At long last, New Mexico State has returned to the win column in the NCAA Tournament after beating No. 5 seed UConn 70-63 in Thursday's first round. The victory snaps a 12-game losing streak in the Big Dance for the No. 12 seed Aggies, which will play either Arkansas or Vermont in their first second-round game since 1993 on Saturday.
Former West Virginia and Nebraska forward Teddy Allen led the way for New Mexico State with 37 points as the Aggies held off a UConn rally after leading by 14 early in the second half. Allen's and-1 layup with 27 seconds left gave New Mexico State a 66-60 lead, cementing the outcome after UConn tied the game twice in the final five minutes. The dynamic 6-foot-6 forward scored 23 in the second half alone.
Otherwise, hot shooting helped create the day's second No. 12 over No. 5 upset following Richmond's victory earlier in the day over Iowa. NMSU entered the game ranked 245th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage at 32.6%, but hit 11 of 17 from beyond the arc to frustrate a Uconn squad that could not keep up. Allen was just a 32.7% 3-point shooter for the season, but he drilled 4 of 7 while Clayton Henry went 2 of 2 and Sir'Jabari Rice hit 3 of 6 from deep for the Aggies.
The outcome marks a disappointing end to the season for UConn, which lost in the first round last season as a No. 7 seed against No. 10 seed Maryland. RJ Cole led the Huskies with 20 points. UConn has not advanced a Sweet 16 since winning the national title in 2014.
Over the years, New Mexico State suffered through numerous close calls as a double-digit seed, including a 78-77 defeat at the hands of No. 5 seed Auburn in 2019 before the Tigers made a Final Four run. There was also a 73-69 overtime loss against No. 4 seed San Diego State in 2014 and a 70-67 loss to No. 5 seed Michigan State in the 2010 tournament. But Thursday's outcome put an end to that streak.