After two one-point losses to New Mexico State in the regular season, UMKC got a third chance at the conference-leading Aggies.
Once there, the Kangaroos still couldn’t find the answer, losing 78-64 in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals on Friday night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
UMKC finished its season 12-19, once again falling short of a first conference tournament title game appearance in the men’s basketball program’s history. New Mexico State, 23-9, will play for its sixth automatic NCAA Tournament berth in seven seasons on Saturday night in the WAC title game.
“They proved why they’re the No. 1 team in the conference,” UMKC coach Kareem Richardson said after the game.
Juinor guard LaVell Boyd led UMKC with 23 points, one night after he scored 18 points in the Kangaroos’ come-from-behind 80-78 win over Utah Valley in the opening round. UMKC junior Martez Harrison struggled from the floor, shooting 4 for 14, but finished with 15 points, and Kyle Steward tied a career-best with 15 points.
UMKC led 21-20 with 9:36 left in the first half but trailed the rest of the game after New Mexico State went on a 13-0 run over the next 2:51. The Aggies led 42-26 at halftime and pushed their lead to as many as 23 points in the second half.
New Mexico State hit 8 of 13 three-point attempts, including 7 threes in the first half. The Aggies came into the game averaging only 5 made threes per game.
UMKC was outrebounded 40-28 and the Aggies scored 14 points off offensive boards in the second half. Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State’s 6-9 power forward, posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, six offensive.
“Their size, their depth certainly caused us some problems,” Richardson said.