New Mexico State overcame a rebounding disadvantage and an 18-point deficit Friday night to beat Pacific, 70-68, in a Big West Conference game at Stockton.
The 23rd-ranked Aggies improved to 9-1, winning their conference opener, as they outscored the Tigers, 26-6, in the final 7:50, taking the lead on guard William Benjamin’s three-point field goal with 15 seconds remaining.
“We were very, very fortunate,” Aggie Coach Neil McCarthy said. “It just wasn’t our night. We played hard, but we weren’t doing the job. Then, in the last eight minutes, all the lights went on.”
Pacific, which made 47.2% of its field goals and outrebounded the Aggies, 47-36, surged to a 62-44 lead with 7:51 remaining. The Aggies then went on a 20-4 binge to pull within two, 66-64, with 1:36 to play.
“When we were up by 18, that’s as well as we can play,” Coach Bob Thomason said after Pacific dropped to 5-7 and 1-2. “But then we got tentative and gave them a fighting chance.”
Dell Demps made two free throws to give the Tigers a four-point lead, but Michael New’s two free throws and Benjamin’s basket gave the Aggies the lead at 69-68.
New scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second half. Randy Brown added 15 points, seven assists and four steals for the Aggies.
Don Little led Pacific with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Utah State 81, UC Santa Barbara 75--The Gauchos almost pulled out this game at Logan, Utah.
Trailing 67-53 with 9:36 to play, UCSB went on a 10-0 run that made the score 67-63 with 6:54 left. Idris Jones scored five of the points and Gary Gray made two technical foul shots, which were awarded when Aggie fans threw debris onto the court.
But the Gauchos could get no closer, as the Aggies made eight free throws down the stretch, with Kendall Youngblood making four of them.
Jay Goodman led Utah State (5-6 overall, 2-0 in Big West play) with 31 points, including 22 in the first half.
Lucius Davis and Gray led the Gauchos (6-4, 1-1) with 16 and 14 points, respectively.