Jemerrio Jones hauled in 20 rebounds and put up 27 points Saturday night for the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday night. He’s 6’5″ and 174 pounds.
The extremely undersized forward carried the Aggies on his back at the sold out Pan American Center in Las Cruces. The Aggies first option at scoring, Zach Lofton, who is second in scoring in the entire Western Athletic Conference, had 15 points. He averages 20. Not terrible, right? Wrong. 7 of Lofton’s 15 came from free throws, he was 24% from the field, and didn’t make a single shot from deep off of 5 attempts.
The game began in NM State’s favor, as the Aggies were up for all of the first 5 minutes, with Jones scoring 8 points and getting 4 rebounds. The rest of the first half consisted of small runs and sloppy basketball. Grand Canyon had 5 turnovers and New Mexico State had 9 heading into the locker room. Lofton only had 5 points at that point, and he didn’t get that much better throughout the game. GCU’s Oscar Frayer led the team with 13 points at halftime.
The Lopes began the second half strong, getting up by 13, their largest lead of the game, before the 15 minutes mark. GCU’s Lever was fouled out and received a technical right after the foul. After reaching that event, the Aggies began to turn the game around, holding the Lopes to 6 minutes without a field goal. At 5 minutes to go, NM State was within 3. New Mexico State went on a 13-3 run at 2:57 with a timeout called. With under 30 seconds to go, Josh Braun missed a three, and Lofton pulled in a rebound, made his free throws, and that basically clinched the game for the Aggies.
The Pan American Center was sold out, having 12,989 in attendance, according to Mark Rudi. The crowd was quiet for a sold out venue for the first half and some of the second half, though when the technical foul was issued, it started to get loud. The Aggies are now 93-8 in the past 101 home games. Grand Canyon is also 0-5 all time in the Pan American Center, though this game was by far the most competitive of the 5.
There was a small trend on Twitter on Friday and Saturday between Grand Canyon students and fans, with the tag being #ThingsBetterThanLasCruces, as the fans were making fun of the city the university is in. Some of the tweets included “Android users in groups chats #thingsbetterthanlascruces” (@schissel72) or “The new Snapchat update. #thingsbetterthanlascruces” (@aprlymarie_)
The young rivalry between the two teams will possibly be renewed in the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas, March 7-10.