LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – In its first home game since Nov. 7, New Mexico State dismantled rival UTEP 95-70 in the second edition of the Battle of I-10 on Wednesday night.
The Aggies (3-2) got 23 points from Anthony Roy, 18 from Xavier Pinson, 15 points and eight rebounds from Issa Muhammad and 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists from DeShawndre Washington as NMSU drilled 12 three-pointers.
UTEP’s Tae Hardy scored a game-high 24 points and former NMSU guard Mario McKinney had 22 points for the Miners (5-2), who shot just 41.7% from the floor. The 95 points scored by NMSU are the most given up by the Miners in the Joe Golding era. The defeat snapped UTEP’s five-game winning streak.
“Plain and simple, we got our butt kicked. Give New Mexico State credit,” Golding said. “It’s a tough place to play, a good team. It’s coaching, it’s on me. I didn’t have the team ready to play. We just got out toughed tonight. It’s just a frustrating night. I’m frustrated for our fans. They just dominate us here. We’ve got to figure it out how to come here and win a basketball game in a tough environment.”
As it could for the remainder of the season, New Mexico State’s win was clouded by the still-evolving investigation into a deadly shooting at the University of New Mexico that left a UNM student dead and NMSU basketball player Mike Peake injured.
Wednesday was the first time NMSU’s players were available to the media since the shooting; Pinson told the media that Peake called the team at halftime of the game vs. the Miners.
“(He said to) Keep our foot on their neck. We have a lot more in us,” Pinson said.
NMSU head coach Greg Heiar said Peake spoke to the team postgame as well.
“He was just saying he was hopping around on one leg and how excited he was,” Heiar said. “He said I want to give everyone in the room a hug. I’m so proud of you guys and to keep it up.”
New Mexico State has maintained that Peake is still on the team and enrolled at NMSU, despite the shooting and despite breaking a state law in bringing a gun on to UNM’s campus – a violation that also violates NMSU’s student code of conduct.
The school says Peake was disciplined for his role in an Oct. 15 fight that was the alleged precursor to the Nov. 19 shooting, but has not detailed what that discipline was.
As long as the situation regarding the shooting continues, the Aggies will have to deal with Peake’s actions looming over their season. Pinson discussed what Peake had told his teammates in the days since the incident.
“It really started with him to be honest,” Pinson said. “I feel like a lot of people were shook and lost and he told us, it is what it is. You guys have to keep playing, you have to keep doing what you are doing, don’t be scared, don’t let the fans get to you, bad comments. We all took backlash from it. We just move on from it. You can’t control everything. We just control what we could and just stayed in the lab and play as hard as we can.”
Added Anthony Roy, “We are doing it for him. “We lost a big piece of our team and it’s important that everybody kind of steps it up. We play for 15.”
The Aggies are back in action Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. vs. Simon Frazier, in a game that was scheduled after the Dec. 3 game vs. UNM was cancelled.