EL PASO, Texas - UTEP left a key under the mat for their I-10 rivals New Mexico State, as the Aggies knocked off Western New Mexico 70-41 in a "home game" Monday afternoon at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso.
Wilfried Likayi had 20 points and six rebounds as the Aggies blew the doors off the Mustangs in the 2nd half.
New Mexico State led by just eight at halftime, but outscored the Mustangs 39-18 in the second half to secure some confidence before Friday's WAC conference opener at Grand Canyon.
The Aggies (3-1) can't be blamed for starting sluggish out of the gate after playing in just their fourth game all season.
It was New Mexico State's first game since a December 28th loss to Cal-State Northridge, after seeing eight games either canceled or postponed due to COVID complications.
There was no guarantee that today's game would even be played, as the game contracts were signed about two hours prior to tipoff.
New Mexico St. Athletic Director Mario Moccia told ABC-7 that he UTEP an arena rental fee "just north of $5,000" to play the game in El Paso.
Per New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham's state health, the Aggies are not allowed to play games in their home state.
Regardless, it was some much needed game experience for Chris Jans' bunch before conference play.
Evan Gilyard chipped in 12 points in his return to the Haskins Center, highlighted by a fadeaway three-pointer from near midcourt as the halftime buzzer sounded. Gilyard played his freshman season at UTEP.
A bright spot for NMSU was freshman guard Gerald Doakes, who came off the bench to score 11 points in 14 minutes.
Doakes only committed to NMSU ten days ago, and was granted eligibility last week after reclassifying.
Breion Powell led Western New Mexico with nine points.