LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- Reggie Theus isn't usually a man of few
words, but he needed just one to sum up his first Division I
"Wow," Theus said after New Mexico State beat New Mexico 67-61
Tyrone Nelson's double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds and
New Mexico State's best free throw shooting of the season gave
Theus his first win over a major college opponent.
Theus, who spent the last two years as an assistant to Rick
Pitino at Louisville, was hired by New Mexico State in March after
the Aggies went 6-24 last year, their worst record in 39 years.
Theus had promised a quick fix but before Saturday the Aggies
(2-3) had beaten only Division II member Western New Mexico, with
losses to UCLA, Sam Houston State and UTEP.
The win over New Mexico (4-2) gave Theus a chance to revert to
the theme he brought to Las Cruces.
"Things are changing," he said. "This staff, this school,
this city, we believe the days of being the third wheel are over."
New Mexico State squandered a 13-point first half lead but held
on for the win by scoring 15 of its last 17 points from the
free-throw line. The Aggies had just one field goal over the final
6½ minutes, but it didn't matter the way they shot free throws.
Nelson hit 11 of 13 free throws, including two with 20.2 seconds
left that sealed the win.
New Mexico State, which came into the game hitting a mediocre
58.6 percent from the line, hit 30 of 36 against New Mexico. Last
week the Aggies hit just 17 of 30 in a 64-55 loss to UTEP and were
14-of-24 in an 83-70 season-opening loss to UCLA.
"I knew we were a better shooting team than that," Theus said.
"Tonight we shot free throws the way we should. If we'd shot free
throws like that, we'd have a couple more wins under our belt."
New Mexico trailed 32-19 with 2:20 left in the first half, but
scored the final eight points, the last three on a 3-pointer by
Jeff Hart with a second remaining. The Lobos' rally continued
through the first five minutes of the second half behind eight
straight points from Mark Walters, who led the Lobos with 18
"Jeff hit that 3 and we were down by five," Walters said. "We
felt we had taken their best punch and we were only down by five."
But New Mexico struggled to get into an offensive flow all night
and hit a season-low 33.9 percent of its shots.
"We weren't executing at all, they were working harder than
us," Walters said. "They crashed the glass and got rebounds at
critical points in the game."
Walters scored New Mexico's first eight points of the second
half, including back-to-back 3s that cut New Mexico State's lead to
36-35 with 15:57 left. Moments later a field goal by Kris Collins
gave the Lobos a 40-38 lead. There were seven ties before the
Aggies took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by David
Fisher with 3:52 remaining.
NMSU got its last field goal -- a baseline jumper by Fisher --
with 6:30 remaining, but the Aggies repeatedly hit free throws down
the stretch. New Mexico hurt its chances by missing three of four
free throws in the final 1:09. That, coupled with a late turnover
by center David Chiotti, an airball 3-point shot by Hart and a
missed layup by Tony Danridge contributed to the New Mexico loss.
Chiotti, averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds, had 9 rebounds but
just 7 points as the Aggies' defense limited him to just five
Theus' decision to bring Nelson back into the game with 2.2
seconds left in the first half seemed to contribute to the Lobos'
rally. Nelson, who scored 13 points in the first half, promptly
picked up his third foul on a charging call. That led to Hart's 3
and a momentum shift to New Mexico heading into the second half.
Elijah Ingram added 17 points, including 3 3-pointers, for NMSU.
Tony Danridge scored 12 for New Mexico.