By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
A video aired by El Paso TV station KIVA shows that New Mexico State’s Eli Chuha and New Mexico Lobo Corey Manigault both threw punches during a pregame warm-up scuffle before the teams’ basketball game on Tuesday night, with Manigault landing a solid shot to the face of the Aggies’ Ivan Aurrecoechea.
The Aggies’ performance against the Lobos — a 100-65 NMSU rout — was definitive.
The details about what caused the scuffle are not. But the video shows a great deal.
The Lobos play Saint Mary’s on Friday in Los Angeles. UNM coach Paul Weir hasn’t said if any of his players will be disciplined for the game or otherwise. Manigault was reportedly on the flight to LA with the team. But Weir released the following statement on Thursday:
“I am extremely disappointed at the pregame events and want to apologize to not only everyone at The University of New Mexico but also New Mexico State University. Our actions are a direct reflection of me and my lack of ability to communicate to our players the importance of sportsmanlike behavior. At no point has anyone in our program ever been encouraged to behave in that fashion and much like the outcome of the game itself, I am embarrassed. Any member of this team who acts that way will have consequences and this will be no different.”
NMSU coach Chris Jans said he didn’t witness the incident, either. As of Thursday afternoon, he still had not issued a statement.
Here is the link to the video:
The video shows Manigault, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, being restrained by teammates while shoving with NMSU players Shunn Buchanan and Aurrecoechea. The players were separated, but Chuha, wearing a white warm-up jersey and a white headband, is shown yelling as he approaches the scuffle. Chuha then throws a punch, but it’s not clear if it connects. Manigault immediately starts swinging and lands a shot to Aurrecoechea’s face.
No players were disciplined for the game, but Manigault played just nine minutes and scored three points. He is the team’s third leading scorer with 12.8 points a game, and is third in rebounding at 5.2. He is averaging just 17.8 minutes a game, which ranks eighth on the team.
On Tuesday, the Daily Lobo’s Cameron Goeldner took the above photo (featured above and to the right) during the the skirmish, and posted it on Twitter.
During his radio postgame radio show on KKOB, Weir said he was not at courtside during the altercation, but he was “extremely disappointed” in his team’s actions, and he was going to investigate the details. Weir said it didn’t matter how it started, his players shouldn’t have been in the mix. KKOB play-by-play announcer Robert Portnoy (sitting to the far right with a red shirt) and color analyst Hunter Greene (on stairway aisle in gray shirt), did not comment as to what they might have witnessed. No video had been aired in Albuquerque on Tuesday night and the fracas wasn’t mentioned during either KOB-TV’s or KRQE-TV’s late-evening newscasts. KOB had a reporter at the game.
Albuquerque Journal reporter Geoff Grammer said he spoke with people at Tuesday night’s game who said they witnessed the skirmish, and he was told “players on both teams” threw punches. Grammer added that Manigault also had verbal exchanges with some Aggies before the teams’ previous meeting in the Pit on Nov. 17, and that Manigault “definitely bumped into some Aggies” as the teams were warming up. The Aggies won that game 98-94.
Manigault played just four minutes in the Lobos’ next game, an 84-78 win in the Pit against UTEP on Nov. 24. Weir said he sat Manigault as “a coaches’ decision” and later said the benching was a “teachable moment.”
Weir was on the New Mexico State coaching staff from 2005-17, and was head coach during his final year with the school. He left to become the UNM’s head coach last season.
Manigault transferred to UNM after playing with Pitt and Indian Hills Community College.
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in the state’s history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.