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New Mexico takes the Rio Grande Rivalry over New Mexico State

New Mexico's (3-0) strong second half vaults them to a 72-59 victory over interstate rival New Mexico State (2-2).

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In the battle of the Rio Grande, New Mexico got big nights from Tim Williams and Elijah Brown to pull away from the New Mexico State Aggies. Brown, who has struggled to start the season, led UNM with 19 points and a spirited 8 rebounds while the ever-consistent Williams chipped in 18 points of his own. Other key contributors include Sam Logwood (12 points), freshman guard Damien Jefferson (7 points) and Joe Fvrstinger (7 points).

This game was a lot closer than the 72-59 final score indicates. The teams went back and forth in the first half, and in fact, the Aggies held a one point lead at intermission. They did this on 44% shooting from the field and 36% from deep. Ian Baker and Sidy N'Dir led the way with 11 and 7 points, respectively. But the key stat here is that both did it on 50% shooting. That stat would change considerably in the second half when the Lobos locked in on defense.

Indeed, the Aggies shot just 28% from the field and 26% from downtown in the second half. Whereas Baker was 4/9, N'Dir's second half was an inefficient 2/9. Credit has to be given to UNM's defense, sparked by the 6'5'' Jefferson who absolutely clamped down on the Aggies. Jefferson recorded 4 steals to lead the way.

New Mexico's defense forced NMSU into a seven minute scoring drought early in the second half while putting together their own 13-0 run. They also held the Aggies without a field goal in five of the last seven minutes as well. These droughts would prove too difficult for New Mexico State to overcome and the Lobos pounced. And the offense did its part too: a huge three by Elijah Brown at the 6:38 mark put UNM up 51-44 and they never looked back.

Lobo nation should celebrate this win, but we must keep our eye on some concerning numbers: the Lobos shot just 10% from three and 62% on the charity stripe. Those numbers are below their early-season averages of 21% and 71%, but not by much. It's a small sample size, but those numbers will have to improve the Lobos to make some real noise in the conference.

The rivalry continues on December 10th in beautiful Las Cruces, New Mexico, but first New Mexico will turn its attention to Virginia Tech on Thanksgiving.