New Mexico State wasn’t tournament-ready Thursday night--not for the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament, where the Aggies had been hoping to play, nor for the National Invitation Tournament, where they ended up.
Even though the Aggies had the home-court advantage, Pepperdine raced to an 84-69 victory in a first-round NIT game before a crowd of 4,912 at the 13,222-seat Pan American Center.
Pepperdine will return to the state Tuesday for its second-round game, against the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.
The Waves (20-12) broke out to a 7-0 lead and never trailed against the Aggies and their vaunted zone defense, which had limited its previous opponents to 42% shooting.
It was New Mexico State’s worst loss at home this season.
The Waves shot 57% for the game, built a 37-21 halftime lead and extended the lead to 72-43 with 3:41 remaining.
Only after the game had gotten out of hand did New Mexico State (21-11) begin to show what it could do.
The Aggies went on a 19-4 spurt and pulled within 76-62. But by then it was far too late.
By then Pepperdine’s Casey Crawford, Dexter Howard, Craig Davis and Shann Ferch had done most of their damage.
Howard and Davis each scored 16 points to lead the Waves, and Davis made four of seven three-point shots.
Crawford was dominating inside on offense and defense, finishing with 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Ferch scored only nine points, but was three for five from three-point range. And each of his bombs seemed to flatten the Aggies when they were trying to rise.
Not that New Mexico State needed much flattening.
Aggie Coach Neil McCarthy, who said earlier he was disappointed that his team hadn’t been invited to the NCAA tournament, said after the game: “We were just flat, really flat tonight.
“We did not shoot the ball well (42%), and we threw it away considerably.”
McCarthy said that “in retrospect, maybe we left an awful lot of our game on the floor of the Long Beach arena.”
He was referring to New Mexico State’s loss last week to Nevada Las Vegas in the championship game of the Big West Conference tournament.
Pepperdine Coach Tom Asbury said that the Waves “probably can’t play a whole lot better than that defensively. And we played really patiently on offense.”
New Mexico State’s Willie Joseph scored a season-high 30 points, but 20 came in the second half after the game was lost.