Offensively, the Redhawks executed a game plan heavy on patient and disciplined passing out of the high post, drawing the Aggies' tall and athletic big men away from the basket to set up easy scoring opportunities.
Outside the paint, the Redhawks thrived by staying disciplined enough to avoid settling for too many long jumpers against the Aggies' zone defense. Seattle U had 17 assists on its 23 made baskets.
A primary beneficiary was senior forward Shore Adenekan, who played his best game of the season with 11 points on a series of two-hand power dunks following NMSU's defensive breakdowns.
Another was sophomore forward William Powell, who had a season-high 14 points to go with six rebounds. Powell, who stands 6-foot-6 with the frame of a wing player, was a force inside despite playing an undersized power forward against NMSU's front line rotation of 6-10 Tshilidzi Nephawe, 6-10 Johnathon Wilkins, 6-9 Pascal Siakam and 6-8 Remi Barry.
Senior guard Jarell Flora paced Seattle U with 16 points, hitting 4-of-8 shots from three-point range, and added a team-high seven rebounds. Senior guard Emerson Murray led SU with six assists, while senior guard Isiah Umipig finished with seven points and four assists.
"Getting the ball into the middle of their zone was a big key in being able to attack it, but having the guts to go in there and make a play was great to see," Seattle U coach Cameron Dollar said. "Defensively, we hung in there and kept jabbing at them, and then to be able to be efficient offensively, especially in the second half, was huge for us to get the win."
Thanks to its discipline on the other end of the court, the Redhawks defense held the Aggies to 39 percent shooting from the field (21 of 53) and 20 percent from beyond the arc (3 of 15). Barry, who had been leading New Mexico State in scoring in the absence of reigning WAC Player of the Year Daniel Mullings -- who has been sidelined for a month with a broken finger -- managed just four points on 2-of-10 shooting and had zero rebounds against SU on Saturday.
The game was tied at 28 at halftime before NMSU scored the first two baskets of the second half. Seattle U answered with an 8-0 run to take a lead they would never give up.
Flora made a layup to put SU ahead by 10 with eight minutes to go. New Mexico State then went on a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to cut the lead to one. But a three-pointer by Umipig, a layup by freshman guard Jadon Cohee and another dunk by Adenekan gave the Redhawks enough cushion for the win.
After a series of close losses and blowout losses to New Mexico State, this was Seattle U's first win over the Aggies in the WAC. The Redhawks had proven they could hang with the conference's heavyweight program -- most notably in last season's two-point loss in the first round of the WAC tournament to the eventual champs -- and have now gotten over the hump of beating a team that has played in the last three NCAA Tournaments.
Seattle U (9-8 overall, 2-1 WAC) is now a half-game behind Grand Canyon for the top spot in the conference, tied with New Mexico State (10-10, 2-1) for second place. The Redhawks' next game is Thursday, Jan. 22, at Chicago State.