New Mexico State’s seven-game win streak ended on Thursday with an 86-81 loss at Western Athletic Conference newcomer Chicago State.
The Aggies fell to 3-1 in WAC play while Chicago State remained unbeaten in league play at 3-0.
“We played our worst game in I don’t know how long,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said in his postgame radio comments. “It was bad, but also credit to Chicago State. They sped us up.”
The Aggies turned the ball over 19 times and finished the game 21-for-37 (56.8 percent) at the foul line.
“It was reminiscent of the Western Michigan loss,” said Menzies, whose team dropped to 14-6 overall and travel to 2-2 Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday. “I thought we learned that lesson.”
Chicago State was 22-for-30 (73.3 percent) from the foul line for the game and 7-for-8 from 3-point range in the second half. The Cougars were 14-for-16 from the foul line in the last 3:26, taking a 73-72 lead on a pair of Nate Duhon free throws with 1:49 to play. Quinton Pippen followed with a 3-pointer in transition to extend the lead to four with 1:22 left.
“We had 10 turnovers in the first half and a lot of them were unforced,” Menzies said. “We take a lot of pride in stopping the three-ball, but we stopped guarding the 3. Guys were looking at the post rather than staying connected to their man. Our posts should be able to guard guys one-on-one.”
Kevin Aronis made it a one-point game with one of his five makes from 3-point range to pull within one with 8.3 seconds left as the Aggies were 10-for-23 from 3-point range for the game.
Duhon answered with a pair of free throws, but DK Eldridge threw the inbounds pass away.
“We had something drawn up but we never got a chance to execute it,” Menzies said. “I guess (Eldridge) saw something else.”
Daniel Mullings led the Aggies with 26 points, Aronis had 15 points, Eldridge scored 14 points despite going down in the first half with an injured ankle. NMSU center Tshilidzi Nephawe added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“All of the chatter about going undefeated in conference can dissipate and we can get back to the reality of winning one game at a time, which has been our focus,” Menzies said. “They played harder than us and were efficient in making us play bad basketball.”
NMSU trailed by eight with 3:59 to play in the half, but finished strong to tie the game at 40-40 at halftime.
The Aggies used a 10-0 run to take an early lead, going up 14-7 on a Kevin Aronis 3 as NMSU was 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range in the first half.
Chicago State scored 11 points off 10 NMSU turnovers in the first half. Chicago State took its first lead at 7:30 and Pippen followed with a lay up off a steal during a 10-0 Chicago State run. Matt Ross drained Chicago State’s only 3 of the first half to give the Cougars their biggest lead at 36-28. Mullings scored 12 of his 14 first half points in the last four minutes, putting the Aggies back on top with a triple with 1:43 to play in the first half.
“You are only as good as your last game and as of right now, we are not the WAC leaders and that’s the reality,” Menzies said.