Johnny McCants had 14 of his career-high 18 points in the second half as New Mexico State earned its first victory over an SEC team in 25 years with a 58-52 win over Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon in Jackson, Miss.
McCants, a junior forward, had 10 points during the Aggies’ 12-2 run to open the second half. He had a dunk, two 3-pointers and a transition layup to stretch a 23-21 halftime lead to 35-23 with 16:58 left.
New Mexico State (8-6) led by 14 before Mississippi State (8-3) went on a 9-0 run to get within 45-40 on a jumper by junior guard Nick Weatherspoon with 8:36 remaining. It was Weatherspoon’s first contest since Feb. 12, having sat out the last 20 games due to a suspension for violating team rules.
Weatherspoon finished with eight points but only played 18 minutes after fouling out with 4:32 left.
The Bulldogs took their first lead since 8-6 on a layup by sophomore forward Reggie Perry with 2:35 left, capping a 9-0 run to go up 52-51.
McCants hit a long fallaway jumper late in the shot clock to give New Mexico the lead with 2:02 left.
McCants later picked off a Mississippi State pass with 16 seconds left to preserve a 55-52 lead. The Bulldogs turned it over three times in the final 1:07 and didn’t score again after the basket by Perry, who had a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds.
New Mexico State was buoyed by the play of two recently returning guards in junior Evan Gilyard and senior AJ Harris.
Gilyard, playing his second game since becoming eligible following his transfer from UTEP, had 14 points in 19 minutes off the bench, while Harris played 17 minutes in his season debut after missing the first 13 games with a fractured finger.
New Mexico State earned its first win over an SEC squad since winning at Alabama in December 1994. The Aggies nearly ended that drought in the first round of last season’s NCAA tournament when they lost by one to eventual Final Four entrant Auburn.
—Field Level Media