum was put on hold and Jax State then ended a three-minute scoreless streak to tie the game at 56 points on their next possession.
- The Aggies' inability to reduce the Gamecocks' possessions was costly as a trio of late Gamecock rebounds produced four points and gave Jax State a three-point lead with less than two minutes to play.
- With the game potentially on the line, Coach Hooten called a timeout to draw up a play which then resulted in Jaden Harris driving through the lane for a contested layup which he finished and drew a foul. Harris then went to the line and calmly knocked down the free-throw line to even the score.
- Following several empty possessions for both sides, the Aggies' Cook got fouled with 12 seconds which sent him to the line with two shots at giving the Aggies the advantage. The Aggies' leader in free-throw percentage then put both through the rim to give the Aggies the lead and in need of one stop.
- The Aggies got that stop as the potential game-tying shot rolled off the rim. However, Jax State came up with yet another offensive board, but the put back attempt was also unsuccessful – moving the Aggies to 11-1 at home.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
- The hot home start is not something Aggie fans are unfamiliar with as this is the fifth time in the last seven seasons that NM State has started the season 11-1 or better inside the Pan American Center.
- Femi Odukale's seven assists mark the highest for the Brooklyn native since he joined the squad.
- Freshman Keylon Dorsey recorded a career-high 13 minutes of action while pulling down a career-best five rebounds.
- With nine 3-pointers made tonight, this marks the seventh time this season the Aggies have finished with nine or more triples in a single game.
- The Aggies' managed to hold CUSA's scoring leader, KyKy Tandy, to his lowest field-goal percentage of the season (.200).
- NM State pulled out the win despite leading for just 3:21 of the game. In total, the game was also tied for 8:49 in the back-and-forth affair.
Jason Hooten on the team in the win
"Our guys have started to figure a few things out. They pulled together and got tougher and I just don't think you win those games that we won this week if you're not. So I'm really proud them. They've come a long way."
Jason Hooten on the crowd
"I'm super proud to be the coach here. These people tonight came out and really supported our program and our university and I'm really proud. All I can say is, you come back next time and we're going to play hard like that again for them."