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NM STATE MEN'S BASKETBALL

Familiar foes cross paths as NM State battles Grand Canyon in WAC Tournament semis

NM State seeks 10th-straight appearance in WAC Tournament championship bout

Posted

Game Thirty-One | WAC Tournament Semifinals
#1 NM State (24-6) vs. #4 Grand Canyon (23-7)
Friday, March 11 | 7:00 p.m. MT | Orleans Arena | Las Vegas, Nev.
Watch Listen Live Stats Tickets NM State Game Notes | Grand Canyon Game Notes | WAC Tournament Central

THE OPENING TIP
• Armed with the WAC Tournament's top seed as well as the league's Player of the Year, the NM State men's basketball team seeks to punch its ticket to the WAC Tournament title bout for the 10th consecutive time when it takes on Grand Canyon Friday night at 7:00 p.m. MT in the first of two WAC Tournament semifinal games.
• ESPN+ and the ESPN app will carry each and every second of the 23rd meeting between the Aggies and Lopes. Ben Wilson and Joan Bonvicini will be on the call.
• Over the airwaves, legendary radio play-by-play man Jack Nixon will set up shop courtside to call the action.
• The play-by-play and analysis of the nation's 14th-longest tenured NCAA Division I men's basketball voice can be heard on 99.5 Zia Country FM in Las Cruces, N.M., and nationwide on The Varsity Network app.
• Affiliate stations of the Aggie Sports Network can be tuned in to in Artesia, N.M. (990 AM), Carlsbad, N.M. (1240 AM), Gallup, N.M. (94.9 FM), Alamogordo, N.M. (103.7 FM) and El Paso, Texas (1380 AM). All of those stations will also carry Nixon's commentary of Friday night's showdown.

NM STATE IN THE WAC TOURNAMENT
• 10 | Friday night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., the Aggies continue their quest for a 10th WAC Tournament crown. The Aggies have captured the league's championship tournament trophy and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on nine occasions in the program's history - 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
• 2006 | Since joining the WAC prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, NM State has qualified for the league's postseason tournament every season. NM State picked up its first win in the league tournament in 2006 by taking down fourth-seeded Hawaii in the quarterfinals by a 58-57 score. Reggie Theus was the first NM State head coach to secure a WAC Tournament victory.
• 2007 | Just one year after posting its first win in the WAC Tournament, the Aggies punched their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament as WAC members. In 2007, when the tournament was hosted inside the Pan Am Center in Las
Cruces, N.M., the second-seeded Aggies took down Louisiana Tech, Boise State and Utah State to grab the WAC Tournament title for the first time .
• 0 | At no point through their time in the WAC has NM State ever failed to advance to the semifinal round of the league's postseason tournament.
• 9 | Dating back to the 2012 season, the Aggies have made nine consecutive appearances in the WAC Tournament championship game.
• Four | Friday night's showdown between the Aggies and Lopes represents NM State's fourth all-time matchup against Grand Canyon in the WAC Tournament. NM State is 2-1 all-time against Grand Canyon in the league's postseason tournament and Friday is the first WAC Tourament semifinal meeting between the two programs. Each of the previous three encounters have been in the championship bout (2018, 2019 and 2021).
• Chris Jans | Pretty much all the Aggies' fifth-year bench boss knows how to do in WAC Tournament play is win. Jans is the owner of an 8-1 (.889) record in WAC Tournament games and each of the Aggies' four head coaches during their tenure in the WAC succeeded in winning their first game in the tournament. Jans' eight wins in the WAC Tournament are the second-most in program history behind only Marvin Menzies won came up with 19 of them through his time in Las Cruces.
• MVP | Eight different Aggies have earned WAC Tournament MVP honors in their careers, but just one has been named MVP on multiple occasions. Sim Bhullar grabbed the award in both 2013 and 2014 and in the history of the
WAC Tournament, just four players have been crowned WAC Tournament MVP multiple times. That list includes Bhullar, Kenny Thomas (New Mexico, 1996 and 1998), Eric Leckner (Wyoming, 1986, 1987 and 1988) and Keith Van Horn (Utah, 1995 and 1997)
• 12 | NM State owns the two longest winning streak in the history of WAC Tournament play. From 2012-16, the Aggies reeled off 12 consecutive victories in the WAC Tournament. From 2017 until March 13, 2021, NM State went on an 11-game heater in the WAC Tournament. That streak was snapped by 2021 WAC Tournament champion Grand Canyon.]
• 3 | NM State senior forward Johnny McCants is looking to secure his third WAC Tournament title. Just three Aggies have won four WAC Tournament titles. Prior to McCants, Remi Barry, Daniel Mullings and Tshilidzi Nephawe won four WAC Tournament crowns from 2012-15.
• RECORDS | NM State possess WAC Tournament records in no fewer than 10 statistical categories. Jemerrio Jones owns the record for most rebounds in a WAC Tournament game (22 in 2018) and in a WAC Tournament (55 in 2018) while the Aggies as a team own the WAC Tournament records for winning margin in a game (37 against Chicago State in 2019), most field goal attempts in a game (83 against Boise State in 2008), most three-pointers made in a game (17 against GCU in 2019) and in a tournament (39 in 2019), most three-pointers attempted in a game (39 against GCU in 2019) and in a tournament (102 in 2019), best three-point field goal percentage in a game (76.9-percent, 10-of-13 against Boise State in 2007) and in a tournament (58.8-percent, 20-of-34 in 2007) and most steals in a game (14 against Boise State in 2008).

WAC HARDWARE
• In an announcement made by the WAC office Monday afternoon, NM State redshirt junior guard Teddy Allen headlined a trio of Aggies who collected all-league accolades from the conference by being named the WAC Player of the Year.
• Allen, the fifth Aggie to lock on to WAC Player of the Year honors, also collected the title of WAC Newcomer of the Year and was placed on the All-WAC First Team as well as on the WAC All-Newcomer Team.
• Redshirt senior forward Johnny McCants and redshirt junior guard Jabari Rice both earned spots on the All-WAC Second Team. McCants additionally received a nod to the All-WAC Defensive Team.
• Joining the likes of Daniel Mullings (2014), Pascal Siakam (2016), Ian Baker (2017) and Jemerrio Jones (2018), Allen enters an exclusive five-man club of Aggies who earned WAC Player of the Year honors. One of the nation's best pure scorers, the Phoenix, Ariz., product consistently elevated his game in other areas through the course of the season to help lead NM State to a regular-season crown and the top seed in the 2022 WAC Tournament. Setting Allen apart from the other four WAC Player of the Year winners boasted by NM State's program is the fact that he's the first Aggie in program history to claim WAC Newcomer of the Year honors. He's the first Aggie to grab both honors and as well as the first NM State student-athlete to claim a league's Newcomer of the Year award since Jamie Peña did so in 1981 (Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year).
• During his first season in Las Cruces, Allen maintained his reputation as one of the best point-producers in college basketball. Able to change the lights on the scoreboard at an astonishing pace, Allen amassed a total of 581 points - good for a WAC-leading average of 19.4 per game.
• The land's 33rd-highest scoring player, Allen finished with 10 or more points in all but one of his team's 30 regular-season contests. Known also by the apt moniker of "Teddy Buckets", Allen piled up 15 performances of 20 or more points, four games of 30 or more points and one 40+ point night. Able to do a little bit of everything, Allen also served as the Aggies' leading rebounder (7.0 per game) and racked up seven double-doubles - a total which stands as the third-most by any player in the WAC. A do-it-all kind of guy, Allen added 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game while putting up shooting splits of .449/.320/.853.
• For the second-straight season, Rice reeled in a spot on the All-WAC Second Team. The Houston, Texas, product's third All-WAC honor through his days at NM State was made possible by a scoring average of 12.0 points per game as well as a team-leading assist figure of 3.4 per outing.
• Rice totaled 20 outings of 10 or more points as well as three games with 20 or more markers. His two double-doubles were one fewer than McCants, placing him third on the team in that category. Often times running the points for the Aggies, Rice dished out five or more assists on eight occasions while also adding 5.2 rebounds per outing. Putting up shooting splits of .391/.329/.777 allowed him to rank second on the team in scoring as one of the more recognizable faces in the league.
• For the better part of the last decade, McCants has been affiliated with NM State and the Las Cruces, N.M., product gained his first All-WAC selection with Monday's announcement. One year after securing All-WAC Honorable Mention laurels, McCants decided to come back to Las Cruces for one last ride with his hometown club in 2021-22. That decision paid off as NM State wouldn't have claimed its fifth league title in the last five seasons without his 8.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and team-leading 1.8 blocked shots per game.
• The WAC's best shot blocker in terms of both average (1.8 per game) and total rejections (49), McCants was one of three Aggies - a group which also includes Allen and Rice - who reached the 1,000-point plateau this season. With a trio of double-doubles on the year, McCants career rebounding numbers are good for the top ten in the history of the program. Currently, the hometown hero is one of just four players in the history of the program who have amassed 1,000 or more points, 700 or more rebounds and 100 or more blocked shots in their respective careers.distributors in NCAA Division II, dishing out assists at a rate of 8.7 per game.

LAST TIME OUT | NM State 62, vs. Utah Valley 46 | Saturday, March 5, 2022
• Johnny McCants' Pan American Center curtain call yielded a fourth WAC regular-season crown for the Las Cruces, N.M., product as his 11-point, 13-rebound double-double helped NM State hammer Utah Valley by a 62-46 tally.
• Able to clinch the top seed for the WAC Tournament with the win, NM State used the play of McCants and Teddy Allen to get the job done. Allen poured in a game-high 20 points to go along with six rebounds and a game-high five assists.
• A 20-4 NM State run to open the second half turned a close game into a blowout and allowed the hosts to capture their fourth regular-season WAC crown in the last five seasons.
• In order to claim victory in their regular-season finale, the Aggies used a devastating dose of defense to get the job done. NM State limited Utah Valley to just 46 points - the fewest the Wolverines' amassed in a single game since netting the same sum in a 64-46 setback at Utah State on Nov. 16, 2018.
• The 46 points allowed by NM State were the fewest scored by an Aggie opponent this season as well as the fewest since Western New Mexico accumulated just 41 in a 70-41 NM State win on Jan. 25, 2021. Utah Valley's 46 points were the fewest a WAC opponent had scored against NM State since Feb. 29, 2020, when NM State held CSU Bakersfield to the same amount in a 62-46 win.
• Prior to the month of March, Jabari Rice had netted 10 or more points in five of his last six games. Since the calendar flipped to March, though, Rice has averaged 5.0 points per game while shooting ing 3-of-19 (.158) from the field and 0-for-13 (.000) from long range. The Houston, Texas, product has misfired on his last 14 tries from downtown.
• Saturday night's game was the final one in the Pan Am Center for McCants, Clayton HenryYuat Alok and Donnie Tillman - NM State's senior class.
• McCants submitted his second-straight double-double in the win. It marked the first time in McCants' career that he generated double-doubles in consecutive games.

LAST TIME OUT vs. GRAND CANYON | NM State 82, at Grand Canyon 66 | Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022
• Playing in his hometown for the first time in his collegiate career, Teddy Allen put on a show inside GCU Arena by going for a 30-point, 10-rebound double-double as NM State eviscerated defending WAC champion GCU by an 82-66 tally.
• Outside of the Lopes scoring the first basket of the game, NM State never trailed and made a mockery of Grand Cayon's three-point field goal percentage defense. Prior to 6:00 p.m. MT Saturday night, the Lopes ranked second in the nation in that statistical category. A little more than two hours later, they did not after NM State rattled in 52-percent (13-of-25) of its tries from long distance.
• Allen's third-straight double-double made him the first Aggie to post three in a row since Eli Chuha did so in the 2018-19 campaign. Furthermore, Allen sprang for 20 or more points for the eighth-straight game - the nation's second-longest active streak of 20+ point games by an NCAA Division I player.
• Though he didn't score any more points after putting in the Aggies' first bucket of the game, Johnny McCants did a little bit of everything else to help NM State earn its first regular-season sweep of the Lopes since 2019-20. McCants finished with three points, three rebounds, four assists and a trio of blocked shots. Those three rebounds pushed McCants' career total to 718 - tied for the 10th-most in program history.
• Saturday's showdown marked Donnie Tillman's return to the Aggies' lineup following a three-game absence. The Detroit, Mich., product finished with 10 points on a 3-of-4 shooting clip. One of those three buckets was a poster dunk in the second half.
• Clayton Henry helped the Aggies' cause, too, finishing with 10 points and a season-high seven rebounds in 38 minutes of work.
• In addition to his scoring and rebounding showcase, Allen also passed out five assists - three fewer than the Lopes' entire team amassed.

LAST TIME OUT vs. GRAND CANYON IN THE WAC TOURNAMENT | #1 Grand Canyon 74, #3 NM State 56 • Saturday, March 13, 2021
• NM State scored the first four points of the game, but Grand Canyon took control from there and defeated the Aggies by a 74-56 tally in the 2021 WAC Tournament title bout.
• Jabari Rice drilled a three-pointer with 14:05 to go in the opening frame to hand NM State a 9-7 lead, but the Lopes answered with a devastating 12-0 run over the next five minutes and the Aggies never fully recovered.
• GCU's lead dipped below double-digits just five times for the rest of the night and NM State suffered its first loss in a WAC Tournament championship game since 2016.
• Evan Gilyard II netted a team-high 18 points for the Aggies on a 6-of-13 night from the field.
• Donnie Tillman finished with 11 points and five rebounds, putting the finishing touches on a strong three-game run at the WAC Tournament. For his efforts, the Detroit, Mich., product earned a spot on the WAC All-Tournament Team.
• NM State turned in season-lows in both free throws made (seven) and free throw attempts (nine) through the 40-minute tilt.
• The loss put an end to the Aggies' five-game winning streak. That unbeaten run was NM State's lengthiest of a disjointed 2020-21 campaign.
• NM State head coach Chris Jans suffered the first WAC Tournament loss of his career. Jans' record in WAC Tournament tilts now sits at 8-1.
• Of the 12 players who logged minutes in the WAC Tournament title game, just five remain on the team's 2021-22 roster.

LAST TIME OUT IN THE WAC TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS | #3 NM State 78, #2 Utah Valley 62 | Friday, March 12, 2021
• The Donald Tillman Basketball Showcase was not a one-night-only show in Sin City as the forward out of Detroit dropped in a season-high 23 points to help the Aggies take down second-seeded Utah Valley 78-62.
• Facing off against the league's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the Wolverines' Fardaws Aimaq, all the Aggies did was hold him scoreless in 29 minutes of action.
• A 15-2 run through the game's first 7:10 helped the Aggies take control early. All of the team's points through that surge came off the hands of Tillman and Jabari Rice who finished with 13 on a 4-of-5 effort from the field.
• Trey Woodbury did all he could to extend Utah Valley's season, putting in a gamehigh 34 points for the WAC's regular season co-champions. Fifteen of his 34 came at the foul line, but the usually sharp-shooting guard went just 3-of11 from long range on the night.
• Johnny McCants led the way on defense against Aimaq and had another solid all-around outing at the Orleans. Las Cruces' favorite son contributed nine points and a team-high six rebounds in the Aggies' victory.
• A late first-half offensive lull by the Aggies was ended thanks to the play of Kalen Williams. The sophomore guard had all eight of his points though the final stages of the opening frame and hit a runner in the lane at the horn to give the Aggies a 32-23 lead at the break.
• With the win, NM State moved to 12-3 all-time in WAC Tournament semifinal bouts. The win also helped NM State move on to the WAC Tournament finals for the ninth-straight time.

SCOUTING GRAND CANYON | ROSTER SCHEDULE STATISTICS
• The defending WAC Tournament champions have yet another date with NM State - this time, though, it'll be in the semifinal round of the league's postseason berth.
• Grand Canyon used some late heroics from Holland Woods II to get by fifth-seeded Sam Houston Thursday night. The Lopes' guard rattled home a close-range jumper with 1:06 to go, pushing Grand Canyon ahead by a 63-62 margin. From there, the Lopes went 8-of-8 from the free throw line to put the game on ice and secure a 71-66 win.
• The Lopes' M.O. hasn't changed a whole lot since they last faced off against NM State on Feb. 19 in Phoenix, Ariz. Grand Canyon leads the WAC and ranks seventh nationally in rebounding (40.69 per game) and is second in the land in opponent three-point field goal percentage. The Lopes are letting foes hit just 26.8-percent of their tries from long range.
• More defensive numbers which stand out include the Lopes' field goal percentage defense of 38-percent - the fifth-best mark in the land.
• Running the point, and the team, is Jovan Blacksher Jr., who locked on to All-WAC First Team accolades earlier in the week. The do-it-all guard leads the team in scoring (16.0 points per game), assists (4.0 per game) and steals (1.8 per game).
• It was Woods, though, who stole the show Thursday night by putting in a game-high 24 points to hike his average to 14.1 points per game on the year.
• Whichever team wins will get another big win in terms of NET ranking. NM State and GCU both reside among the top 90 teams in terms of NET ranking, giving both an opportunity for an important quadrant-two victory.

THIS DAY IN NM STATE HISTORY
• NM State is currently riding a three-game winning streak on this date. The Aggies' last action on this day came last season when Chris Jans led them to a 77-61 triumph over UTRGV in the WAC Tournament quarterfinals.
• The Aggies are 4-1 all-time in WAC Tournament games on this date.
• NM State's first-ever game on March 11 came in 1952. That year, head coach George McCarthy and the Aggies headed to Kansas City, Mo., for the NAIB Tournament and defeated Mississippi Southern (now Southern Miss) by an 86-70 tally. That victory was the last of NM State's 22 wins that year. The 1951-52 season saw the team win the Border Conference and make the cut for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

COMING UP NEXT
• Should the Aggies secure the win Friday night, they'll advance to their 10th-consecutive WAC Tournament championship game. That contest would tip off at 8:00 p.m. MT Saturday night from The Orleans Arena. An NM State loss would send the Aggies to the NIT.