LAS CRUCES, N.M. — When a win was still in reach, New Mexico State simply couldn't make enough plays to knock off New Mexico.
Kendall Williams tied his career high with 24 points, made all eight of his free throws and played 35 minutes to lead No. 16 New Mexico State to a 68-63 victory over the Aggies.
With its second win over the Aggies in a week, New Mexico (12-0) equaled the second-best start in school history.
"At the end of the day, it just hurts because you're playing a team that is your rival," said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies. "And when you play well, you want to win. I thought we did some things pretty well."
New Mexico State (5-6) pulled to 56-54 with 3:14 left, but the upset attempt stalled.
"I wish we would have been a little more mentally tough down the last stretch, five-six minutes," Menzies said. "We just had a couple of miscues and turnovers and missed block outs and some things that hurt us."
Daniel Mullings led New Mexico State with 13 points and five assists, while reserve Kevin Aronis scored 12.
But the timely, big plays eluded the Aggies.
"Tip your hat to the Lobos" Menzies said. "They're on a roll right now. They're playing well. I thought we would have a chance to win here, I thought we could beat them here at home."
New Mexico (12-0), however, just made the plays that needed to be made.
"I thought we made big plays down the stretch," Lobos coach Steve Alford said. "The last four minutes, we won that last four-minute game. We've done that a lot this year so that's a good trend."
The Aggies again chipped away and pulled to 62-58 with 1:02 left, but Tony Snell drove the lane for a floater and Williams connected twice from the line to keep the Lobos in control.
"It just wasn't meant to be," Menzies said. "They're the better team and they proved it twice by beating us twice."
New Mexico State turned in a solid effort on its outside shooting, hitting 6 of 7 in the first half and 10 of 17 for the game. But the Aggies went 11 of 20 from the foul line while New Mexico was 16 for 21, which ultimately proved to be the difference.
"We just didn't knock down shots at the free throw line," Menzie said. "That killed us."
The Aggies also won the rebounding battle 39-35, reversing the four-rebound deficit it had against New Mexico in Saturday's 73-58 loss.
"We just didn't have the manpower to beat them tonight," Menzies said. "I was really concerned about rebounding and I really challenged them there. And that was something. When I give them two or three things, they do it. Last game, it was you have to take care of the ball and you have to make free throws. I just have to ask them to do everything I guess. When I emphasize something, it gets across. Gradually and inevitably, we'll get there. Or eventually we'll get there."