Another heart stopping win for Ramblers who advance to Elite Eight

Image result for LOYOLA RAMBLERS LOGOImage result for 2018 ncaa tournament logo

ATLANTA—With Loyola’s captivating NCAA Tournament run hanging in the balance, it was Marques Townes’ turn to deliver another memorable finish.Townes had scored only a combined 15 points in Loyola’s first two NCAA Tournament games, but that didn’t concern Ramblers coach Porter Moser. Townes had the ball in front of the Loyola bench in the final seconds Thursday night and the shot clock about to expire.With Loyola clinging to a one-point lead and only 6.3 seconds remaining, Townes nailed the decisive 3-pointer to help clinch a 69-68 win over Nevada in the NCAA South Regional semifinal.

”He was a warrior,” Moser said.
Townes, who had 18 points, charged down the court, pumping his fist, following the shot.

”I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life,” Townes said. ”I mean, it doesn’t really get any better than that.”

Following a timeout, Nevada’s Caleb Martin answered with a 3, but this time the Wolf Pack couldn’t extend their string of second-half comebacks in the tournament.

”Got to give so much credit to Nevada, they never quit,” Moser said. ”Those guys keep coming at you, coming at you. … I was blessed we made a couple of plays at the end, got a couple of stops.”

The win leaves the No. 11th-seeded Ramblers, the biggest surprise in a regional that has lost its top four seeds, one victory from a Final Four appearance. Loyola (31-5), which has won three tournament games by a combined four points, awaits Kentucky game in Saturday’s regional final.Not bad for a program that hadn’t been in the Sweet 16 in 33 years.On a team that shares the spotlight, this was Townes’ moment. He made each of his two 3s and led Loyola with five assists. He said he was fine after banging knees with Nevada’s Jordan Caroline at the end of the game.

”I think Marques Townes is the best player on the court tonight,” said Loyola guard Clayton Custer. ”I don’t even think it was close, either. … This is unbelievable. Feels like a dream.”

Martin led Nevada (29-8) with 21 points. Twin brother Cody Martin had 16. Jordan Carolina added 19.

”We get a stop on the 3 they shot at the buzzer and maybe we’re sitting up here with a win,” said Nevada coach Eric Musselman.
Caleb Martin bemoaned his missed defensive opportunity before Townes’ big 3.

”I should have denied the catch,” Martin said of Loyola’s pass to Townes. ”I just got lost and it was costly.”

Loyola trailed by 12 points, at 20-8, midway through the first half but stormed back to lead 28-24 at halftime. Loyola closed the half with a 20-4 run as Nevada didn’t score in the final 7:55 before the break.Loyola pushed the ball in the paint on almost every possession. The Ramblers’ first 10 points came on layups.Loyola’s relentless attack on the basket continued as it stretched its lead, one layup at a time, in the second half.

NOTES—Loyola showed strong poise by sticking with their game plan to attack the basket, even when the Wolf Pack collected five blocks in the first half. Loyola took a 46-34 advantage in points in the paint…..Four members of Loyola’s famous 1963 NCAA championship team had front-row seats: Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, John Egan and Rich Rochelle. In the final minutes of the game, Harkness could be heard saying, ”We need a stop. We just need a stop.”….Also attending the game was Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, Loyola’s 98-year-old team chaplain who has become a celebrity during the tournament. ”It was getting pretty bad. I thought I might have to resort to my nitro (nitroglycerin), but I didn’t have to do that,” she said after the win. She also had a word of caution for Loyola’s next opponent: ”Here we come, next team, whoever you are.”…..Nevada’s experience in second-half comebacks paid off. After Loyola’s layup by Custer gave the Ramblers their last 10-point lead at 57-47, the Wolf Pack charged back. Cody Martin’s basket started a 12-2 run, and his layup tied the game at 59-all with 4:06 remaining.This time, however, Nevada couldn’t regain the lead…..The Ramblers will face Ks State-Kentucky regional semifinal in Saturday’s regional final.

Bulls routed by Nuggets as they play out the string

Bulls Logo

It started when Nikola Jokic was introduced with Denver’s starting lineup, and the cheering continued throughout the night. There were chants of ”Serbia! Serbia!” Jokic felt right at home in Chicago.The 7-foot center had 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists on ”Serbian Heritage Night,” leading the Nuggets to a runaway 135-102 victory over the Bulls on Wednesday.

”The ovations, the fans, the people from Serbia did bring the flags,” Jokic said, ”I mean when Serbia is playing this is the atmosphere. Just imagine the whole arena is doing that. The whole Serbian population, people, love basketball.”

Denver shot 61.4 percent (51 for 83) from the field and had seven players score in double figures. Paul Millsap had 22 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes, and Wilson Chandler made five of the Nuggets’ 20 3-pointers on his way to 19 points.The Nuggets (39-33) led by as many as 46 while improving to 1-2 on a seven-game trip. They also pulled within 1 1/2 games of idle Utah for eighth in the Western Conference playoff race.

”Anytime on the road you’re able to build a 40-point lead, your guys are playing at a high level,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.

Jokic went 9 for 11 from the field and made each of his two 3-point tries. He called the warm reception ”really, really cool,” and his teammates also got a kick out of the Serbian contingent in the crowd of 20,671.

”It was a home game for him,” a grinning Millsap said. ”Definitely a home game for him. I see why he was feeling it out there.”

Cristiano Felicio scored 16 points for the Bulls (24-47), who have dropped four of five. Bobby Portis had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Noah Vonleh finished with 14 points.

”We are not coming out with any type of edge whatsoever, and we’re allowing teams to gain confidence in games, and it just goes downhill from there,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.

The Bulls played without Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine due to injuries, and veteran center Robin Lopez did not dress. Dunn has a right toe sprain, Markkanen has been bothered by lower back spasms and LaVine is out with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.LaVine (16.7 points per game), Markkanen (14.9) and Dunn (13.4) are the Bulls’ top three scorers after Nikola Mirotic was traded to New Orleans last month.

”When you lose, it hurts until midnight,” Portis said. ”Then, when midnight comes, you worry about the next game.”

The Nuggets opened a 33-23 lead on Jokic’s layup with 1:15 left in the first quarter and maintained a double-digit advantage for the rest of the game. Once a fast shooting start for the Bulls wore off, it was never in doubt.The lead ballooned to 20 for the first time on Chandler’s layup with 5:52 left in the first half. It got up to 30 when Jokic and Will Barton hit consecutive 3-pointers, making it 74-44 with 58.2 seconds remaining in the quarter.Jokic then made a slick pass to set up Jamal Murray’s three-point play, helping Denver to a 77-46 halftime lead. The Nuggets shot 68.3 percent (28 for 41) from the field in their highest-scoring first half of the season.The playoff race doesn’t mean very much for the lowly Bulls as the season winds down. It’s the results for the teams at the bottom of the standings that affect the Bulls in terms of positioning for their pick in the draft lottery.Antonio Blakeney had six points on 3-for-10 shooting after he was listed as questionable due to a left wrist sprain. … The Bulls made their first four 3-point attempts and finished 13 for 38 from beyond the arc. They went 3 for 30 from long range during Monday night’s 110-92 loss to the New York Knicks.

Flames edge Austin Peay. advance to TO CIT Semi-Finals

Image result for college insider tournament

 

CLARKSVILLE—UIC has advanced to the semifinals of the 10th CollegeInsider.com Tournament by knocking off Austin Peay in thrilling fashion Wednesday night, topping the Governors 83-81 at the Dunn Center.The Flames (19-15) trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half. The Governors (19-15) made one-of-two free throws with 10.4 seconds remaining to tie the game and called timeout to set up the defense. Godwin Boahen took the inbound pass from Tarkus Ferguson and dribbled across the timeline. He darted inside the arc and launched a jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining that propelled the visiting team to victory.Boahen, making his second straight start, was one of four Flames in double figures with 16 points. Ferguson led the squad with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists.It was the eighth consecutive road win for UIC, the most in program history. Wednesday’s victory marks the first time that the Flames have won at least 19 games in a single season since the 2003-04 campaign.UIC will play in the semifinals on Wednesday, March 28. The opponent and location will be announced soon.

Hawks collapse against Avs–eliminated from Playoff race.

Nathan MacKinnon had two assists, extending his point streak to a career high-tying 13 games, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Blackhawks 5-1 on Tuesday night.Alexander Kerfoot scored twice and Semyon Varlamov made 44 saves as Colorado won for the fifth time in six games and improved to 8-1-3 in their last 12. Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Barrie each had a goal and an assist, and Erik Johnson added an empty-netter.The Avalanche (40-25-8) snapped a tie with Anaheim for the top spot in the Western Conference wild-card race and moved within two points of Minnesota for third place in the Central Division.

”It’s crunch time and I think, not just myself, but everyone is playing really well,” said MacKinnon, who has 13 goals and 13 assists during his streak. ”We’re finding our gear and Varly has been really good, too. If you don’t have goaltending, you’re not going to win in this league, obviously. He’s been awesome.”

The Hawks (30-35-9) lost for the sixth time in seven games. Defenseman Brent Seabrook scored his fifth goal of the season for the Blackhawks, and Anton Forsberg made 35 stops in his first start since he was pulled in the first period of Thursday night’s 6-2 loss at Winnipeg.The last-place Blackhawks were eliminated from postseason contention with the loss. They had made the playoffs for nine straight seasons, winning three Stanley Cups.

”We had a disappointing second half to the season, to say the least,” star forward Patrick Kane said. ”It seemed like a lot of the games throughout the year went the way they did tonight: We score first and give up one, lose momentum and can’t regain it. Disappointing season? Yep.”

Seabrook’s power-play goal put the Blackhawks in front with 4:15 left in the first period, but Colorado responded with three in the second.With Andreas Martinsen in the box for slashing, a wide-open Kerfoot jumped on a rebound and beat Forsberg from the slot at 2:07. Kerfoot snapped a 14-game drought with his 16th of the season.The Avalanche then grabbed a 2-1 lead on their next shot. MacKinnon drew Forsberg over to one side of the net before playing it across to Rantanen for the easy one-timer at 5:01.

”We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now and our top line has been really hot,” Kerfoot said. ”We know we can score goals and obviously with Varly playing like that, we’re a tough team to beat.”

Rantanen extended his point streak to seven games. The 21-year-old forward is tied with MacKinnon for most points in the NHL in March with 20 apiece.Rantanen and MacKinnon each picked up an assist when Barrie scored from the high slot on another power play, making it 3-1 at 12:40. Barrie extended his career-best point streak to 11 games, the longest run for an Avalanche defenseman since the franchise moved to Colorado.The Hawks had three more power-play chances in the third, but came up empty each time. Johnson scored from the other end of the ice at 18:04, and Kerfoot made it 5-1 when he beat Forsberg with 57 seconds remaining.

NOTES—Blackhawks C Matthew Highmore was scratched after he went hard into the boards during the second period of Sunday night’s loss to St. Louis. Martinsen was recalled on an emergency basis from the minors and put a big hit on Avalanche D Nikita Zadorov in the first period.

Custer jumper bounces in as Rambers edge Tennessee, advance to Sweet 16.

Image result for LOYOLA RAMBLERS LOGOImage result for 2018 ncaa tournament logo

DALLAS—Loyola’s Sweet 16 dreams bounced on the front of the rim, lightly touched the backboard, and rattled a couple times before slipping through the net.Another prayer answered in the waning seconds, and now Sister Jean’s Ramblers are heading to Atlanta.Clayton Custer’s jumper got that friendly bounce with 3.6 seconds left, and 11th-seeded Loyola beat Tennessee 63-62 in a South Region second-round game Saturday night.Custer’s winner came two days after Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beating 3 from the March Madness logo against Miami, surely to the delight of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the team chaplain and occasional coach, watching from her wheelchair on a platform near the main TV cameras.

”The only thing I can say, glory to God for that one,” Custer said. ”The ball bounced on the rim and I got a good bounce.”

The Ramblers were the long-shot story of the first round – until 16th-seed UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia to pull off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. That’ll be hard for the Ramblers (30-5) to top, but they’re working on it.The Missouri Valley champions broke the school record for wins set by the 1963 NCAA championship team. The small Catholic college on the North Side of Chicago will play Nevada in the regional semifinals Thursday in Atlanta.No. 3 seed Tennessee (26-7) took its only lead of the second half on a three-point play by Grant Williams with 20 seconds remaining.After Loyola almost lost the ball on an out-of-bounds call confirmed on replay, Custer took the inbounds pass with 10 seconds left, dribbled left and then right, pulled up and let go of the winner.The Vols’ Jordan Bone got a decent look at last-gasp 3, but it bounced away, and Custer threw the ball off the scoreboard high above the court as he was mobbed by teammates in the same spot that the Ramblers celebrated Ingram’s dramatic winner.The Ramblers fell behind 15-6 in less than 5 minutes before the Volunteers missed their next nine shots and fell behind for the first time on Custer’s 3-pointer with 6 minutes left in the first half.Admiral Schofield scored 11 of those first 15 Tennessee points but didn’t score again until a 3 nearly 32 minutes later that started a rally from a 10-point deficit in the final 4 minutes by the SEC regular-season co-champions.Tennessee coach Rick Barnes lost at American Airlines Center, home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, for the first time in six NCAA games. The first four wins were during his 17 seasons leading the Texas Longhorns.Schmidt, a high school basketball player in San Francisco in the 1930s who leads the pregame prayer and gives the players feedback after, wasn’t the only one pulling hard for Loyola.Late-arriving fans waiting for crowd favorite Texas Tech in the late game joined the raucous Ramblers supporters wearing maroon-and-gold scarfs and standing almost the entire game in sections across the court from their team’s bench.Aundre Jackson, who grew up in the Dallas area, led Loyola with 16 points, and Custer had 10. Schofield scored 14 for Tennessee.A special run continues and the Ramblers might not be one-year wonders. Several key players will be back, including Custer, fellow junior guard Marques Townes and freshman center Cameron Krutwig. The Ramblers probably won’t have to wait another 33 years this time.Tennessee: Letting a quick lead get away will hurt for the Vols, although the rally is a boost for a starting lineup with no seniors. It was the first NCAA trip in three seasons at Tennessee for Barnes, who took the Longhorns 16 times in 17 years.

Ramblers advance with thrilling win over Canes

Image result for LOYOLA RAMBLERS LOGOImage result for 2018 ncaa tournament logo

DALLAS—Donte Ingram picked the perfect spot for this game-winning shot.Ingram hit a 3-pointer from the March Madness logo just before the buzzer, lifting 11th-seeded Loyola over Miami 64-62 in a Thursday thriller at the NCAA Tournament.

”Well, it’s pretty simple to know why we call it March Madness,” said Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga, left holding his head in stunned disbelief after Ingram’s shot.

In 2006, Larranaga took 11th-seeed George Mason to the Final Four. This time, it was Loyola’s turn to celebrate after making its first tournament appearance in 33 years.The long shot from well beyond the key came with just a split-second left, and was set up by a pass from Marques Townes. It happened after Lonnie Walker IV missed a free throw with a chance to give Miami a three-point lead with 9 seconds remaining.

”I thank Marques for making that pass,” said Ingram, who was 3 of 8 from 3 and scored 13 points. ”Any one of us could have hit that shot, but I was just fortunate enough to be in the position.”

The Ramblers (29-5) matched the school record for wins from their 1963 national championship team in their first NCAA trip since losing to Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the Sweet 16 in 1985. They advanced to face third-seeded Tennessee on Saturday.Loyola, with an 11-game winning streak that is its longest since winning the NCAA title, was boosted by a pregame prayer from its team chaplain, 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.She’s held that post for more than two decades and, sitting courtside in her wheelchair, got hugs from the Ramblers when it was over.

”I just gave a big sigh of relief and said, `Thank God,”’ she told The Associated Press about Ingram’s shot.

The sixth-seeded Hurricanes (22-10) led most of the second half in their third straight trip to the tournament, but couldn’t pull away in the final minutes and lost in the first round for the second straight year.The buzzer sounded as Ingram’s shot went in, and the Ramblers celebrated wildly in front of the raucous fans wearing maroon-and-gold scarfs in the American Airlines Center sections across from their bench.But officials put 0.3 seconds back on the clock, forcing Loyola to gather on the bench and postponing the celebration until after a desperation full-court pass bounced away harmlessly.The game-winner came after coach Porter Moser initially signaled for a timeout after Walker’s missed free throw, but then motioned his players to bring the ball up the court.

”After they made that shot, I mean, it’s definitely a dagger to the heart,” said Walker, who led the Hurricanes with 12 points. ”It definitely hurts seeing a shot like that go down, but I’m proud of my team.”

Clayton Custer hit a tying 3 in the final 2 minutes and led Loyola with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from long range.Most of Moser’s key players should be back next season, giving the Ramblers a chance to keep the NCAA appearances coming after such a long drought and such a big win.The Hurricanes were back in Texas five years after winning twice in Austin to advance to the Sweet 16. They looked they’d have another shot at that until Ingram’s stunner.Trailing 62-61, Lucas Williamson gave Loyola another shot at the lead after Townes missed one of two free throws with a chance to tie. Williamson knocked the ball off Walker’s leg, but the Ramblers missed two attempts the rim, leading to Walker’s missed free throw.With Miami’s season over, Loyola advances to play third-seeded Tennessee in the second round.

Hawks fall to Darling, Hurricanes.

Sebastian Aho and the Carolina Hurricanes are more interested in the standings than the situation in the team’s front office.Aho snapped a tie with a power-play goal in the third period, and the Hurricanes beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday night in their first game since Ron Francis was forced out as general manager.

”You’ve got to do your job no matter what,” Aho said, ”so just tried to focus on the whole game and just play the best game that you can.”

Justin Williams had a goal and an assist as Carolina stayed four points back of Columbus for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Jaccob Slavin also scored, and Scott Darling made 22 saves in his return to Chicago after he was traded to Carolina in April.The Hurricanes (30-27-11) had dropped eight of 10, and new owner Tom Dundon announced a front-office shake-up on Wednesday night. Francis was moved from GM to a new role as the team’s president of hockey operations, and Dundon said the team will begin a search for a new GM who will report directly to the owner.Tomas Jurco and Patrick Sharp scored for the last-place Hawks (29-31-8), who had won two of three. Jean-Francois Berube made 37 stops.With Sharp in the box for interference, Aho tipped Teuvo Teravainen’s shot by Berube 4:35 into the final period. It was Aho’s team-high 24th goal of the season.Carolina controlled most of the first two periods, outshooting Blackhawks 28-14, but they stayed in the game behind a pair of nice plays.Jurco redirected Brent Seabrook’s slap shot by Darling for a 1-0 lead at 6:02 of the first. After Slavin beat Berube with a slap shot through traffic, Sharp made it 2-1 when he backhanded a rebound into an open net at 15:06 before being pushed to the ice by Carolina forward Jordan Staal.Williams was sent off for hooking with 62 seconds left in the first, but he stepped out of the box early in the second, got a long stretch pass from Elias Lindholm and beat Berube high on the glove side on a breakaway at 1:06. It was Williams’ fourth goal in five games and No. 14 on the season.Carolina then had a chance to go in front, but Berube made a solid glove save on Brett Pesce’s breakaway midway through the period.

”We got the lead there but it was a fortunate couple of plays,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ”We didn’t play very well. Puck management is something we talk about a lot, and that second period was tough.”

NOTES—The 23-year-old Teravainen leads the Hurricanes with career highs of 34 assists and 53 points. He was traded by the Hawks to Carolina in June 2016. … The Blackhawks announced another contract extension for one of their young defensemen, agreeing to a one-year deal with Jan Rutta that runs through next season. The 27-year-old Rutta has six goals and 13 assists in 44 games in his first NHL season. D Erik Gustafsson, who turns 26 on Wednesday, agreed to a two-year extension on Tuesday. … Quenneville coached his 1,607th regular-season game, matching Al Arbour for second-most in NHL history. … Lindholm had two assists. ”I thought he was the best player in the game,” coach Bill Peters said. Blackhawks: Visit Boston on Saturday afternoon.

Irish no match for Duke in ACC Tourney

BROOKLYN—Marvin Bagley III and No. 5 Duke jumped right over Notre Dame into the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals.The freshman phenom had 33 points and 17 rebounds, Grayson Allen made his first five 3-pointers and Duke rolled to an 88-70 victory in the tournament quarterfinals Thursday night.

”Bagley was just … the first pick in the draft,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. ”He’s a can’t-miss star.”

Allen finished with 23 points and the second-seeded Blue Devils (26-6) advanced to play archrival North Carolina in the second semifinal Friday night. The 12th-ranked and sixth-seeded Tar Heels eliminated No. 3 seed Miami, 82-65.Duke, the defending champion after beating Notre Dame in the title game last year, earned its 100th ACC Tournament victory.

”We’re on a roll,” Bagley said. ”I definitely think we’re getting better.”

Bonzie Colson had 18 points and nine rebounds for the 10th-seeded Fighting Irish (20-14), unable to score the marquee victory over a top team that would have been a huge boost to their NCAA Tournament resume.Injuries to Colson and senior guard Matt Farrell derailed Notre Dame in the middle of the season, and now the Irish have to hope the selection committee focuses on how good they can be when healthy.

”I’m definitely going to go to church on Sunday morning,” Farrell said.

The undersized Fighting Irish had no answer for Bagley’s athleticism and rare leaping ability in the lane at 6-foot-11. The ACC Player of the Year shot 15 for 23 and came within one point of his career high set against Texas in late November. It was his fourth game with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds.

Nova flexes muscle against Marquette

NEW YORK—Jay Wright was raised on 1980s Big East basketball. He loves the big games that always made this time of the year special at Madison Square Garden with powerhouses like Georgetown, Syracuse and St. John’s leading the charge.Wright knows greed and defections means those days are long gone.But here’s what Wright understands, as well: this reinvented Big East is pretty good at making its own memorable March memories.Wright became the winningest coach in Villanova history with 414, and the No. 2 Wildcats opened defense of their Big East Tournament championship in a 94-70 win over Marquette on Thursday night.Wright improved to 414-165 since he took the job in 2001 and has led the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four and 2016 national championship. He was tied with Al Severance, who went 413-201 from 1936-1961.He’s alone atop the record book – and should put the total far out of reach.

”I’m mostly proud to be the coach of Villanova, honestly,” Wright said. ”The wins and everything don’t matter. I know I’ll look back on it later.”

Take a look at what’s happening now – the Wildcats (28-4) took control in the second half and showed why their third tournament title in four years is within reach. Mikal Bridges hit four 3s and scored 25 points and Big East player of the year Jalen Brunson scored 21. The Wildcats made 15 of 29 3s – a stunning 11 of 17 in the second half.Villanova is the No. 2 team in the AP Top 25 – and the tournament. Xavier won the Big East and earned the top seed even though it lost twice this season to the Wildcats.They seem poised to make it a trilogy in Saturday’s final.

”This is pretty cool,” Wright said. ”I’m excited where this league is right now.”

Fresh off a blowout loss, even Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski had to admit the fact that Xavier and Villanova could both earn No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament was a boon for the league.

”Both teams have a great chance to win the national championship,” he said.

The Wildcats blew this game open early in the second half against the seventh-seeded Golden Eagles (19-13). Brunson hit a 3 to open a 10-point lead and Booth nailed one to make it a 15-point game.Then the Wildcats just got 3-point silly: Phil Booth, Eric Paschall, Omari Spellman, Brunson, Spellman again and Bridges all hit 3s on six straight scores to turn this into a rout and break out the ”Let’s Go Nova!” chants.Markus Howard scored 23 points and Andrew Rowsey had 22 for Marquette. Rowsey had tears running down his cheeks as he sat on the bench in the final minutes.

Tough season for CSU ended by N.Mexico State.

LAS VEGAS—Zach Lofton put up 21 points and Jemerrio Jones pulled down 15 rebounds and top-seeded New Mexico State cruised past Chicago State 97-70 in a first-round game in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday night.The Aggies advance to a semifinal contest Friday.New Mexico State (26-5) took a 45-26 lead at intermission and shot a crisp 51.4 percent from the field (36 of 70), including 53.8 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (14 of 26).Chicago State (3-29) was held to 22 of 58 from the field (37.9 percent), including 3 of 17 from distance.Jones, the WAC Player of the Year who came into the game averaging a double-double with 10.9 points and 12.7 boards, came up a field goal shy of that feat in the opener. Kevon Jones had 18 points and Johnathon Wilkins added 10.Deionte Simmons and Glen Burns scored 14 points apiece and Fred Sims Jr. and Jelani Pruitt each contributed 13 for the Cougars.