Aggies fall to the Miners

Despite another solid performance from newcomer Duane John, the New Mexico State Aggies fell to the UTEP Miners in front of a season high 11,983 fans, 83-74. A poor first half performance by the Aggies was too much to overcome as they dropped to 4-1 on the season, and lost their first game to the Miners since the 2001-02 season.

John finished the night as the leading scorer for the Aggies with 26 points and eight rebounds while James Moore added 15 and Kelsey Crooks dropped in 11. As a team, the Aggies shot 42 percent from the field and only 53 percent from the charity stripe on 9-of-17 shooting. The Aggies out-rebounded the Miners 41-31, but turned the ball over four more times and committed seven more fouls.

Jason Williams led UTEP with 24 points while three other Miners scored in double figures. As a team, the Miners shot 49 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line, hitting 31 of 41 attempts.

The second half started in the same manner as the first, with a quick jumper by Moore with 19:33 left in the game. Roberson then swished a 3-pointer with 18:52 left in the second half to cut the Miner lead down to nine at 40-31. A blocked shot by Moore with 18:11 left in the game kept the Aggies within 10, but the Miners continued to play hard and put the lead back at 12 with 17:36 left in the second period.

As the Aggies continued to play poorly early in the second half, the Miners again took a large 14-point lead at 45-31 with 15:57 remaining in the game. A strong Miner defense continued to haunt the Aggies as they trailed 51-35 with 13:04 left to play.

A 3-pointer by John with 11:31 in the half brought the Aggies back within 13 at 53-40, but hot shooting by the Miners from the free-throw line kept the Aggies at a constant disadvantage. The Aggies had made only 5-of-11 free throws in the game compared to 10-of-12 by the Miners. Neither team had impressive numbers in the second half as the Miners were shooting 38 percent from the field compared to the Aggies 33 percent.

With 9:31 left in the game, the Miners took their largest lead of the night at 59-40 while the Aggies continued to play out of sync, turning the ball over five more times than the Miners. With 8:17 showing on the clock, the Aggies were only shooting 36 percent for the game, whereas the Miners were shooting 43 percent from the field and 81 percent from the charity stripe.

The Aggies then went on an 8-2 run to bring the score within 10 at 63-53 with 5:43 left in the game, and John's fifth 3-pointer of the night brought the Aggies within seven at 68-61 with just under three minutes to play.

The Aggies got as close as six on hot shooting from John, but the Miners proved to be too much as they defeated the Aggies in the first game of the two-game series.

In the first half, the Aggies took a quick 2-0 lead on a jumper from Moore with 19:45 on the clock, and at 18:06, Roberson added two to extend the lead to 4-0. Jason Williams then added a 3-point play for the Miners to cut the lead to one with 17:45 to play in the first half, and a 3-pointer by Smallwood gave UTEP their first lead of the game at 6-3 with just over 17:00 to play in the first half.

After the 6-0 run by the Miners, a lay-up by John tied the game at six apiece with 15:05 to play before the break, but a pair of free-throws from Williams gave the advantage back to the Miners with 15:00 left in the half. UTEP then took their largest lead of the game at 10-6 with 14:01 left in the first half, and a 3-pointer from Filiberto Rivera extended that lead to seven with 13:30 left to play.

The Miners held a 15-11 lead with 12:05 left in the first half, but poor shooting by the Aggies led to a seven-point UTEP lead at 18-11 with 11:32 remaining. A 3-pointer by Chris Craig at 10:25 gave the Miners a 10 point lead at 21-11, but a fighting Aggie squad cut that lead back down to eight with 8:47 to play before halftime.

Strong defense from UTEP and consistent NMSU turnovers seemed to be a critical factor in the first half as the Aggies continued to fall even further behind the Miners, trailing by 12 at 28-16 with just under eight minutes to play in the half. With 5:45 remaining, the Miners took their largest lead at 35-19 as Jason Williams scored his 18th point of the night with several minutes still remaining in the first half.

A dunk from Williams with 3:47 left in the half put the score at 37-23 as the Miners continued to dominate the game. The Aggies had shot a mere 37 percent from the field compared to 59 percent by the Miners.

With 1:30 left to play before halftime, a 3-pointer from Kelsey Crooks brought the Aggies back within 12 at 38-26, but a 7-for-8 performance from the charity stripe by the Miners contributed to their 40-26 halftime lead. Despite the 14-point deficit, the Aggies out-rebounded the Miners in the first half 17-13.

Leading for the Aggies at the half was Duane John with nine points while the team shot a mere 38 percent from the field and made only 4 of 10 attempts from the 3-point arc.

Jason Williams led the Miners at the half with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and the team shot 54 percent from the field hitting 5 of 10 baskets from 3-point land.

The Aggies will be back in action on December 14 as they head to Tulsa to take on the Golden Hurricanes at 1:05 p.m

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