March 21 (UPI) -- Johnny McCants and New Mexico State made an early statement Thursday in their first-round game against Auburn as the underdog built an early lead.
McCants, who helped guide the Aggies to their 21st NCAA tournament appearance, was on the receiving end of an electric alley-oop in the first half with 11:34 to play.
The forward took a perfect pass from guard Shunn Buchanan and hammered home the dunk, giving the Aggies a 16-13 lead.
McCants this season is averaging 5.9 points per game for New Mexico State. The Aggies forward scored 10 points in the first half of the matchup to lead all scores.
The Tigers led the Aggies 32-29 at the half, with forward Chuma Okeke leading the way with eight points. J'Von McCormick added six.
New Mexico State, after the 10 points from McCants, got seven from guard Terrell Brown.
Auburn went on a 10-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game, leading the Aggies 25-19. New Mexico State went 4:45 without scoring during that stretch and missed seven consecutive shots at one point in the first half.
New Mexico State also had major issues from beyond the arc, hitting just two 3-point shots in the first half.