JACKSON, Miss. -- New Mexico State hasn’t had a signature win all season.
They for sure do now, and on the road.
Johnny McCants scored a game-high 18 points, including the go-ahead jumper with two minutes left as New Mexico State turned aside a Mississippi State rally to secure a 58-52 win at the Mississippi Coliseum on Sunday.
“The game was a defensive struggle early and for us to win we had to grind it out and be a low possession game,” said New Mexico State coach Chris Jans. “We needed that win and we had to be real aggressive on defense and to keep them out of the paint as much as we could. Our guys are scrappy and it helped us down the stretch."
Mississippi State came from 14 points down to edge ahead 52-51 on Reggie Perry's dunk. McCants answered with a jumper at 2:02 to put the Aggies back in the lead and, after a Mississippi State miss, Evan Gilyard's basket in the paint pushed the New Mexico State lead to 55-52.
Mississippi State turned the ball over three times in the last 1:07.
McCants was 7-of-10 shooting, including 3-for-6 from behind the arc. He also had three rebounds, two blocked shots and his steal with just under a minute left in the game helped seal it for the Aggies (8-6).
“I was at the right place at the right time because my man I was guarding ran past me,” McCants said. “We played our hearts out the whole game and never gave up. Got sloppy with the ball in the second half and today I felt different and teammates kept giving the ball and I had to score.”
The New Mexico State defense held Mississippi State without a field goal in the last 2:35.
The Aggies never trailed the entire first half holding a 23-21 lead at halftime and then opened the second half on a 9-0 run to go up 32-21 with 18:03 remaining.
In a six-minute span, Mississippi State would go on a 19-6 run to cut the Aggie lead to 51-50 and would take a 52-51 lead on a transition dunk by Perry with 2:36 left. Gilyard and McCants came up with two big steals, C.J. Bobbitt made one free throw and Jabari Rice would hit two down the stretch.
Gilyard had 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-4 from three-point range and made all four free throws.
Perry had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Mississippi State, while Tyson Carter added 11 points for Bulldogs (8-3).
“They really took it to us with their defense and their pressure bothered us,” said Mississippi State coach Ben Howland. “We had way too many turnovers to beat a good team like that.”
New Mexico State: The Aggies bench outscored Mississippi State's 23-3 and shot 59% in the second half (13-of-22). NMSU also had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half that turned into eight second chance points. NMSU is now 3-9 all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference with the last win coming on Dec. 29, 1994 against Alabama.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs had 17 turnovers and also went 3-for-16 from three-point for the game and just 1-for-8 in the second half.
New Mexico State hosts Northern New Mexico on Sunday, Dec. 29.
Mississippi State hosts Kent State on Monday, Dec. 30.
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