LAS VEGAS—A 21-2 NM State second half run led the Aggies past CSU Bakersfield 70-60 in the championship game of the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Saturday night at the Orleans Arena.
Trailing 7-6 at the 13:03 mark, CSUB went on a 19-5 run which provided the Roadrunners with their largest lead of the first half, 25-12. The ‘Runners held NMSU without a field goal for over 13 minutes, but the Aggies ability to draw fouls kept the Aggies in it. NM State took 16 first half free throw attempts. NM State connected on 12 of those tries as CSUB led 29-20 at halftime.
Jaylin Airington, who came into the game, eight away from 1,000 for his career, scored the first eight ‘Runner points of the second half and earned his 1,000th on a three-pointer with 16:22 to go in the second half.
Down 39-28 with just over 15 minutes, remaining, back-to-back Ian Baker three-pointers keyed the game changing NM State (28-5) charge. The Aggies took the lead for good when Chancellor Ellis sank a three at 9:05 of the second half. Baker would make three three-pointers as the during the 6:44 span.
CSUB trailed 47-41 at the under eight media timeout when Airington broke the Aggies’ momentum with a basket, the first for CSUB in over eight minutes. Airington scored his 12 consecutive point with just under five to play to make it a 51-49 game. That would be as close as CSUB would get in the final portion of the game. NMSU would score eight of the next 14 points to put the game away.
After only shooting 4-of-14 in the first half, NM State would go 14-for-25 in the second. NMSU made all six of their three-pointers in the second half. The Aggies would end the night 25-of-36 from the free throw line, compared to 10-of-15 for the Roadrunners.
Baker, the tournament MVP, scored all 15 of his points in the second half. Eli Chuha led NM State with 16. Dedrick Basile was CSUB’s top scorer with 17 points. Brent Wrapp scored 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had seven assists out his point guard position for the ‘Runners. Basile and Airington would be named to the All-Tournament team.
CSU Bakersfield (22-9), the WAC’s regular season champion, will receive an automatic berth into the National Invitational Tournament. The NIT field is scheduled to be announced Sunday at approximately at 5:30 p.m.