Harris’ career-high 31 sends New Mexico St. past New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A.J. Harris scored a career-high 31 points and went 9-of-11 from the field and New Mexico State held off a late New Mexico rally to win 98-94 on Saturday.
But that wasn't enough to overcome New Mexico State's hot shooting as the Aggies went 30-for 53 from the field and 12-of-23 on 3-pointers. Harris hit all six of 3-pointers.
"He had 31 on 11 shots (attempted), that's the model of proficiency," New Mexico State coach Chris Jans said of Harris. "I don't know many players who can top that. It's been coming. He got into one of his zones. We've all seen that. The basket just looked like the ocean to him. He is becoming a real leader. He certainly led us to the victory."
The Lobos tried different defenses to slow Harris down, to little avail.
"If you start to get down to the nitty gritty, they had one terrific player tonight," said Lobos coach Paul Weir. "He changed the dynamic of the game in a lot of ways. The emotional stuff you talk about or we talk about, as all that plays out, independent of that are things that are going to happen on the court. And I thought A.J. Harris was one. That was one of the best performances since I've been here of an individual on us. He was the difference in the game. He was lights out."
New Mexico State gained control of the game early in the second half, reeling off a 13-0 run while holding the Lobos scoreless for 4½ minutes to go up 60-44, and later 75-56.
But in the final two minutes, New Mexico trimmed a 92-79 deficit to 96-94 before C.J. Bobbitt hit two foul shots with 0.7 seconds left to seal it.
"It's way more fun to win and learn from your mistakes than lose and have to grow that way," Jans said. "Certainly we didn't do a very good job of managing the game down the stretch. I've got to help them better. They wouldn't go away. Credit to them, they kept fighting. They made shots, we couldn't get any stops."
New Mexico State now has won four straight in the bitter rivalry for the first time since the 1993-94 seasons. The teams will meet again Dec. 4 in Las Cruces, N.M.
"It means a lot to us," Jans said. "It didn't take me very long to figure out how important this rivalry was to our fan base and our university. So I made it important to our players. They dove into it. It's nice to start the series on the road with a win. Certainly it wasn't easy. Now they have to come back to our place in a couple of weeks."
The Lobos still own the overall advantage 121-100 and 36-16 in the Pit. Weir, who coached the Aggies for one season and was an assistant with New Mexico State for nine seasons before taking on the Lobos program before the 2017-18 season, is 0-3 against his former team.
NEW COACH: The Aggies added New Mexico State graduate and former Los Angeles Laker assistant coach Casey Owens to its staff on Saturday as director of operations. His son, Tennessee Owens, is an Aggies redshirt.
New Mexico State next plays ag home Nov. 21 against D-II Eastern New Mexico. The Aggies have a 621-154 in the Pan American Center and 140-24 over the last 10 years.
New Mexico next plays Nov. 24 at home against former Western Athletic Conference rival UTEP. The Miners are 1-2 and lost to New Mexico State by 27 points Nov. 9.