First-half shooting woes doomed the New Mexico Highlands men’s basketball team in a first-round Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout loss at Adams State Tuesday night in Alamosa, Colo.
The Cowboys and head coach Joe Harge finish the season 13-14 overall and 11-11 in RMAC games.
Highlands shot just 24 percent in the first half, making only six field goals over the first 20 minutes and falling behind 51-26 by halftime.
The Cowboys mitigated the damage by shooting 56 percent in the second half and sinking six of their nine three-pointers after the break. But the host Grizzlies had enough of a cushion to prevent a full comeback.
Adams State, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, won its 20th game to move to 20-7 overall and 16-6 in league play. The Grizzlies advanced to the Shootout semifinals Friday night at the Auraria Event Center in Denver. They’ll face No. 3 seed Fort Lewis. On the other half of the bracket, the No. 1 seed Metro State — ranked fourth in the NCAA Division II with a 25-2 record — plays host to No. 5 seed Colorado Mesa.
Stuart Sullivan scored a game-high 21 points and had three steals for NMHU. Mannie Cass added 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, and Stargell Love chipped in 16. Cass and Love snagged six rebounds apiece.
Adams State shot at a consistent 51 percent clip throughout the evening. The Grizzlies’ Jason Hill went 13 for 17 from the free-throw line for a game-high 27 points to go with another game high in 11 rebounds. John Jackson had 15 points and four assists. Shaheed Young added 14 points and Bruno Machado had 10 points and seven boards.
It’s the second year in a row that the Grizzlies have eliminated NMHU.