ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Aggies have their first conference win of the year after defeating the Lobos in overtime, 90 to 87.
With 1:01 left in overtime, guard Steven Ashworth drove past New Mexico’s Jaelen House to put up an and-one layup to take the lead 86 to 84. Ashworth missed the free throw, but solid Aggie defense led to a shot-clock violation for New Mexico. After a timeout, Ashworth was fouled and this time redeemed himself at the charity stripe, making both shots.
On the ensuing possession, the Lobos were able to cut the lead to one, 88-87, on an and-one layup by guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. With only eight seconds on the clock, the Aggies passed around until guard Sean Bairstow was fouled. The Australian guard nailed two free throws to ice the game as the Lobos missed a fullcourt prayer in the final two seconds.
“They wouldn’t go away. They’re an excellent squad and they’re guys play well together,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “I thought both teams were extremely competitive.”
Utah State came out with the victory, but it did not look good for the Aggies throughout the first half.
Utah State found themselves down big at halftime, 42 to 27. The 15 point deficit was the most the Aggies have trailed by at the break this season. Utah State only made three 3-pointers compared to 10 from New Mexico. The Aggies also surrendered nine points off of turnovers and got outrebounded 18 to 14.
On the other hand, the Lobos had an incredible start from beyond the arc. Five different Lobos each hit a 3-pointer in the first 12 minutes. That unselfish trend carried throughout the entire first half as New Mexico racked up 12 assists on 52% from shooting from the field. Guard Jovante Johnson hit four 3-pointers on four shots in the last six minutes of the first half.
After surrendering a basket to start the second half, the Aggies went on an 8-0 run to cut the Lobo lead down to 44 to 35 with 17 minutes left in the game. Utah State also saw much more success on defense as they switched to a 1-3-1 zone at halftime.
The Aggies slowly chipped down New Mexico’s lead and with 6:59 left in the game, Bean found center Trevin Dorius down low to tie the game up at 61. Two possessions later, guard Rylan Jones drove into the lane and finished a tough layup to take the Aggies’ first lead of the game, 65 to 63.
The final five minutes of regulation were neck-and-neck with four lead changes and three ties. The final tie came via a corner 3-pointer by Lobo guard KJ Jenkins to even the teams at 76.
After the basket, Ashworth drilled a halfcourt buzzer-beater that would have won the Aggies the game, but it was waived off after officials ruled that Eric Brown, the Lobos interim head coach, called a time out after Jenkins’s shot. The timeout from Brown redeemed an early planning blunder when the Aggies had a rebound and a one-point lead with 29 seconds left in regulation. Utah State was able to dribble off 15 seconds before the Lobos fouled.
“We thought they didn’t have any timeouts, so when I got the ball I kicked it out to Steven [Ashworth] and thought he did a good job just pushing it and getting a good look. [I] can’t believe he made it, that was crazy,” Bean said. “I felt like that would’ve been too easy, too good to be true… He should just keep that in his archives one day and just say it counted.”
The teams then went to overtime where, after a couple of hiccups and turnovers, the Aggies took control and played smart basketball to win the game.
Utah State truly put together a team effort to defeat New Mexico with six Aggies scoring in double-digits. Utah State struggled from downtown only making four during the game, but they made up for it with fast break points and by scoring in the paint. In fact, the Aggies more than doubled the Lobos in the paint, 54-20. As fans have come to expect lately, Bean led the team in scoring.
Bean finished with his 10th double-double this season and 36th of his career which ties him for third all-time in Aggie history with Wayne Estes and Eric Franson. Bean had 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals. He also played 43 of 45 minutes during the game, only checking out when he tweaked his ankle.
“Bean was tremendous,” Odom said.
Guard RJ Eytle-Rock had one of his better games this season scoring 16 points on 75% shooting from the field. He had a memorable and-one layup on a fast break with 10:04 left in the game that cut the Lobo lead to one point.
“I thought RJ was really aggressive,” Bean said. “[He] was really in attack mode.”
Bairstow started for the second time in his career and the first time this season. He did not disappoint as he put up 14 points, two rebounds and a steal. He also made arguably the highlight of the game. With 12:41 left in the game, he flushed home an emphatic one-handed slam. Bairstow also knocked down two free throws at the end of overtime to add insurance to the Aggies’ slim lead in the final seconds.
Ashworth only recorded 20 minutes in the game, but his impact down the stretch was huge for Utah State. He scored nine points in the second half and overtime, including four free throws.
The win improves Utah State to 10-5 on the season, 1-1 in conference play. The Aggies are back in action on Wednesday, Jan. 12 at No. 20 Colorado State.