New Mexico State found itself in a place Thursday night that it has put so many others this year.
A gigantic hole.
The Aggies fell behind early at Cal State Bakersfield and never recovered, as the Roadrunners snapped NMSU’s 20-game win streak in a 72-53 victory. CSUB improved to 7-1 in WAC play, while the Aggies dropped to 8-1.
An 18-point CSUB halftime lead was keyed by Baylor transfer Damiyne Durham, who had 13 first half points. The sophomore has gotten inconsistent minutes, but is as talented a scorer as there is in the league. Big games against Santa Barbara (30 points), Wright State (28 points) and Portland State (28 points) speak to the potential Rod Barnes has on his bench.
Damiyne Durham celebrates during the first half against New Mexico State. Durham leads all scorers with 13 points. pic.twitter.com/JxrxEhFcx4— The CSUB Runner (@csub_runner) February 10, 2017
That potential shone in front of a packed Icardo Center Thursday night, but wasn’t the only offensive highlight for CSUB. The Roadrunners got plenty of easy looks with an in-tune offense that posted 19 assists.
Matt Smith continued a recent hot stretch with 17 points, and Brent Wrapp flirted with a triple double (11 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists). Jaylin Airington also added 17 points.
This offensive fluidity was a surprise against an NMSU defense that had held opponents to just 0.90 points per game in league play.
Also a surprise? The degree to which CSUB’s defense dominated the Aggies.
The Roadrunners held the WAC’s most efficient offense to just 29.8 percent from the field, and limited Ian Baker and Braxton Huggins to just six combined field goals. It seemed the Aggies had to fight for every basket, and Paul Weir was left searching for answers with little-used players Tanveer Bhullar and Chancellor Ellis toward the end of the game.
With the loss, the nation’s second-longest win streak was extinguished.
Yet it doesn’t spell doom for NMSU. Playing an experienced, physical team as good as the Roadrunners is a challenge, even if the winning streak may have distorted that. An at-large bid was not likely a realistic possibility, and thus the goal remains the same: play well and win in Las Vegas.
But like last year, it’s now clearer than ever that CSUB is just as much of a threat to cut down those same nets.