New Mexico State Pushed By Spartans

Las Cruces, N.M.-----Even with its three-guard lineup, San Jose State was willing to match New Mexico State's inside power in its final regular-season road game. The game plan included driving from the outside and taking the ball inside offensively.

Forward Wil Carter was the recipient of some nifty drop-off passes and led the Spartans with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Ultimately, it was New Mexico State center Hamidu Rahman matching a career-high with 22 points and former Richmond (Calif.) High star Wendell McKines pouring in 20 as the Aggies won their fifth straight, 79-68, over the Spartans.

San Jose State (9-19, 1-11 WAC) overcame a 10-0 deficit in the first four minutes of the game and took their only lead, 17-16, on a Matt Ballard lay-up with 10:00 remaining in the half.

A 49 percent free throw shooter for the season, Rahman was 10-of-16 from the free throw line and closed out the first half with four no rotation free throws in the final minute to send New Mexico State (22-8, 9-3 WAC) into halftime ahead 40-31.

"Our guys fought every second of the 40 minutes. We were very focused. Ultimately, they just had too much inside power for us. They were able to get us on the block and foul out both of our centers. That was the difference between the two teams tonight," San Jose State coach George Nessman said about the game in which Ballard and Stephon Smith both fouled out in a game that had 50 fouls called and four technicals assessed. New Mexico State players received three of the four technical fouls.

San Jose State got as close as eight points on three occasions in the second half, but never got on a concerted run nor made the key shot that could cut the deficit into a two-possession game. The Spartans shot 37.1 percent from the field and were just 5-of-20 from three-point territory.

"We protected the ball great. They had been forcing turnovers at a high rate. We did a really good job with the ball. We generated good looks, didn't shoot a great percentage, but we generated the looks we needed," Nessman added. The Spartans only committed eight turnovers, 10 fewer than two nights earlier in a 26-point loss at Louisiana Tech.

The Aggies' used their clear size and strength advantage around the basket to out-rebound San Jose State, 45-34, but the Spartans were able to scramble for 13 offensive rebounds. McKines led all players with 15 rebounds in his final home game and Rahman added 10, seven on the offensive board.

But, San Jose State stood its ground. Even reserve forward Garrett Ton got into action blocking his first shot of the season on a field goal try by 6-foot-8 forward Bandja Sy inside the key.

Keith Shamburger with 11 and James Kinney with 10 were San Jose State other two double-figure scorers. Guard Hernst La Roche scored all of his 11 points for New Mexico State in the first half.

San Jose State closes out the regular season with home games against Utah State on March 1 and Idaho on March 3.