New Mexico State moves past CS Bakersfield 72-57

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) Tshilidzi Nephawe scored 15 points and hauled in 16 rebounds, while Sim Bhullar added 13 and 12, helping New Mexico State put away Cal State Bakersfield 72-57 Saturday night.

The Aggies (22-9, 11-4 Western Athletic Conference) shot 51 percent from the field. Daniel Mullings chipped in 14 points, and Travon Landry and DK Eldridge each had 12.

CS Bakersfield (12-17, 5-10) went 21 of 66 on field goal attempts (31.8 percent). Corey Hall, Issiah Grayson and Brandon Barnes each contributed 10 points.

NMSU trailed 6-0 early, but pushed toward a 28-15 lead late in the first half after an Eldridge 3-pointer and led by double digits the rest of the way.

The Aggies were playing without K.C. Ross-Miller and Renaldo Dixon, who were both suspended after an altercation following a 66-61 overtime loss at WAC-leading Utah Valley on Thursday. Ross-Miller hurled the ball at Utah Valley’s Holton Hunsaker in the final seconds. As that happened, fans were rushing the court and the celebration quickly turned into an on-court brawl that included fans and players.

The two-game suspension for Ross-Miller and Dixon’s one-game suspension forced Head Coach Marvin Menzies and the Aggies to play short-handed, as only seven players saw action. Nephawe played the entire game and Bhullar saw 38 minutes. Menzies rotated the other starters Mullings (32), Eldridge (31) and Kevin Aronis (28) along with Landry (29) off the bench and Matej Buovac saw limited action late in each half. Landry, a freshman guard who averages 10.9 minutes a game, took on an important role off the bench, scoring a season-high on 3-of-6 shooting (6 of 8 free throws).

The extra minutes didn’t appear to fatigue NMSU’s big men, with Nephawe going 5 of 8 from the field, blocking five shots, and grabbing six offensive boards. The 7-foot-5 Bhullar was 6 of 10 on field goals and also dished out five assists.

”It was a very good effort by the guys, especially by our two big-men,” said Menzies. ”There were so many things that all the guys did, but I couldn’t believe our bigs finished with the minutes they did. Travon Landry was solid for us tonight and it’s great because he is willing and able to learn.”

The Aggies also avoided foul trouble for the most part, as Mullings was the lone player to foul out with 23 seconds left, while Bhullar and Eldridge each had three. That resulted in just 12 trips to the free throw line for Bakersfield (11 of 12).

With the win, NMSU remains in second place of the WAC standings behind Utah Valley (12-3) and ahead of Grand Canyon (9-5).