ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Pit is an intimidating building for Mountain West opponents, and the Colorado State men’s basketball team is no stranger as to why.
The University of New Mexico basketball arena seems to get the best of the Rams almost every time — or at least nine out of every 10. The Lobos dominate CSU in the all-time series, 43-5, when playing in Albuquerque, and Saturday proved to be no different as the Rams were handed a 80-73 defeat in front of the sold out venue.
On hand was a mob of 15,411 screaming fans dressed in red, a number nearly twice as big as the seating capacity of Moby Arena in Fort Collins.
“This is like when I was at Iowa State and going into Phog Allen (Fieldhouse, Kansas University). It’s that nice of atmosphere and I love it, that’s what it’s all about,” head coach Larry Eustachy said.
Colorado State (9-6, 0-2 MW) stuck to its game plan of getting the early edge on conference rival New Mexico (10-3, 1-0 MW) by claiming the first five points of the game on an early bucket, two defensive stops and a three-point hit from Joe De Ciman that kept the road environment to a dull roar at the most.
However, just as they have been all season long, the Rams were out-worked down in the paint, scoring only 16 points to the Lobos’ 34.
“I had the most confidence in the world that we could come in here and beat this team,” guard Daniel Bejarano said. “We started off the game great, we just didn’t finish just like some of the games we’ve lost already; they’re a good team.”
A large part of New Mexico’s success was delivered in form of a one-two punch that was represented by forward Cameron Bristow and guard Kendall Williams. Together, the duo accounted for 51 of the Lobos’ 80 points and shot all 30 of the team’s free throw attempts.
Bairstow made an immediate impact, letting his presence be felt in the first half with 16 points and seven rebounds going into the locker room at break. He finished the game with a double-double (29 points, 14 boards) through 34 minutes of playing time.
“He was just being very aggressive. He’s a good player, potential NBA player, and he just kept attacking,” guard Jon Octeus said. “You’ve got to front him. Coach (Eustachy) calls his breakdowns, we just didn’t do what we do.”
Williams flirted with a triple-double in New Mexico’s 2013-14 conference debut, posting 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. His numbers Saturday crowned him second player in MW history to reach 1,500 points, 500 assists and 150 steals over his career (Jimmer Fredette, BYU 2007-11).
Now looking ahead to their third conference matchup at San Jose State on Wednesday, the Rams are wearing a 0-2 MW record after Saturday’s result and a loss to San Diego State on Jan. 1.
“They just capitalized on all the mistakes we made. They had 14 second-chance points and we ended up losing by seven. That’s the game right there, that sums the whole game up,” Octeus said. “I just wanted to get my team going tonight and couldn’t do it tonight; just have to move on.”
Sports Editor Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @QSickafoose.