The Western Athletic Conference king got a scare.
That’s a lot more than Seattle University could say a year ago when New Mexico State came to town, but there were no moral victories Saturday night, not after a game the Redhawks thought they could have won.
New Mexico State, like it so often has, made the big plays when it mattered most and defeated Seattle U 75-67 at the Redhawk Center.
Seattle U (10-10, 3-2 WAC) would have moved into a share of the WAC lead. Instead, they trail New Mexico State (14-6, 5-0) by two games.
“It’s great earning their respect, but our guys went into this game wanting to earn a win,” Seattle U coach Jim Hayford said. “We got too many experienced players to take moral victories.”
The Aggies, winners of seven of the last eight regular-season WAC titles, including the last three, demolished a short-handed Seattle U team here last season, winning 87-60 after taking a 50-24 halftime lead.
They were the preseason favorite to win the title again, and entered the game on a seven-game winning streak. Seattle U certainly wasn’t intimidated, but the Aggies prevailed anyway in a game that was in the balance until the final minute.
New Mexico State led most of the second half, but never by more than six until the final seconds. Terrell Brown, who scored a game-high 25 points for Seattle U, finished off a three-point play on one of his many drives to the basket, to pull Seattle U to 69-67 with 1:50 left.
After an Aggies miss, Seattle U was called for traveling while trying to corral the rebound. That proved costly when New Mexico State’s Terrell Brown (yes, the same exact name as Seattle U’s star) ended up making a pair of free throws.
Seattle U’s Brown missed from short range with 29 seconds left and the Aggies made four three throws in the final 20 seconds to finish off the win.
Ivan Aurrecoechea, a 6-foot-9 forward drew foul after foul inside against Seattle U post players. Myles Carter, Seattle U’s top post player, fouled out with 7:22 left and a few minutes later, his backup, Jordan Dallas, also fouled out.
Aurrecoechea had 19 points and 11 rebounds for New Mexico State, which out-rebounded Seattle U 35-22. The Aggies made 26 of 31 free throws, taking 13 more attempts than Seattle U, and making 11 more. Aurrecoechea was 9 of 12 from the foul line.
New Mexico State was also better from long range, making 9 of 21 three-point shots while Seattle U was 6 of 20. Its starters were 1 of 12.
Still, the Redhawks had a chance. They led by as many as 11 in the first half at 18-7, but New Mexico State finally caught up with a 6-0 run in the final two minutes of the half to make it 29-29 at the break.
The two teams meet again Feb. 13 in Las Cruces, N.M., and Seattle U’s Brown is looking forward to it.
“I feel like everyone is motivated to get them,” he said.
Kamira Sanders scored 25 points and tied a career high with seven steals, but the Seattle U women (7-11, 1-4 WAC) lost at New Mexico State 83-65. Gia Pack had 30 points and 19 rebounds for the Aggies (6-12, 3-2).