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.
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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.