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Vandals rally, come up short

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Deja pooh.

For the second time in less than a month, New Mexico State’s Daniel Mullings beat the Idaho men’s basketball team at the free-throw line.

He scored only seven points on Thursday night but came up big when his team needed him most, hitting a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left to give New Mexico State the lead for good in a 76-74 victory over the Vandals.

Kevin Aronis’ 3-pointer gave New Mexico State (16-8, 10-2 WAC) a 67-56 lead with 6:14 remaining in the game but the Vandals responded with an 18-7 run capped off by Connor Hill’s 3-pointer to tie it at 74 with 1 minute to go.

After Hill’s 3-pointer the Vandals fouled NMSU’s Bandja Sy with 26 seconds to play and rebounded his front-end miss on a one-and-one free throw situation.

But on the ensuing possession, Idaho turned it over and fouled Mullings, who made both free throws. Idaho (9-13, 5-7) then missed three shots in the final seconds before senior center Kyle Barone’s tip-in that couldn’t beat the buzzer.

When Idaho played NMSU at home on Jan. 12, Idaho closed out a 17-point deficit and tied the game with 3 seconds to go, only to foul Mullings on the ensuing inbounds play in a 71-70 loss.

“We did a lot of really, really good things tonight,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “There’s not anyone who feels worse than those players in the locker room, because there’s two games in a row, for lack of a better term, where we gave it to them.”

Barone finished with 26 points along with seven rebounds. Hill scored a career-high 21 points and cracked Idaho’s career top-10 with three 3-pointers. He has 109 in his career, 10th-most in school history.

Sim Bhullar led the Aggies with 20 points.