After three straight losses, the New Mexico State Aggies got a much needed win, beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 89-60 Saturday at the Pan Am Center. P>
NMSU(5-3) led just 37-32 at the break, but shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and hit 18 of 23 free throws in outscoring the 0-8 Lions 52-28.
“We played better in the second half,” said NMSU senior Kelsey Crooks, who led the Aggies with 11 boards. “We executed better. In the first half, we were a bit sluggish. We wanted to come out and make sure we took care of business.”
New Mexico State took control of the game four minutes into the second half going on a 9-0 run to go up 51-37, then scoring eight-straight to lead 59-40.
Sophomore wing Duane John sparked the Ags with seven-straight points at one juncture, while Allen Haynes scored five.
John and forward James Moore led the Aggies with 22 points on the night. John had 17 in the second half. He added nine rebounds on the night.
“Duane is a good player, he’s getting better,” NMSU coach Lou Henson said. “He needs to take good shots and he did that tonight.”
Said John: “I wasn’t being aggressive early on. The coaches told me I need to be more assertive. I just need to show patience out there and good things will happen.”
Haynes and Gary Jackson added 10 points for NMSU, which turned the ball over eight times in the game, including just twice in the second half.
“We needed this win,” Henson said. “We did some good things. We’re just trying to get better. We played much better in the second half. Kelsey did a good job on the boards.”
The first half saw the Golden Lions, who were averaging just 46.4 points per game entering Saturday’s contest, stay in the game behind nine points from Billy Hall, who hit all three of his shots from the field. The Ags got 13 points from Moore and seven from Jackson to lead the way.
Next up for the Aggies is a visit to New Mexico on Monday. The Aggies beat UNM 67-48 in the first meeting between the two schools back on Dec. 3 in Las Cruces.
“We needed to come out and play well,” Moore said. “We didn’t play well in the first half and that’s what we have been doing. It seems like we wait until the second half to play. We’re a better team than we’ve been showing. We just have to keep working and find that chemistry.”
Notes: Henson is now tied for seventh all-time in wins with 767...NMSU is now 3-1 on Saturday’s this season.
Crooks has led the Aggies in rebounding four times this season...John has scored in double figures in all five games he’s played in this season...Haynes has made 7 of his last 12 shots after going 0-5 in a two-game stretch earlier this season..Junior Bryant Funston, a walk-on from Farmington, scored his first points of the season via the old-fashioned three-point play late in the game.