Lofton, Harris help New Mexico State tip Illinois
Zach Lofton scored a game-high 23 points and A.J. Harris made a three-point play in the final minute which gave New Mexico State the lead for good in a 74-69 victory over Illinois on Saturday night in Chicago.
Lofton made 10 of 20 shots from the field but the Harris basket made the difference. The play began when Jemerrio Jones (11 points) tipped away an Illinois inbounds pass with the game tied at 69, and the ball went to Eli Chuha, who fed Harris on a fast break.
The guard then drove in and made a tough layup. Harris (16 points) also was fouled and sank the free throw that gave New Mexico State (9-2) a 72-69 lead with 29.3 seconds left.
Illinois (8-5) had a chance to tie but Trent Frazier missed a long 3 with four seconds left. Chuha then sealed the victory with two free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining.
The Aggies scored the game’s final five points and now have won three straight.
Leron Black led the Illini with 17 points.
The streaks in this game began early when Illinois jumped out to an 8-2 lead.
New Mexico State answered back with a 20-2 run that kept the Aggies with a double-digit lead for the rest of the first half. The Aggies went into the break with a 38-26 advantage before things got interesting in the final 20 minutes.
This game, played at the United Center, honored coach Lou Henson. He took both schools to the Final Four during his long career. Henson didn’t attend the game after being hospitalized on Thursday.