Arkansas State outscored New Mexico State 11-2 in overtime to beat the Aggies, 82-73, Saturday at the Pan American Center.
The Indians earned a spot in the eight-team Sun Belt Tournament, while NMSU finishes 13-14 and 6-9 in league play. New Mexico State entered its final two-game homestand with a chance to make the league tournament, but lost 58-55 on Thursday to Arkansas-Little Rock.
Indians guard Dewarick Spencer led the charge for ASU with seven points in the OT period. He finished with a game-high 32 points. The Aggies scored the first two points in overtime on a James Moore jumper, but didn't score the final 4:30 of the game.
"We switched to a zone defense and that made a big difference," ASU coach Dickey Nutt said. "We made a committed effort and came up with big stops. And we were eight for eight at the free throw line."
New Mexico State managed to tie the game to send it into overtime. Moore, who was playing in his final collegiate game, was fouled right before the final buzzer under the basket and hit two free throws to tie it.
The Indians made 15 of 27 from the field in the second half and shot 49.1 percent for the game. Spencer scored 23 second half points and five of six 3-pointers to lead ASU's win. "It's still a game of skills," NMSU coach Lou Henson said. "We made six treys as a team and they had one guy that made six treys. We played hard all season, but we ran into teams that had a little more skill.
"It's disappointing we lost, but our kids gave a great effort tonight. We kept ourselves in the race all season with some good wins. We had a chance and that's what we wanted." Arkansas State trailed 37-34 at the break, but scored the first 10 points of the second half to go up 44-37. The two teams then traded points for much of the second half.
Moore scored 19 of his team-high 31 points in the second half to keep the Ags in the game. No other Aggie scored in double figures. The Aggies shot just 33.9 percent for the game and 32.1 percent in the second half. New Mexico State made just 6 of 23 from 3-point range, while Arkansas State was 8 of 18.
"I wanted to win tonight, I wanted to leave it out on the court," Moore said. Andre-King Holland added 14 points for the Indians, while J.J. Montgomery had 10. New Mexico State won the battle at the free throw line, outscoring ASU 25-18, and also won the rebounding battle 42-35.
The Aggies built their 3-point lead at halftime behind 12 points from Moore. New Mexico State finished just 2-6 at home in league play and 8-7 all season. "It's a tough way to go out," Moore said. "We had chances to win and we lost some real close battles. We gave a great effort, but we just came up short."
Kelsey Crooks, playing in final game as well, led NMSU with 15 rebounds.
Felix Chavez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org