Jabari Rice at the buzzer. That’s the phrase that ended the game between Utah Valley and New Mexico State at the Pan American Center. The NMSU sophomore guard saved the day in what would have been a sensational win for UVU on the road. The final score on Saturday, Feb. 15 was 84-82.
The Wolverines were much more competitive this time around against the Aggies than they were back on Jan. 16 in Orem. That was a game that the Aggies won by 14.
UVU set the tone early, as they led by five at the under 10 minute mark. But the Aggies would get going late and lead by as many as eight three different times. They would go on to take a six-point lead into the half at 40-34.
In the second half, the Aggies would lead by as many as 10 and seemed as though they would get another double-digit win over the Wolverines this season. But with eight minutes left, UVU would go on a run and make NMSU fight for this win more than they’ve had to fight for any win this season.
At the eight minute mark, the Aggies held a 69-61 lead until the Wolverines went on a 12-0 run to take a four-point lead. However, NMSU would respond and both teams would trade baskets, eventually being tied at 76-76 with two minutes left.
With two minutes remaining, a crucial technical foul was called on UVU senior guard TJ Washington. The Aggies would make both technical free throws and get the ball back, eventually scoring on the ensuing possession and grabbing a four-point lead.
The Aggies were then up by three with 37 seconds left when Washington came up with a huge steal that led to him scoring on a layup to cut the deficit to one. On the Aggies ensuing possession, UVU would force Rice to turn the ball over with 15 seconds remaining.
Washington drove to the hole and drew a foul with six seconds left. He connected on both shots and gave UVU a one-point lead. Out of timeouts, the Aggies hustled the ball up the court, found Rice on the wing and the ball found the backboard and into the net just before the buzzer.
Overall on the night, both teams shot exactly 57.7% from the field. But, the Aggies would shoot it better overall from three at 50% while UVU out-shot NMSU from the free throw line at 83.3%. The Wolverines were also much improved at taking care of the ball, keeping their turnovers under double-digits at nine.
Rice had a game-high 29 points to go along with eight boards and his game-winner. UVU junior guard Isaiah White had his second straight 20-point game with 21 and three rebounds. Washington ended with 11 points and eight assists.
NMSU now extends their lead in the series to 11-3 and is also their fourth straight win over the Wolverines. Out of the Wolverines now 17 losses, 11 of them are by six points or less, including five of those said losses in WAC play.
UVU will now head home for a two-game home stand starting on Thursday, Feb. 20 with CSU Bakersfield coming to town. They will then welcome Grand Canyon University to the UCCU Center on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Photo by Hunter Hall