ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Carlton Bragg celebrated his 24th birthday by stuffing the stat sheet with a double-double and scored half the points in a late, game-clinching 8-0 run as New Mexico beat downstate rival New Mexico State 69-62 on Saturday.
It was the Lobos first sweep of the series since the 2015-16 season.
Bragg, who finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds, plus four steals, tipped in a miss, then later added two foul shots in the late run that pushed the New Mexico advantage to 63-54 with a minute left.
“His offensive rebounding ability is professional level kind of stuff,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “It changes the game for us. His running of the floor has always been terrific. He had some really tremendous finishes. He’s a very athletic, agile player, and he’s a great player.”
JaQuan Lyle added 16 points for the Lobos (10-2). Trevelin Queen had 19 for the Aggies (6-6).
New Mexico surged into a 42-35 lead early in the second half with a 16-2 run spread across the halves. Bragg punctuated the run with back-to-back dunks, including a fast-breaking rim-rattler off a feed from Lyle after a steal and a textbook alley-oop pass.
The Aggies, however responded with a 12-2 run with Queen capping it with consecutive 3s for the Aggies to take a 47-44 only to see the Lobos come back with a 9-0 run, rebuilding the lead to 53-47 midway through the second half.
“That gave them some momentum, then they came out and smacked us in the face pretty good to start the second half,” Aggies coach Chrs Jans said. “I thought our guys weathered the storm and got the game back to where we needed it, and then in the end, we just couldn’t make the big shot.”
New Mexico State: Not only was this an instate rivalry of the most bitter kind, but it was also an important contest in terms of postseason ramifications, particularly for the Aggies as their only remaining high-profile, nonconference game is Mississippi State.
"We lost a game that we expected to win,” Jans said. “We expected to win going into the game. But in the end, down the stretch, people make plays. They made plays and we didn’t. We’re very disappointed in the loss and we’ll have to move forward."
New Mexico: Already among the Mountain West front-runners after being one of three teams opening 2-0 in early conference play, the Lobos have three remaining tune-ups at home to end the year.
A big part of New Mexico’s game plan was to pound the ball inside and get to the foul line. It worked to perfection as the Lobos had a narrow 32-28 edge on paint scoring, but a large advantage at the line: 4-for-10 for the Aggies as opposed to 23-for-28 for New Mexico.
“That’s our bread and butter,” Weir said. “We like to score points in the paint. That’s what we do. We don’t rely on the 3. That’s why you don’t see a lot of variance in us. We are who we are. We won’t rely on making 15 3s.”
New Mexico State: The Aggies are home against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday. They will have two additional tune-ups before Western Athletic Conference play begins at the start of the new year.
New Mexico: The Lobos are at home Tuesday against Grand Canyon in the second of the four-game home stand to end the year before Mountain West play begins in earnest in January.