(Kansas City, Mo.) – Kansas City men’s basketball snapped its two game skid in a big way on Saturday night, upsetting league favorite New Mexico State 68-66 behind freshman Martez Harrison’s 21-point, seven assist outing.
“There are all different levels of toughness, and we definitely showed some down the stretch tonight,” UMKC Head Coach Kareem Richardson said. “It was a team effort on the backboards (against a bigger team), we got rebounds from our guards. The defensive effort was a key component for us tonight.”
The ‘Roos (6-11, 3-2 WAC) got off to a quick start in the game thanks to some good passing that led to open shots. Junior Frank Williams hit for eight points, all inside the three-point line during a 20-7 run that put UMKC up 10 with 10:20 on the clock. The Aggies (14-7, 3-2 WAC) then turned it over on three of their next four possessions, and UMKC ran its advantage to 27-11, the largest lead of the night, with 8:30 to play in the first period.
NM State battled back thanks to the play of Renaldo Dixon, who scored 13 points in the half and helped trim the margin back down to as little as seven with 2:28 on the clock, but three-point plays from both Nelson Kirksey and Harrison over the next minute sent Kansas City into the break with a 37-28 lead.
Williams had 11 at the half to lead UMKC, going 5-of-5 from the floor. The ‘Roos hit 16 shots in the period, something that it took nearly 36 minutes to do on Thursday night in a loss to UTPA.
The ‘Roos knew they would have to withstand a New Mexico State rally in the second stanza, as well as hit big free throws, and they did both. The Aggies trimmed the nine-point margin to three by the 15:22 mark, but Kansas City answered with a run to get the lead back to eight with 11:48 left on a Kirksey layup. UMKC would get it back to eight a couple more times, but NMSU took advantage of some foul trouble to get back in it. Kirksey, Trinity Hall and Fred Chatmon were forced to the bench during a stretch of play that spanned six minutes, each with four fouls.
Two Dixon free throws with 5:47 on the clock made it a one-point game, but a Williams jumper just a minute later got it back to four. UMKC held the Aggies off until it could get everyone back in the game with three minutes left. After the ‘Roos missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:28 left, the Aggies tied it 62-62 on a tip-in with 55 seconds left, the first since the 16 minute mark of the first half.
The biggest shot of the game came with 28 seconds left after UMKC grabbed an offensive board to extend its possession. Kirksey hit a jumper from the elbow to take the lead. The Aggies got to the line on the other end, but could only hit one of the attempts, and Kirksey was sent to the foul line with 13 seconds left, hitting both to make it a three-point game. The Aggies actually tied it up with a guarded three-pointer with just six seconds left by Kevin Aronis, but as they were pressing on the inbounds pass, the Aggies fouled Harrison. He hit both free throws with four seconds left, and then stole the ball as time expired to seal the victory.
Harrison led the way with 21 points and seven assists, with only one turnover. Kirksey finished with 17 points, while Williams had 13 and Hall tallied 10. Kirksey also led the ‘Roos with a career-best nine rebounds. The Aggies only out-rebounded the ‘Roos by one, and their leading scorer, Daniel Mullings, had only three points. Dixon had a career night though, going for 33 points.
Kansas City will play six of its next seven on the road, starting Thursday with a trip to WAC leading Utah Valley in Orem. Tip-off is set for 8:05 p.m. CT.