On a night that would see one team win their first game in the past four attempts; the rivalry that is the Battle of I-10 added another page to the chapter, one UTEP would prefer to forget, falling to NM State 73 to 53 at the Don Haskins Center.
The Aggies jumped to 14-0 lead before the Miners made their first shot after going 0 for 7 from the field.
“We got ourselves in a hell of a hole by turning the ball over four straight times, I like the way we tried to fight back. We played some box, it helped us get back in it,” UTEP head coach, Tim Floyd said. “We got some spirited play from Omega Harris off the bench.”
The Aggies would maintain a double-digit lead for the majority of the first half, until the Miners went on a 16-5 run and take their first lead of the game, 31-29, with 57 seconds left in the half off a three-point shot from Harris.
It was Harris’ first game of the season making a positive contribution off the bench, scoring 23 of the team’s 39 bench points.
UTEP head coach, Tim Floyd said Harris will eventually be a starter, but it was the lone bright spot on the night.
Lee Moore and Terry Winn struggled to find any rhythm throughout the game shooting a combined 3 of 20 from the field for seven points.
Floyd was asked if Moore’s play would hinder his status as a starter going forward, ‘playing his way out’ of the lineup.
“We’re learning something about our guys every night out. You’re asking me what I think. Do I think this guy can play his way out?” Floyd said. “I don’t know, I don’t know who this guy is right now, we’re going to find out. This is where you suck them up, you play hard, you play with confidence…if you miss a few shots, get in the gym and spend an extra hour in the gym shooting. That’s all I know to do.”
UTEP led the Aggies 17 to 14 in rebounding in the first half, but ended the night losing the battle 38 to 27; getting out-muscled on the defensive end.
“My entire career we’ve been able to take a really good player out of the game on the perimeter, we have not been able to do that since we played (Gian) Clavell from Colorado State,” Floyd said. “We’re going to have to get back to it, if it truly is important then we’re going to have to get back to finding somebody, not necessarily changing what we’re doing, but finding somebody that can that’s on our roster, come in and do that. Our guys are simply not making enough shots offensively.”
The Aggies would regain the lead by one before the half, but the Miners managed to erase the 14-0 lead their rival had to begin the game.
UTEP’s bench play was vital in the surging comeback, outscoring NMSU’s bench 28-1 in the first half. But the comeback win would never happen as the Aggies kept pulling away as the second had winded down.
“This is basketball, it’s a game of runs. We knew they were going to go on a run. They went on a pretty good one and cut it to one,” Aggies guard, Ian Baker said. “At half time, he (coach Mavin Menzies) just told us to keep doing what we’re doing and they’ll break eventually.”
What was once a one-point lead turned into a 20-point advantage for the Aggies downing the Miners 73-53 and ending their three-game losing streak while the Miners lose their fourth-consecutive game.
Baker led all scorers with 26 points going six of seven from behind the three-point line.
“Honestly the thing that had me going was my mother came in from D.C. She was at the game tonight. I just wanted to give her something to remember while she was there, that was kind of in the back of my mind the whole game,” Baker said. “At the same time, I wanted to get the second win against UTEP, I want to at least split with our rivalry game.”
Both programs entered the night with three-game losing streaks: NMSU’s last win was against the Miners on Dec. 2 which also was UTEP’s first loss of the season after beginning the season with six consecutive victories.
The win for the Aggies is also their first non-conference road win since Dec. 17 2013. NMSU improves to 6-5 while dropping the Miners to 6-4.
UTEP has a quick turnaround as they host the Sun Bowl invitational and take on Norfolk State on Monday, while the Aggies also have two days to prepare for Oral Roberts.