Aggies comeback falls short in Las Cruces

Aggies comeback falls short in Las Cruces

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- The hometown Aggies were grateful they could hang on in the final seconds to pull out a win, but at least one of the visiting Aggies felt slighted that a last minute call didn't go his way.

With New Mexico State leading 74-73 with seven seconds remaining, Jaycee Carroll had a chance to put Utah State in the lead but he dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds.

NMSU's Justin Hawkins, a consistent free throw shooter, was fouled on the inbounds play. He hit both free throws for the 76-73 win Thursday night.

Carroll finished with 30 points and seven rebounds and led his Aggies through a second half that nearly cost the other Aggies the win. He pointed out that in nearly 30 games this season, he hasn't dribbled off his foot, not once.

"I don't dribble off my foot. I don't. I don't," he said emphatically.

He maintains that he was fouled by New Mexico State's Martin Iti but it wasn't called. Iti said he was moving his feet and not trying to foul.

Even New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus weighed in on the call.

"Listen, the ref could've called a foul. You can't call every bump ...," he said, adding that Carroll lost the ball on his own.

Nevertheless, New Mexico State (21-6, 10-3 Western Athletic Conference) pulled out another win despite a poor second half that included 14 turnovers.

NMSU started the game hitting its first 10 of 12 shots and later used a 17-2 run to pull away to a 43-26 halftime lead. During that streak, Utah State (20-8, 8-5) failed to hit on a single field goal attempt.

Stephen DuCharme broke Utah State's drought with a layup early in the second half. It was the visiting Aggies' first field goal since the 8:25 mark of the first half.

Utah State went on to get as close as four points on two occasions in the second half before NMSU's lead all but disappeared.

"That was a tough one to lose after battling back so hard," said Utah State coach Stew Morrill. "We still had a chance. We tried to get the ball to Jaycee on a ball screen but couldn't get the shot."

New Mexico State was led by Hawkins, who finished with 23 points, including the crucial pair of free throws late in the game.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-02-22-07 2251MST

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