Game #9-130: New Mexico State at Texas-El Paso MinersNovember 28, 2012 9:00 pm
Special Events Center
I know of no other non-conference rivalries that regularly play two annual games, home-and-home, besides the ones between New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico, and between New Mexico State and the University of Texas at El Paso. Tonight begins the "Battle of I-10," named for the cross-country highway connecting Santa Monica, CA, and Jacksonville, FL, but particularly for the forty-mile stretch connecting NMSU to UTEP. No matter how good each team is, these are always hard-fought games, with both fan bases sharing a mutual loathing of the other. We wrote about the Aggies' 89-73 victory in Las Cruces
last year, and shared some of the matchup's history; the Miners won last year's return match in El Paso 73-69. This was NMSU's seventh game of this season; their record of 3-3 included no wins away from the friendly Pan American Center. Similarly, UTEP opened with an easy home victory over Oral Roberts
, followed by four straight losses away from El Paso.
NMSU shooting guard Daniel Mullings did not start the game. Mullings had a hard collision with the floor in the Louisiana-Lafayette game
five days ago, requiring eight stitches. It was subsequently revealed that Mullings had suffered a broken jaw in the Niagara game five days before that, and that his jaw had been wired shut during this week. Local media, via Twitter, announced that it was doubtful that he would play. Teammate Eric Weary tweeted this picture of Mullings earlier in the day:
The game progressed in typical Aggie-Miner fashion. Both teams played tight, tough defense; the Miners' man-to-man against the Aggies' matchup zone, with both teams varying some to keep the other off balance. With the score 4-4 and less than three minutes played, Mullings entered the game, but he was rested a couple of times during the first half. From a 7-7 tie, the Miners scored six straight to have their largest lead of the night. Forward Tyrone Watson scored the next seven Aggie points, mostly on drives to the basket, but UTEP retained the lead. An 8-0 Aggie run was capped by a Mullings superhoop, putting the Aggies ahead, 24-20. Two buckets by Miner center John Bohannon tied the game again at 24.
Both teams used patient offenses to get decent shots; both shot nearly 50% for the half. With the score tied at 28, Miner freshman forward Chris Washburn knocked Watson to the floor; after a lengthy review by the officials, a flagrant foul was assessed and Watson make both free throws. The half ended with a long jumper made by Daniel Mullings; after another lengthy review, the officials awarded only two points making the halftime score NMSU 32, UTEP 28. Each team had only one player in double figure scoring at the half; Tyrone Watson and Miner guard Julian Washburn each scored thirteen.
The halftime break was pretty full. First, a couple of UTEP students played tic-tac-toe: make a layup, go make a mark on the big board at center court. A tribute to retiring football coach Mike Price was followed by the introduction of Al Tolen, a Miner basketball player from 1959-63 who is now retired in Florida. Tolen is the Miners' 2 all-time scorer and 5 all-time rebounder.
Mullings started the second half, and the two teams traded baskets for the first ten minutes of the half; because two of the Aggie hoops were three-pointers, their lead grew to 42-36, at which point the Miners became the first team to score twice in a row, cutting the lead back to two. (The Aggie fans in the stands sent up a loud cheer unconnected to the action at about this point, when the women's NMSU-UTEP game in Las Cruces went final with the Aggies winning 69-68; strangely, no PA announcement of that score was forthcoming.) After a long break for the trainers to work on an official who turned an ankle, he gamely decided to continue.
The back and forth continued, both teams working their offenses patiently; the game was tied at forty-eight, fifty, and then fifty-two with three minutes to play. A KC Ross-Miller jumper put the Aggies up two. A Mullings put back as the shot clock ran out made the lead four with 1:14 to play. An Aggie turnover gave UTEP the ball, and Aggie center Tshilidze Nephawe committed his fourth foul as Bohannon scored; his free throw cut the lead to one. As the Aggies brought the ball up against the press, Watson, who was held scoreless in the second half, was called for double dribble, and the Miners got the ball with 0:24 to play. After a timeout, the Miners held the ball for one shot by Bohannon, who missed. Chris Washburn (Julian's younger brother) got the rebound for the Miners and was fouled in the process by Nephawe, his fifth. There was a substitution delay, but the freshman Washburn made the first throw to tie the game at 54. After an "icing" timeout, Washburn coolly dropped in the second. The Miners had a foul to give (yes, the home court whistle is always forgiving) and they used it when there were three seconds left in the game. Daniel Mullings brought the ball up to front court and let fly: here's the video.
As it bounced away, the Miners won, 55-54. This was an even game in almost every respect. The Miners shot a better percentage by two, the Aggies got one more rebound. The Aggies made two more three pointers, the Miners three more free throws. Probably the biggest statistical difference was in turnovers: the Aggies' twenty was seven more than UTEP. This is an improvement over some of the early games of the Aggies, the Niagara game in particular, where second half turnovers were responsible for giving up a twenty-two point second-half lead to lose by three. The point guard is certainly the least experienced position on the team--two freshmen and a sophomore follow graduated four-year starter Hernst Laroche--and problems with ball handling were expected while the youngsters gain some experience. Hopefully for NMSU, this will not continue to plague them.
The victorious Miners were led by Julian Washburn's twenty points, and Bohannon's thirteen. Seven each were scored by guard Jacques Streeter and Chris Washburn. Watson's thirteen points, all in the first half, led the Aggies. Nephawe and Ross-Miller added nine each, and Mullings ended up with seven.
For UTEP, this was the first game of a seven game home stand; the next game will bring the Idaho Vandals, another member of the Aggies' WAC, to El Paso on December 8. NMSU returns home Saturday for their third game in two years against Southern Mississippi, another member of the Miners' Conference USA. The Aggies scheduled a home-and-home series with the Golden Eagles, and the two teams met in the Great Alaska Shootout last year. This year's return match between the Aggies and the Miners in Las Cruces will come on February 23, on the weekend that most other WAC teams will be playing Bracketbusters games. As I started the trip home, Miner (and former Aggie) radio announcer Jon Teicher noted that (according to UTEP, at least) the long rivalry now stands at 102 games won by each school.
at TEXAS-EL PASO 55, NEW MEXICO STATE 54
NEW MEXICO STATE 3-4 (0-0) -- T. Watson 4-9 5-8 13; B. Sy 1-6 2-2 4; T. Nephawe 3-4 3-4 9; K. Ross-Miller 4-8 0-0 9; D. Mullings 3-6 0-0 7; K. Aronis 1-1 0-0 3; S. Bhullar 0-3 2-2 2; T. de Rouen 1-2 1-1 3; R. Dixon 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 19-43 13-17 54.
TEXAS-EL PASO 2-4 (0-0) -- J. Washburn 8-13 4-5 20; J. Streeter 2-5 2-2 7; J. Bohannon 7-15 1-3 15; C. Lang 1-2 0-1 2; C. Cooper 1-3 2-2 4; J. Ragland 0-2 0-0 0; C. Washburn 0-1 7-8 7; M. Moore 0-0 0-0 0; T. Howard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-41 16-21 55.
Three-point goals: NMSU 3-11 (T. Watson 0-1; B. Sy 0-4; R. Dixon 0-1; K. Ross-Miller 1-2; D. Mullings 1-2; K. Aronis 1-1), UTEP 1-8 (J. Streeter 1-3; C. Cooper 0-2; J. Ragland 0-2; J. Washburn 0-1); Rebounds: NMSU 28 (D. Mullings 6), UTEP 20 (C. Lang 6); Assists: NMSU 10 (T. Watson 3), UTEP 13 (J. Streeter 7); Total Fouls -- NMSU 18, UTEP 17; Fouled Out: NMSU-T. Nephawe; UTEP-None.
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