LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- Justin Hawkins scored 23 points, including a crucial pair of free throws late in the game, as New Mexico State held on for a 76-73 win over Utah State on Thursday night.
With seven seconds left and New Mexico State (21-6, 10-3 Western Athletic Conference) ahead 74-73, Jaycee Carroll had a chance to put Utah State (20-8, 8-5) in the lead but he dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds.Hawkins, a 73 percent free throw shooter, took the ball on the inbounds play and was fouled. He hit both free throws to seal the win. Utah State's Durrall Peterson launched a desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer but it hit nothing but air.Carroll, who scored a career-high 44 points in a win over New Mexico State on Feb. 5, had another strong performance Thursday. He finished with 30 points on 11 of 19 shooting and added 2 assists.New Mexico State started the game hitting its first 10 of 12 shots. NMSU used a 17-2 run to pull away to a 43-26 halftime lead. During that streak, Utah State failed to hit on a single field goal attempt.Stephen DuCharme broke that drought with a layup early in the second half. It was Utah State's first field goal since the 8:25 mark of the first half.Fourteen turnovers by New Mexico State in the second half opened the door for Utah State, which got as close as four points on two occasions before NMSU's lead all but disappeared late in the game.