Playing in one of the toughest places in the nation, The Pit in New Mexico, the Lobos held a 10-point lead over CSU at halftime and seemed to have the game easily in hand.
The Rams mounted a run in the second half to put the game within one possession, but the Lobos staved off a the run and held on for a 66-61 victory, their fourth straight victory in Mountain West Conference play.
“We spotted them too much and they were too tough for too long, it’s that simple,” CSU coach Larry Eustachy said.
Junior guard Tony Snel powered the Lobos offensive attack with a a game-high 23 points while chipping in 3 rebounds and one assist.
CSU continued its trend of out-rebounding its opponents, grabbing 42 boards compared to 28 for New Mexico.
Senior center Colton Iverson bounced back from a poor shooting performance against UNLV for the Rams and scored 15 points while leading the Rams with 14 rebounds
Iverson’s scoring went along with senior guard Wes Eikmeier’s team-high 20 points, after scoring just six in his last game against UNLV, but it ended up bringing the Rams close in the second half, but as a team, CSU came just short of scoring its most impressive victory of the season.
CSU battled back to within three points with eight seconds remaining but Snell’s two free throws iced the game for New Mexico.
“Last year in this same situation, we layed down and lost by 30,” Eustachy said. “This is the toughest I’ve seen our team respond, so it’s a positive.”
The result places New Mexico solidly in first place in the MW, as the Lobos now have four consecutive victories in the conference, and gives them a two-game lead in the battle for the number one seed.
New Mexico will now travel to San Diego State for a Saturday afternoon match-up with Jamaal Franklin and the Aztecs as the Lobos try to extend their lead in the conference.
The loss for the Rams drops their record in the MW to 2-2 and moves their overall record to 15-4.
While they pushed the top team in the conference to the brink, the loss for the Rams extends their struggles they have had on the road.
CSU has won just one game on the road in the conference in its last nine attempts and moves its record on the road overall to 2-4.
The Rams will now try to regroup as they finish their road trip Saturday at 8 p.m. MT when they travel to Fresno State for another conference match-up.
Assistant Sports Editor Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org