Playing a physical, hard-nosed game, the Ragin' Cajuns got 26 points from Aggie stopper Brad Boyd and held NMSU's leading scorer James Moore to just two field goals in an 69-58 win at the Pan American Center.
The Ragin' Cajuns, who have now won eight straight, improved to 18-6 overall and 10-1 in the Sun Belt. NMSU slips to 16-7 and 6-5.
Boyd, who beat the Aggies last year with a late 3-pointer in the Pan Am, drained five treys and lead all scorers with 26 points.
"I love this arena," said Boyd of the Pan American Center. "It has soft rims and I just have had good success here. Tonight, we played well and we were focused."
But it was also ULL's defense that caused havoc for NMSU. The Aggies made just one field goal in the final 12:42 of the game and just 6 of 24 in the final 20 minutes.
Moore, who was averaging 17.9 points per game entering Saturday's contest, was just 2 of 6 for the game, including zero field goals in the second half. He finished with 12, eight of which game from the free throw line.
"They were really physical with James," NMSU coach Lou Henson said.
Said a somber Moore after the game: "I just wasn't aggressive enough. As a team in the second half, it just seemed we weren't out there, especially me."
UL stormed out of the locker room at halftime, hitting 9 of 16 from the field as it opened up a 56-44 lead midway through the second half. A 7-0 run put the Ragin' Cajuns up 12 as NMSU committed two turnovers and shot an air ball. Anthony Johnson scored six of the seven points to lead the way.
The Ragin' Cajuns were 14 of 26 from the field the half.
UL extended its lead to 61-45 on a Boyd trey and Kenneth Lawrence drive, before NMSU scored six straight to pull within 61-51 with 6:26 left, but that would be as close as it would get the rest of the way.
Johnson finished with 18 points for the Ragin' Cajuns on 6 of 9 shooting, while Lawrence, the team's point guard tallied 10 points.
"We came out in the second half and played really good defense," UL coach Jessie Evans said. "We didn't give their shooters as many good looks as in the first half and we rebounded well. And we also passed the ball well offensively. We had eight assists in the second half and that's a big part of our game."
The Ragin' Cajuns outrebounded the Aggies 40-33 for the game, getting 11 from center Michael Southall, eight from Lawrence and seven from Johnson.
"They just have so many guys that can break you down," Henson said. "Tonight they really moved the ball well offensively and defensively they did a good job on us. And rebounding was a key. Chris Jackson did a nice job for us inside, but our guards didn't rebound like we'd like."
Jackson had 15 rebounds for the Aggies to go with his 11 points as NMSU did have five players in double figures. Allen Haynes had 12 for NMSU, while Jason Fontenet and Brandon Mason added 10. Fontenet was a focal point of ULL's defense. He had 20 in the last meeting between the two schools on Jan. 2.
"We wanted to slow him down, but he was just a bit off tonight," Boyd said. "He's a good player."
The first half saw UL come out like a blaze of fire, taking a 20-11 lead less than eight minutes in.
UL hit 7 of 10 shots, including four treys to take the early lead.
Johnson and Boyd each drained two 3-pointers. Boyd led all scorers in the first half with 13.
But the Ragin' Cajuns eventually cooled off as the Aggies slowly, but slowly recovered to pull within 32-31 at the halftime break.
The Ags still trailed 31-23 with 4:59 left, but scored 8 of the final 9 points to close the half.
Mason and Haynes each hit critical treys to close the half, including Haynes' triple at the buzzer as Jackson found him open in the corner. Mason had 10 first-half points, while Haynes had eight.
ULL scored just one free throw in the final 4:59 of the half and wound up making just 10 of 26 field goals, while NMSU was 13-29.
The Aggies also did a solid job on the boards after the visitors controlled the boards early. Jackson cleaned the boards with nine rebounds to lead all rebounders. NMSU had 19 rebounds to ULL's 18 in the opening half.
Both defenses were intent on stopping the other's stars.
Moore, was 2 of 4 for four points and Fontenet, the team's point guard was just 1 of 4 and didn't have many clear looks at the bucket.
On the other side, NMSU held ULL's center Michael Southall to just one point.