LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Throughout the process of accumulating 27 wins, they all can't be pretty.
No. 25 Utah State's latest victory - 58-54 over New Mexico State on Wednesday night - definitely fit into the category of the latter.
``We turned it over and missed free throws, but you have to win a few ugly like that along the way to have 27 wins,' Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. ``It looked bleak when we were turning it over a bunch and they got a lead and all of a sudden, we were back up seven. Guys made plays when the game was on the line.'
Brockeith Pane scored 12 points, including two free throws with 14.4 seconds to play, for Utah State (27-3, 14-1 Western Athletic Conference).
Utah State committed nine turnovers in the second half and was 5 for 8 from the free throw line while New Mexico State (14-16, 8-7) was 10 for 19 at the line.
Tai Wesley scored 11 points and Nate Bendall and Tyler Newbold each added 10 for Utah State, which shot 61.9 percent from the field in the second half.
Troy Gillenwater had 17 points for New Mexico State, while Tshilidzi Nephawe and Hernst Laroche both scored 10.
``I think they made a couple plays,' New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said. ``They just kept fighting and we kept fighting.'
Trailing by six points at halftime and by nine with 15:57 left, New Mexico State outscored Utah State 19-5 to lead by five with 7:33 to play on two free throws by Gillenwater.
Utah State scored on its next six possessions to go up 51-49 on Pane's jumper with 3:15 left. After Gillenwater missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Wesley scored inside and Newbold hit a 3-pointer to put Utah State up 56-49 with 2:14 to play.
New Mexico State closed within two with 21.7 seconds left, but Pane converted a 1-and-1 with 14.4 seconds left to make it 58-54. Pane's free throws came after Wesley and Morgan Grim both missed the front end of 1-and-1s.
Newbold's 3 was just the third make from long range for Utah State.
``Brian Green hit one when we were struggling,' Morrill said of his guard. ``I told them it would have been a little easier if we would have hit some free throws but we got home.'
Gillenwater and freshman guard Christian Kabongo committed costly turnovers in the last 42 seconds.
``We are not making the right plays in winning time right now and that's been hurting us,' Menzies said. ``We had a couple turnovers there late that cost us.'
Utah State, which was 3 for 11 from 3-point range for the game, missed all six 3-point attempts in the first half but still led by six points after New Mexico State had eight turnovers and just nine field goals.
New Mexico State shot 52.4 percent in the second half to finish at 44.4 percent for the game. Utah State finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field and had a 24-8 advantage in the paint.
``They were undefeated in league at home,' Morrill said. ``That tells you they play well in conference games at home and they are always ready to play against us.'
Neither team shot the ball well in the first 20 minutes which ended with Utah State leading 27-21. New Mexico State missed seven of its first 10 shots from the field, while Utah State missed nine of its first 12.
The Aggies went scoreless for nearly 6 minutes before Tyrone Watson knocked down a 3 from the wing to give the Aggies a 9-8 lead with 10:11 left. New Mexico State led again at 17-16, but Utah State outscored New Mexico State 11-4 over the last 5:09, opening the biggest lead of the first half on a jumper by Bendall with 38 seconds left.
Utah State swept the season series from New Mexico State, beating NMSU 59-49 at home on Jan. 22.
``We had a little margin in Logan but it was low-scoring again,' Morrill said. ``That gives us a better chance on the road. I'm glad this team keeps finding ways to win.'
The Associated Press News Service
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