'Bows lose tough one
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. New Mexico State basketball
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Birthday parties are not supposed to end like this.
Roderick Flemings appeared to be the life of the party on his 23rd birthday, but Jahmar Young played the role of party pooper in New Mexico State's thrilling 71-69 win over the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team last night.
Young hit an 18-foot jump shot with 0.9 seconds remaining to give the Aggies the win, capping a back-and-forth game of "Can you top this?"
"It was exciting. It was intense," Flemings said. "We haven't had too many games like that this year. It's a learning experience for the next game."
A crowd of 3,068 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Rainbow Warriors drop to 9-10 overall and 2-4 in the Western Athletic Conference after the heartbreaking loss.
New Mexico State improved to 12-7 overall and moved into a tie for first place at 5-1.
The 'Bows had tied the game at 69 on an off-balance 3-pointer by Hiram Thompson with 13 seconds remaining.
Without calling a timeout, the Aggies got the ball to Young, who dribbled to the right wing then launched his game-winner over Flemings.
"I felt like I played pretty good defense on him," Flemings said. "I pushed him back, made him shoot a jumper with a hand in his face and he made the shot. Not much more you can do. Tough shot."
Young, who finished with a game-high 26 points, agreed that Flemings defended the shot as well as possible.
"He was right there to challenge — it was great D," Young said. "I saw it go right over his finger tips, and I knew it was going in."
The last-second loss put a damper on an otherwise highlight-reel game by Flemings. He finished with 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
He threw down several spectacular dunks, including a one-handed alley-oop slam that had the arena buzzing.
"I thought Rod came out and he played with tremendous energy," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "He wanted to win and he really got after it."
Flemings, who has not started the last two games because of a nagging knee injury, said: "My knee wasn't bothering me as much ... and today's my birthday."
Brandon Adams added 14 points and nine rebounds, helping the 'Bows to a 45-37 advantage on the boards.
Jeremy Lay added nine points and six assists, but shot 2 of 13 from the field. Thompson had six points and five assists, but also committed seven of Hawai'i's 17 turnovers.
"We needed to make some shots from our guards, and tonight they just didn't have it," Nash said. "Hiram is fighting all kind of injuries and it showed tonight because he wasn't at the top of his game."
The 'Bows led by as many as 14 points in the first half, and eventually took a 40-28 lead at intermission. Flemings came off the bench to score 15 points in the final 12 minutes of the first half.
The Aggies got back in it with a stunning 16-0 run early in the second half.
"A tale of two halves," Nash said. "We played extremely well in the first half, and they played extremely well in the second half."
The 'Bows shot just 33.3 percent in the second half, and finished at 42.4 percent for the game.
The 16-0 surge gave the Aggies a 45-42 lead with 15:05 remaining. The game stayed close the rest of the way.
Flemings' memorable alley-oop dunk came off an assist from Lay, and tied the score at 53 with 7:54 remaining. The pass appeared to be too high and off target, but Flemings reached behind his head for the ball in mid-air and threw it down in one motion.
"Hawai'i, they're warriors for real," Young said. "We kept thinking we had them down and they kept fighting back. They made some big plays so we had to keep making big plays."
Hawai'i's last lead was 66-65 on a putback by Flemings with 1:41 remaining.
A jump shot by Young, and later, two free throws by Jonathan Gibson gave New Mexico State a 69-66 lead with 31 seconds left. Thompson then tied it with his 3-pointer to set up Young's heroics.
Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies said they have practiced such last-second scrambles, so he did not want to call a timeout.
"You got good players, you gotta let them play," he said.
Gibson added 19 points for the Aggies, and Wendell McKines had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The win put the Aggies into a tie for first place with Louisiana Tech, which lost at San Jose State last night.
Hawai'i, which is now in seventh place in the nine-team WAC, will host Louisiana Tech tomorrow.
The 'Bows played without junior guard Dwain Williams, who is mourning the death of a cousin. He is second on the team in scoring with 14.0 points per game, but has already missed five games this season for various reasons.