It was Idaho's second straight WAC road win after a 68-60 win at Denver on Thursday, and the Vandals improve to 3-2 in the WAC and 6-10 overall. New Mexico State drops to 3-3 in the WAC and 9-7 overall.
"We needed to win on the road because we gave away some games at home," Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. "We came in against two teams ahead of us, and we leave tied with them at worst."
Idaho led by as many as 15 points at 46-31 with 14:25 to play before New Mexico State rallied back. The Aggies cut the lead to two with an 18-5 run that made the score 51-49 with 5:15 left. But the Vandals outscored the Aggies 6-2 the rest of the way to seal their second straight win for just the second time this season. The Vandals have now won three of their last four games.
Idaho held New Mexico State to just 5-for-33 (15.2 percent) shooting in the second half, and 14-for-61 (23.0 percent) for the game.
"I'm proud of our defensive effort in the second half, holding them to 15 percent, unbelievable," Newlee said. "We need to play like we did tonight and protect our home floor next week."
The Vandals, who entered the game with a WAC-best +12.0 rebounding margin in WAC games, were out-rebounded for the first time in WAC play, 47-41, including 17-10 on the offensive end. However, the Aggies only turned that offensive rebounding advantage into a 12-10 edge in second chance points. Both teams turned the ball over 17 times in the game, and Idaho held a 17-15 edge in points off turnovers.
Idaho, which also led the WAC with 10.75 made 3-pointers per game entering Saturday, were held to just 4-of-17. The Vandals shot 38.3 percent from the field, going 23-of-60.
"It's nice to win a game when we're not making a lot of 3s," Newlee said. "That's what we need, total team effort. It's not one person, it's everybody on the roster and we saw that tonight."
Idaho was led by the second straight double-double from junior Alyssa Charlston, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Jessica Graham scored 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting and a 4-for-5 performance from the free throw line.
Freshman Christina Salvatore scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from long range, and added seven rebounds and two assists. Sophomore Stacey Barr went 0-for-4 from 3-point range, but still managed nine points, six rebounds and six assists. Freshman Connie Ballestero had seven points and four rebounds.
Idaho's defensive performance was one of its best in recent memory. The last time a Vandal opponent made fewer than 15 field goals in a game was Dec. 18, 2007, when Colorado State made just eight.
The Vandals will return home for a pair of WAC games next week. Louisiana Tech visits the Cowan Spectrum on Jan. 17, and UT Arlington visits on Jan. 19, both 6 p.m. tipoffs.