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CAYMAN ISLANDS – Jabari Rice was steaming.

New Mexico State could see the finish line Monday in the opening round of the Cayman Islands Classic. The Aggies held a 60-56 lead over Colorado State with just 40 seconds left in regulation, but four made free throws by the Rams sent the game into overtime.

Neither team managed to score in the first two minutes of the extra period, but that's when Rice got cooking.

After sinking a pair of free throws to give his team a 62-60 lead, the redshirt sophomore showed off some grit down low by soaring over the Colorado State skyscrapers in the paint for an offensive board. The 6-foot-4 guard went back up strong for the putback to give the Aggies a 64-60 lead midway through the overtime period.

Rice then extended his range on the next possession. The Houston, Texas, native caught a pass in the corner for a wide open triple and cashed in without even grazing the rim on the way down.

Finally, he delivered the dagger. Now up 69-63 with 49 seconds left, Rice put a move on his defender at the top of the arc, created separation and drained yet another triple.

Rice racked up 12 points in overtime, and that gave the Aggies the boost they needed to earn the 78-70 win.

How it happened

New Mexico State entered the tournament game shooting a mere 28.7 percent from deep, but now it was time for some target practice.

Up 18-8 with 11:43 on the clock, Terrell Brown found Johnny McCants at the top of the arc. Without a defender in sight, the 6-foot-7 redshirt junior pulled the trigger and drained his second triple of the season.

Shawn Williams chipped in two possessions later. The junior already sank a long ball earlier in the game, but now he also found himself wide open at the top of the arc with space. Like McCants, Williams sank the freebie to extend the lead to 26-11.

Finally, a more unlikely culprit got in on the action with 8:10 on the clock. The Rams gave up yet another wide open look from up the middle, and Ivan Aurrecoechea capitalized by drilling his first triple of the season.

New Mexico State got its lead up to 34-16 at the six-minute mark with a layup by C.J. Bobbitt, but Colorado State ended the half with a run of its own.

The Rams went on a 12-0 run that featured four different scorers, and the Aggies missed all four of their attempts from deep during the skid. Despite this, New Mexico State still entered halftime with a 34-29 advantage thanks to a game-high nine points by Trevelin Queen.

Both teams went scoreless in the first two minutes of the second half, but McCants provided the spark.

The Las Cruces native hit his defender with a spin move down low and finished with a smooth layup, and McCants forced a turnover on the ensuing Colorado State possession by falling on a loose ball. Trevelin Queen later scored off a backdoor cut to the hoop, and the Aggies held a 40-31 advantage.

The Rams responded with an 8-0 run, though, and Nico Carvacho capped it off with an and-one hook shot in the trenches to cut the deficit to 40-39 with 14:57 left in the contest. Meanwhile, the Aggies missed nine straight triples dating back to the end of the first half after starting the game on fire.

Now tied at 48 apiece with 7:40 remaining, Bobbitt went to work inside the arc.

Shunn Buchanan fed the fellow senior down low, and he finished despite being fouled. After making the free throw, Bobbitt extended his range with a jumper from the top of the key on the next play to give the Aggies a 53-50 edge.

Finally, Rice ended the 10-shot drought from deep by sinking a triple to give New Mexico State a 56-50 advantage with 6:10 left in regulation. 

The Rams cut the deficit to 60-58 with three seconds left, though, and a pair of made free throws by freshman David Roddy tied the game. A full-court inbound heave by Bobbitt got broken up, and the two squads went into overtime.

But Rice took over in the extra five minutes of play with 12 points, and he led the team to a 78-70 win.

Monday's stars

Rice finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, which both marked game highs. The 21 points is a career high for the redshirt sophomore. Queen also tallied 19 points and three steals in the winning effort.

Carvacho recorded 18 points and six rebounds for the Rams, while Stevens posted 17 points and a team-high four assists.

What they said

The following quotes are from the postgame presser.

New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans on the strong start: "It was definitely the best segment of basketball that we've played all year long. It was great to see. We came out of the gates ready to go, and that's kind of what we're used to. For whatever reason, we kind of took our foot off of the gas...We could never completely pull away from them."

Rice on his scoring spree down the stretch: "The whole time, they were just telling me stay ready, stay ready, stay locked in. When I got the opportunity, I was just ready. Shots were going in, and I just tried to feed off of my energy."

What's next

Up next for New Mexico State (3-3) is a semifinals matchup against South Florida on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. MT. The winner advances to Wednesday's championship game.

Justin Martinez can be reached at (575) 541-5455, JMMartinez@lcsun-news.com or @JTheSportsDude on Twitter. Make sure to subscribe to the Las Cruces Sun-News  to stay up to date with all local sports.

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