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New Mexico State drops No. 6 Miami, gives Chris Jans signature win

Talk about a nice present.

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico State at Miami Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

There’s now one shiny present under the tree in Las Cruces, N.M.

Chris Jans picked up his first signature win at New Mexico State, as his Aggies knocked off previously undefeated No. 6 Miami 63-54 in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic.

NMSU’s defense frustrated the ‘Canes throughout the night, holding them to just 34.0 percent from the field, and two-for-18 from three. The stingy defensive effort helped the Aggies build a 29-25 half time lead.

They extended that advantage to as much as nine with 5:58 remaining after a Sidy N’Dir three pointer made it 52-43. But Miami would not wilt. The ‘Canes cut it to 54-53 with 1:25 left on two made free throws by Bruce Brown Jr.

The Aggies, who had struggled against the ‘Canes pressure throughout the second half, had an answer. Zach Lofton (15 points) hit a three-pointer deep into the shot clock, and a steal led to a transition layup by A.J. Harris (10 points) on the ensuing possession. This pushed the NMSU lead six, and the reigning WAC champions did not look back.

It was the impressive encore to hard-fought one-point win against Davidson the night before, and a 74-69 win over Illinois last Saturday at the United Center.

And it wasn’t a pretty shooting night for the Aggies, who connected on just 35.8 percent of their shots from the floor. But as has been the case throughout the season, NMSU won the battle on the glass, generating 14 offensive rebounds and winning the rebounding battle 43-38.

For the second-straight year, the Aggies are off to a tremendous start. Their 11-2 record is now bolstered by three consecutive wins over teams in the KenPom top-87, now including the especially eye-popping win against the ‘Canes.

New Mexico State will play USC in the Diamond Head Classic championship game on Dec. 25.