Last night was a wacky night in Las Cruces in multiple ways. Not only did New Mexico State lose a rare home game, but so much more happened at the Pan Am Center.
It began before the game as Aggie play-by-play announcer Jack Nixon announced on Twitter that Chris Jans would miss his second consecutive game. He missed the New Mexico Highlands game last Wednesday due to COVID-19 protocols.
Now, the university did not touch on if he tested positive for COVID-19 or not on Tuesday, but the whole Aggie coaching staff is vaccinated. Can’t say the same for the athletes.
New Mexico head coach Richard Pitino did touch on it though during his media avaliablity Monday before the game.
“Firstly, I hope Chris Jans is feeling well,” Pitino said. “I want to wish him a speedy recovery. I don’t know him extremely well, but I’ve heard great things about him. … I hope he gets healthy soon.”
Now, the rivalry that hasn’t been played since before the virus would get rekindled on Tuesday, riling up the student body. Before the game, there was a line around the block to enter the arena. When inside, they were electric, chanting loudly throughout the night and waving their white rally towels.
That electricity wouldn’t last all too long.
Aggies are on the court. The energy in this building is electric. pic.twitter.com/iiKyJ781Gj— Stephen Wagner (@stephenwag22) December 1, 2021
Going into the first tv timeout, the Aggies led 9-7. That was pretty much when everything stopped. The electricity did not only go out at Pan Am but throughout the whole campus of New Mexico State. For the next 45 minutes, nobody knew would what happen.
Weird moment as the power suddenly shuts off in the middle of the NMSU-UNM game at the Pan American Center. Fans immediately pull out their phone lights to get through the 15 dark seconds. We’re currently in a delay pic.twitter.com/qrvmzEWEGk— Stephen Wagner (@stephenwag22) December 1, 2021
It took 15 minutes for some of the lights to turn back on. At the 30-minute mark, the WiFi stopped working in the arena. It wasn’t until around the 40-minute mark that the game and shot clocks turned back on, ultimately resulting in the game resuming at 8:03 local time — 10:03 EST for those staying up late on the east coast — a full 45 minutes after the first media timeout.
Donnie Tillman would head to the free-throw line as only those in the arena would know what would happen. No live stats, no ESPN+ stream. All the people had were twitter updates and the radio broadcast.
New Mexico State headed into the next TV timeout with an 18-15 lead. At that timeout, they introduced the crowd to their new football head coach, Jerry Kill. The crowd was ruckus. New Mexico would respond to that with a 10-3 run and either lead or hold a tie for the remainder of the game. Tensions would get higher and higher throughout the game not only because of the rivalry but probably because of the near-hour delay. There was technical after technical.
New Mexico held a 49-42 lead at half in a free-throw shooting masterclass. The teams combined for 26 makes from the charity stripe in the first half, only missing five. Halftime was also the time where the PA announcer announced that the restrooms were only for emergency use. I bet a lot of prayers went out to those who decided to drink over that 45-minute delay. At the under-12 TV timeout, the PA announced they would close the restrooms.
The Aggies would make it into a game again, as they cut it down to four at that timeout, but they could not stop Lobos guard Jaelen House. House finished the evening with a career-high 31 points (says New Mexico — the ESPN, and NMSU box scores have House at 29 points). Every time it seemed like the Aggies would make it into a game, the Lobos had a response.
New Mexico State would keep pushing back though, only trailing by six at the last tv timeout, 83-77. The teams would go on a crazy scoring barrage for the remainder, as New Mexico finished the game with a 101-94 victory. New Mexico shot an impressive 51.85% in that second half, overcoming a ton of adversity in front of a tough crowd. They pulled off the major upset as the Lobos closed as 10.5 point dogs. It was their third straight victory against their in-state rivals.
The two will meet up again on Monday in Albuquerque. Let’s hope no funny business happens at The Pit.