LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A depleted Miners team, whose tallest man on the court was 6-foot-7, was overpowered in the last stretch by a solid New Mexico State Aggies squad 72-63 on Saturday night in the Pan American Center.
After losing center Matt Willms and Trey Wade to injuries, the Miners (1-4) played small-ball against a talented NMSU (4-1) squad and could not keep up offensively.
Now, the Miners have lost their fourth consecutive game this year, sixth consecutive to NMSU.
“I thought our guys, given the adversity that we have had this week losing Trey Wade and Matt Willms and [it being] our first road game, I thought we played really hard. I thought we played really competitive,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We had five guards out there for significant stretches of the game and I thought our guys really competed.”
In the first half, the Miners and Aggies went back-and-forth throughout the opening five minutes.
NMSU actually started the game with four turnovers and a plethora of fouls, but quickly cleaned up themselves and went on a 6-0 run early on in the game. Their defense held the Miners to under 27 percent shooting from the floor through the first 10 minutes.
Guard Evan Gilyard helped the Miners claw back into the matchup, as he contributed with eight points before the end of the half. The teams were tied at 20 with just four minutes to go in the half. But what was a dagger to the UTEP finish of the half was a NMSU 9-0 run that really turned the momentum towards the Aggies.
In the second half, the Miners came out intense and actually were able to tie the game at one point early on.
However, their offense just simply could not get in rhythm as they shot 36.4 percent from the floor in the second and just 28.6 percent from 3-point range. In the end, NMSU broke out with a 12-3 run in the last stretch of the game and was able to hold on for the win.
Gilyard led the Miners with 14 points, five boards and two steals.
“He’s got quickness and strength,” Floyd said. “He was a guy who had to do most everything for his high school team. The next step in his growth will be his ability to get in the lane and make plays for others, to make plays for perimeter guys and post guys dumping off, understanding clock situations, that kind of thing if we’ve got eight, nine, 10 seconds on the clock, how we want to go play in those situations. But he’s a young guy and we love that he’s a Miner. He’s competing and that’s the best thing that he does.”
NMSU was prided off their effective rebounding game, where they out-rebounded the Miners 46-31.
“We played a team that had 25 offensive boards against the Lobos,” Floyd said. “They had 10 tonight and given the circumstances of the game, I thought that was something that we could almost live with. Our guys had a real purpose to what we were trying to do and I’ve got a lot of respect for how hard we played tonight.”
UTEP did however cause 16 NMSU turnovers, which led to 18 points off turnovers.
“To have 11 turnovers in your first road game, we can live with that,” Floyd said. “I think a lot of guys will look back at a shot or two that didn’t go down, a free throw or two that didn’t go down early in one and one, but those things are going to happen throughout the course of the game. We made a nice run to start the second half. [Johnathon] Wilkins made a couple of big shots for them, big threes that we felt like we were going to have to live with given our lack of size and the fact that we needed to protect the interior. I thought we gave it everything that we had.”
NMSU’s leading scorers came from guard Zack Lofton, who had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Sidy N’Dir, who tallied 13 points and four rebounds.
Next up, UTEP will play against Lamar (4-1) on Monday at 7 p.m.