Top Moments
Johnny McCants goes up for a dunk against 4-seed Arkansas in the Round of 32. Courtesy NMSU Athletics.

Top Moments Around the 2021-22 WAC Hoops Season – Part I

As the 2021-22 college basketball season winds down, it is time to look at some top moments, games and plays around the WAC. I put it out on Twitter for the fans to share their thoughts on their favorite moments and I got a ton of responses. Some were expected. Others were ones that flew under the radar at times. Either way, let’s look at some of the top moments per the fans.

Let’s start right here. I am a Utah Valley alum so this one hits home. For the second time in the series, the game between Utah Valley and BYU took place in the UCCU Center in Orem. This time, the Cougars came in at No. 12 and boasting a perfect 6-0 record with wins over San Diego State, Oregon and Utah. Utah Valley came in at 6-1, its lone loss in the season opener at Boise State.

In front of a capacity crowd, Utah Valley did the unthinkable. Behind 24 points and 22 rebounds from Fardaws Aimaq and a 24-point outburst from Justin Harmon, Utah Valley knocked off 12th-ranked BYU on Dec. 1. The 72-65 overtime win was arguably the best win in the WAC at the time. It is also the lone win over a ranked opponent in the WAC in 2021-22.

Wild Shot Propels Aggies to Rivalry Win

New Mexico State fans will remember this shot vividly. Dec. 6, 2021 in the Pit. A battle of I-25 against hated rival New Mexico. An even bigger game considering the Lobos beat the Aggies in Las Cruces a week earlier. People might forget that without Johnny McCants hitting a layup with 3 seconds remaining in regulation, this shot never happens.

But, McCants did hit the layup and this moment took place. The play was drawn up for Jabari Rice to get the final shot. But as Rice began his move, the double team came. And as soon as it came, Rice was able to tip the ball to Nate Pryor who threw up the no-look shot as time expired in overtime to give the Aggies a 78-76 win over the hated Lobos.

Cougars Stun New Mexico State

I was at the UCCU Center covering Utah Valley vs. CBU in the Wolverines final home game. Sitting on press row, KSL.com writer Sean Walker and I were watching this game unfold on my laptop. It always felt like New Mexico State was gonna bust the game wide open. But, that big run never came. And a pesky Chicago State club took advantage of a depleted Aggie squad.

And when Brandon Betson hit the game-winner with the left-handed layup, Walker and I jumped out of our chairs screaming. No offense Aggie fans. It was just one of those crazy college basketball moments you never thought would happen. But it did. The biggest win in Chicago State history.

Jacks Hand NMSU First WAC Home Loss in 5 Years

Coming into a big game with a ton on the line on March 2 in Las Cruces, something had to give. SFA was riding an 8-game win streak. NMSU had a 32-game conference home winning streak. The Aggies need one win to clinch a share of the regular season title. SFA needed a win to stay alive in the race.

And when Will McNair hit a 3-pointer to give NMSU a 45-35 lead with just over 14 minuets to play, it looked like the Aggies were going to cruise.

Not so fast.

The Jacks hadn’t won eight consecutive games for no reason. And they began chipping away at the lead and eventually tied things up at 54 on back-to-back layups by Latrell Jossell and Gavin Kensmil with 7:46 to play.

Nate Pryor’s jumper in the paint gave NMSU a 59-57 lead but David Kachelries answered with a 3-pointer that gave SFA the lead for good with 5:10 to play.

SFA held on for dear life in handing the Aggies their first WAC home loss since Feb. 23, 2017.

Dixie State Creates Burns Arena Magic

We will add more to this section as other Dixie State (soon to be Utah Tech) fans mentioned the wins over GCU and SUU at the Burns Arena. Boy, there was some magic in that building this season at times. First here is the dunk by Cam Gooden that brought the place down against Utah Valley.

And then, with seven seconds remaining, Gooden gets a monster and-1 opportunity to send the game into overtime. Watch as he finishes against the WAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Let’s go one game further for the Trailblazers. In another Burns Arena thriller, Dixie State played spoiler and knocked of GCU on a late and-1 conversion by Hunter Schofield. The GCU loss will haunt the Lopes as it kept them from being potentially the 2-seed at the WAC Tournament.

Dixie State had another big home win. The Trailblazers knocked off Southern Utah at the Burns Arena on Nov. 12. Keep an eye on that rivalry as it is going to be a fun one as conference foes.

NMSU’s 2022 NCAA Tournament

Ray is a Cubs fan so it is only fitting that I add his tweet to this thread. There were some who believed New Mexico State got a very favorable matchup for its Round of 64 game as a 12-seed. The Aggies got 5-seed UCONN. And it felt like a huge opportunity for the Aggies. And they didn’t disappoint. Teddy Allen had 37 points as the Aggies won a first round game at the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 30 years.

And on Saturday against 4-seed Arkansas, senior Johnny McCants did his best to keep the Aggies in the ball game. That includes this hammer dunk that Ray so wanted to see once again.

Ultimately, the run came to an end with the 53-48 loss in Buffalo. But, snapping a 30-year drought is one of the top moments of the season.

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