Published March 17, 2013
LAS VEGAS – Texas-Arlington's run at an NCAA berth came up short against New Mexico State and its 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar.
Kevin Butler's 13 points and 10 rebounds wasn't enough for fourth-seeded Texas-Arlington in a 64-55 loss to the Aggies in the Western Athletic Conference championship Saturday night.
Trailing 51-38 with 11:35 left, the Mavericks (19-13) cut the lead to three twice, the last at 53-50 with 2:02 remaining. However, Terrel de Rouen's jumper with 1:24 to go for third-seeded New Mexico State (24-10) lifted the Aggies to their fourth NCAA tournament berth since 2007.
"Give New Mexico (State) credit. They're a great defensive team," Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross said. "We were picked sixth or seventh (in the WAC). Our four seniors helped us take a step to the next level. I'm proud of these guys. Hopefully our guys will remember this feeling and we can extend our season as long as possible."
It also was the Aggies' second consecutive tournament crown.
Bhullar, the tournament's MVP, finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocks.
"He's such a load down there," Cross said of the freshman. "I think he's a guy that can help an NBA team. Jordan Reeves is one of the best defensive players I've ever coached and he did a solid job on him. (Bhullar) can finish. He was 4 of 8 from the free-throw line, but it seemed like he made them all."
Karol Gruszecki had 11 points for Texas-Arlington, while Jordan Reves had 10.
"We weren't patient offensively," Butler said. "We were rushing things and weren't running offensively like we were the last two games."
The Mavericks could receive a postseason tournament berth next week.
Holding a 32-30 lead at halftime, New Mexico State (24-10) used a 19-8 run to open its biggest lead of the game, going up 51-38 with 11:27 left in the game.
Daniel Mullings added 16 points and six rebounds for the third-seeded Aggies, while Bandja Sy contributed with 10 points and six boards.