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Saturday recap: New Mexico State and Eastern Illinois pick up big wins while others miss opportunities

Saturday was full of opportunities for mid-majors to pick up signature wins, but many teams came up short.

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico State at Arizona State
Braxton Huggins led New Mexico State to possibly its biggest win of the year.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was packed with marquee games, many of which featured top mid-major talent. However, perhaps the biggest success for a mid-major came from outside the main spotlight of the day’s action.

New Mexico State picked up an impressive road win over Arizona State by a final of 81-70. The Aggies came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a seven-game winning streak. They carried that momentum into their offensive game Saturday night, using a 50 percent shooting performance, featuring 11 threes, to push that winning streak to eight.

Braxton Huggins led the second-half charge to create some separation for the Aggies. Huggins finished with a game-high 24 points, including six threes. Eli Chuha also played a big role by pulling down 11 rebounds and putting up 13 points. But perhaps the most impressive statistic of the game was that the Aggies, as a group, picked up an assist on 22 of their 28 field goals.

The win pushes New Mexico State to 10-2 on the year. While that record includes a big win over rival New Mexico, Saturday’s victory came on the road against a Pac-12 opponent. This was, perhaps, the Aggies’ best opportunity for a signature win, and they took advantage. An at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament may not be out of the question for New Mexico State, but they would likely need to run the table or come close to it in conference play.

Eastern Illinois takes down Missouri

Missouri fell victim to another mid-major opponent, this time falling to Eastern Illinois. The Panthers only scheduled one “power conference” opponent this year, but they took advantage of the opportunity to beat one. It was a tightly contested game throughout, with the teams often within a possession of one another. Ultimately, Eastern Illinois hung on, 67-64.

As seems to be the trend whenever discussing a mid-major win at Missouri this season, neither team shot particularly well. But, while everyone else was struggling, Montell Goodwin put up 22 points to pace all scorers. The Panthers also took advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, going 15-17. Missouri, on the other hand, missed nine free throws.

The win takes Eastern Illinois to 7-4. Despite the solid record, this was their first win against a KenPom top 200 opponent. In fact, it was only the second such team the Panthers have faced.

Missed Opportunities

While New Mexico State and Eastern Illinois took advantage of their big opportunities, many other teams were unable to do so. Here is a rundown of some of those who missed out on resume-building wins:

  • Dayton had a great chance at a quality win when it traveled to take on Northwestern at the United Center in Chicago. However, a horrific first half doomed the Flyers, as they found themselves down 40-17 at the break. They completely flipped the script in the second half, storming all the way back and making a game of it late. But it was too little, too late, and Northwestern came away with the 67-64 win. For a more in-depth look at the game, check out our recap.
  • Davidson led No. 3 Kansas at halftime, but was over-matched in the second half. Peyton Aldridge stepped up to lead the Wildcats with 22 points, while star player Jack Gibbs struggled to find his shot. Davidson ultimately fell, 89-71. See our recap for more details.
  • Richmond had a prime opportunity against Texas Tech at home, but the Spiders were out-rebounded by 13 and turned the ball over 14 times. That let Texas Tech steal a 79-72 win. Read our recap to see how it all went down.
  • Chattanooga led late on the road against Vanderbilt, but was sunk by a late three from Vanderbilt’s Luke Kornet, falling 76-74. The Mocs already have a solid road win on their resume over Tennessee, but they will not get many opportunities at quality wins after this one.
  • BYU, like Dayton, failed to pick up a quality win at the United Center, losing 75-73 to Illinois. Eric Mika put up 25 points for the Cougars, but it was not enough. BYU has missed quite a few opportunities for statement wins in non-conference play. The Cougars will need to do their damage during conference play, but will have Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s to contend with.
  • Middle Tennessee was receiving votes in the national top 25 polls and could have pushed themselves in with a win over VCU. But despite Giddy Potts’ 25-point effort, the Blue Raiders came up just short, falling 80-77. MTSU already has some solid wins on its resume, but a road win at VCU could have been the highlight of their season. VCU, on the other hand, has now rebounded nicely after a tough loss at home to Georgia Tech with back-to-back wins.
  • Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity of the day came from Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles have not defeated a Division I team yet this year and took on No. 10 Creighton. This should have been a blowout win for Creighton, but Oral Roberts led by five with just over six minutes to play. Unfortunately for them, the Golden Eagles did not score for the remainder of the game, and lost, 66-65.

Other Finals of Note

  • Valparaiso beat in-state rival Indiana State, 89-71, to improve to 9-2. The Crusaders were still without Jubril Adekoya, who is being held out by a “university matter.” With Alec Peters putting up 29 points and 15 rebounds, however, Valparaiso is tough to beat.
  • Vermont held serve at home, defeating Eastern Michigan, 82-74. Vermont is now 8-4 on the season and finally collected its first win over a KenPom top 100 opponent. Anthony Lamb led the way with 26 points.
  • UNC Wilmington put up triple digits for the fourth time this year in a 100-64 win over Radford. The Seahawks are now 10-1 to open the year.
  • East Tennessee State took down Morehead State on the road by a final of 78-68. The Buccaneers are now 9-2 and have rebounded with two wins after last weekend’s loss at Dayton.
  • La Salle defeated Florida Gulf Coast, 84-80. B.J. Johnson piled up 35 points for the Explorers in the win. The loss caps off a rough week for FGCU, who already lost to Georgia Southern on Tuesday.
  • Loyola Chicago needed overtime to beat crosstown rival UIC by a score of 81-75. The Ramblers got a three pointer from Donte Ingram to beat the second-half buzzer and send the game to overtime. Loyola is now 10-2 and is starting to look like a top-tier team in the Missouri Valley.
  • Wichita State was blown out at home by Oklahoma State in a 93-76 final. For more details about what this means for the Shockers, see our analysis.