Feb. 21, 2009
Las Cruces, New Mexico - Gordo Castillo came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points and New Mexico State shot 78 percent from the floor in the second half as the Aggies pulled away Saturday night for a 94-86 victory over Cal State Fullerton in an ESPNU Bracket Buster matchup.
Josh Akognon scored 32 points and hit a career-high eight 3-point field goals but the Titans lost for the fourth time in five games to fall under .500 at 13-14. New Mexico State had six players in double figures including Jonathan Gibson with 19 points and Jahmar Young with 16 and improved to 15-12 (12-3 at home) with its fourth win in succession.
The Aggies broke the game open with an explosive 15-0 run midway through the second half, turning a 58-54 deficit at 15:00 into a 69-58 lead at 12:14. Castillo, a product of Las Cruces High School who entered the game averaging 3.9 points, hit two of his six 3-pointers (in only 8 attempts) to launch the spurt. The Aggies made 10 of their first 11 shots and 18 of their first 21 shots of the second half, which began with Fullerton ahead, 44-43.
"I thought we competed well against a good team in a place that's tough to play," said CSF Head Coach Bob Burton. "I'm proud of the effort. We just ran out of gas in the second half."
Akognon hit his first three 3-point tries of the game and ended up with five in the first half on his way to 19 points. But he didn't score again until a pair of free throws with 8:03 to play. He scored 11 points in the final 4 minutes as the Titans cut a 17-point deficit to as few as 6 points. But the Aggies missed only two free throws in the second half and only five field goal tries.
Fullerton shot 52 percent from the floor for the game and made 13 of 28 3-pointers. But NMSU shot 63 percent overall and made 12 of 23 treys. Wendell McKines, the leading rebounder in the Western Athletic Conference at 9.8 per game, matched his career high with 15 rebounds to lead a 35-24 Aggies' edge on the boards. Ray Miller led Fullerton with 7.
Fullerton returns to Big West Conference play Thursday night at UC Riverside.