West Texas A&M’s Nick Burns scorched the New Mexico Highlands Cowboys on Tuesday night, and none of his shots charred more than the last one.
Burns’ jumper with 2 seconds left lifted the visiting Buffaloes to an 89-87 overtime win in the season debut for both teams.
Burns led all scorers with 28 points as WTAMU outgunned the usually sharp Cowboys 49 percent to 38 percent.
Another big shot for West Texas was Alex Davis, who drilled a 3-point basket from the top of the key with two seconds left in regulation, tying a game that had been controlled — albeit by a narrow margin — by the Cowboys throughout the second half.
Highlands showed it misses the defensive ability of starters Chris Dunn and Rashad Peterson, who are out until December. The Buffs opened on a 14-5 run and looked to run away with the contest. But back-to-back threes by Roman Andrade and Mindaugas Markevicius quickly made it a manageable 16-13 margin. Chop Tang’s jumper finally tied it at 27-27 with 3:27 left in the first half. And the robust Wilson Complex crowd of roughly 2,000 roared its approval when former Pojoaque guard Ryan Gonzalez drained a three-bomb to beat the halftime buzzer. The long shot gave Highlands its first lead at 36-34.
Andrade opened the second half by scoring the first five points, making it 41-34 NMHU. That drew a quick time-out, and the Buffs did not allow the game to get out of hand.
West Texas chipped away at the lead. After a technical foul assessed against the Cowboys’ bench, a pair of free throws by Joe Mincey gave the visitors a 58-57 lead with 8:05 remaining.
NMHU regained control 62-61 on a couple of foul shots by Kelvin Franklin with 6:52 left in the game.
A Franklin three-pointer gave the Cowboys an 81-76 advantage with 1:36 to go.
Then WTAMU’s Jacquiese Holcombe drove the lane for a bucket, also drawing a foul. Holcombe missed the free throw, but Andrade was blocked on the other end by Donnie Kidd. Highlands applied strong defensive pressure on the ensuing possession and appeared to have the Buffs rattled. But they rotated the ball to Davis, who knocked down the game-tying three.
Former Robertson wing Justin Montoya inbounded the ball to Tang, who missed a wild 3-point shot at the buzzer.
Markevicius gave NMHU an 83-81 edge on two free throws, but Holcombe scored on a couple of tip-ins and a free throw to put the Buffs in front 86-83.
Andrade led the Cowboys with 24 points on 6-of-19 shooting and six rebounds. Tang had 18 points and 10 boards. Markevicius scored 19 and Franklin 14.
Coach Joe Harge and company play in the Fort Lewis Skyhawk Classic this weekend in Durango, Colo., then host the NMHU Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 27-28.