29 years. Yes, 29 years. March 19, 1993. That is the last time New Mexico State won an NCAA Tournament game. The Aggies were a 7-seed and beat 10-seed Nebraska at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.
Well, fast forward 29 years to the state of New York, once again. This time at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo. And with CBS play-by-play broadcaster Brad Nessler calling an Aggies tourney game, once again. There is some historical context to Nessler calling a New Mexico State game. Nessler was the broadcaster who was on the call when the Aggies won their last NCAA Tournament game 29 years ago.
Well, on Thursday, in the Round of 64 at the KeyBank Center, Nessler was on the call again. And along with his partner, Brendan Haywood, Nessler and the world watched the Aggies snap a 29-year drought.
Teddy Allen had a game-high 37 points and 12-seed New Mexico State stunned 5-seed UCONN, 70-63 to advance to Saturday’s Round of 32.
Allen’s 37-point outburst was the most points scored at the KeyBank Center in NCAA Tournament history.
“I’m just proud of our guys,” New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans said. “We played, obviously, very well a majority of the game. Got up to 14 and we knew they’d come back. They punched us pretty hard … and then they just made plays. Players make plays. And we had some guys make some plays down the stretch to get the win.”
Players making plays. It seems like such a simple phrase from Chris Jans.
And on Thursday afternoon, it took a little over 10 minutes for players to start making plays. Teddy Allen missed his first six shots and New Mexico State trailed 9-5 with 11:13 left in the first half.
However, Allen decided to make some plays from that point on. Allen found a wide open Mike Peake on the wing who knocked down the 3-pointer. And on the next two Aggie possessions, Allen knocked down a pair or shots and it was game on.
Allen scored seven straight points over a span of about 90 seconds to give the Aggies a 15-14 lead. Jabari Rice’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the half pushed the lead to 18-16. And with the game tied at 20 with 4:12 left in the half, Teddy Allen took over.
Allen scored seven of New Mexico State’s final 12 points as the Aggies finished the half on a 12-2 run to take a 32-22 lead into the break.
And despite taking punch after punch in the second half, Allen and the Aggies were on a mission to snap 29 years of misery.
Allen scored five of the first eight Aggie points out of the halftime break. And New Mexico State pushed its lead to 14.
However, UCONN was not going away easily. R.J Cole’s 3-pointer with 8:20 to play cut the deficit to one. But Mario McKinney’s layup followed by a Teddy Allen 3-pointer pushed the lead right back to four with 7:07 to play.
Tyrese Clayton tied the game at 52 with 5:08 to play. But Clayton Henry came off an elevator screen and knocked down a 3-pointer to put New Mexico State back on top.
But, the final 3:55 belonged to Teddy Allen.
“It was fun,” Allen said. “Just being out there. Getting a dub. Tons of fun.”
Allen knocked down three free throws to make it 58-54. And then when UCONN tied the game at 58 on an Isaiah Whaley layup, Allen took over.
“The media timeout was long as hell,” Allen said with a smirk. “I was getting my breath. Was like ‘it’s time’ so I just know my team needs me. Just like they was picking me up when I was tired early in the second half, I had to pick them up. It was just my turn.”
Allen scored the next eight points in the contest to make it 66-58 and the Aggies never looked back.
Allen’s and-1 conversion off a his steal with 27 seconds to play was the icing on the cake.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2022
Allen finished the game 10-24 from the field and a perfect 13-13 from the free throw line.
And for the first time in 29 years, New Mexico State advances at the NCAA Tournament. After heartbreak in 2019 against Auburn in Salt Lake City, to losing the WAC Tournament title in 2020, redemption has come in a big way. All 29 years of it in one night.
The Aggies will look to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 52 years when they face 4-seed Arkansas on Saturday afternoon.