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Aggie men’s basketball advances to championship game

The New Mexico State men’s basketball team advanced to the 2019 Western Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament championship game. The Aggies beat UT Rio Grande Valley 79-72 in the semifinal round Friday at Orleans Arena and extended their win streak to 18 games.

Aggie senior guard AJ Harris drives to the paint against UT Rio Grande Valley in the 2019 Western Athletic Conference semifinal round on Friday, March 15, 2019, at Orleans Arena. (Photo by Eli K. Whitney/Kokopelli)

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans. “Obviously, in every press conference across the country, every coach is talking about ‘survive and advance’ and that’s just the way it is.”

NMSU (29-4, 15-1 WAC) got off to a hot start in the first half, shooting at a .600 clip from the floor. UTRGV (19-17, 9-7 WAC) shot below 40 percent, but foul trouble by the Aggies forced a lot of free throws.

New Mexico State pressed hard on the gas and never let off. The Aggies were in control of the lead for over 36 minutes in a 40-minute game. When the Vaqueros were in the lead, they were only up by 1 point. Holding the lead played a key role in the crowd noise. The arena was packed with crimson.

“Our Aggie fans really helped us out,” said redshirt junior AJ Harris. “They always help us out. They bring a lot of excitement to the game.”

Aggie junior guard Terrell Brown added, “I feel like we have the best fans in the WAC, to be honest. Every time we go out there it’s like they’re playing, too.”

Chris Jans also noted that he didn’t realize how big the Aggie crowd was until the end the game.

NMSU shot the three-ball early on. Shooting at .400 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Aggies made 6 of 15. As for the Vaqueros, they only shot a mere .250 percentage from three-point range.

New Mexico State will play in the WAC Tournament final tomorrow at 8 p.m. MST. The Aggies will play No. 3 Grand Canyon. The championship game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU and will be on the WAC Digital Network.

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