No. 24 Colorado State stumbles on the road in 66-53 loss to New Mexico

Keegan Pope

CSU guard Joe De Ciman (10), looks to pass during Saturday's game at WisePies Arena. (Photo by Sergio Jimenez/ Daily Lobo)
CSU guard Joe De Ciman (10), looks to pass during Saturday’s game at WisePies Arena. (Photo by Sergio Jimenez/ Daily Lobo)

Call it WisePies Arena. Or Bob King Court. No matter what you call it, Colorado State still cannot solve the mystery that is “The Pit.”

The 24th-ranked Rams, who entered Saturday’s matchup with New Mexico at 14-0, were soundly beaten in the second half as the host Lobos rolled to a 66-53 victory in front of 15,225 raucous, red-clad Lobo fans at WisePies Arena in Albuquerque.

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Despite leading scorer Hugh Greenwood shooting just 1 of 10 from the field, the Lobos used a balanced effort that included four players totaling eight or more points to upset the Rams. New Mexico dominated CSU 42-16 in the paint, 17-4 in fast break points and shot 51 percent from the field to move to 10-4 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West.

Colorado State (14-1, 1-1 Mountain West) was led by 13 points and 11 rebounds from Daniel Bejarano, who shot just 4 of 11 from the field. Leading scorer J.J. Avila was saddled with foul trouble for much of the night, scoring just six points and adding four rebounds in 34 minutes. The Rams were also without starting forward Stanton Kidd for most of the contest after the senior injured his ankle early in the contest.

“We’ve been playing a lot of close games and we really broke down in areas that we couldn’t afford to,” Bejarano said. “It’s just one game, this game doesn’t define our season and we’re 14-1 and that still sounds good. We’ll get this out of our mind and get back to work.

“…We didn’t respond when we needed to and we didn’t have enough when we needed to and we didn’t find ways to win.”

Unlike in their victory over Boise State Wednesday night, the Rams were able to avoid falling into an early hole, as they traded baskets with the Lobos for the first 17 minutes of the first half, tying the game at 25 on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard John Gillon.

But following Gillon’s seventh and eighth points of the game, the wheels fell off for the CSU offense. Over the final 3:09 of the first frame, the Rams were outscored 10-1 and headed into the halftime break trailing 35-26.

With a quick 5-0 run to open the second half, CSU cut the deficit to 35-31, forcing New Mexico head coach Craig Neal to call a timeout. After trading baskets for the next four minutes, the Lobos finally found their groove, opening up an 18-point lead as Colorado State went ice cold from the field. New Mexico led by as many as 20 late in the second half before Colorado State finally found its shooting touch and cut the deficit to 10 points with 2:53 to play.

However, CSU would get no closer as it saw a program-record 14-game winning streak come to an end at the hand of the Lobos, who have won four consecutive games in the series and the last eight in Albuquerque.

For the night, CSU shot just 32.7 percent from the field and connected on just 6 of 25 3-point attempts, many of which came early in the shot clock and within a hand in the face of CSU’s shooters.

“Those were good looks,” CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said after the game. “If you look at the film, they were good looks. We settled too much, which is what we do, that’s one of our issues. I told this team, six weeks from now we’re going to be really good but we’ve got a ways to go.”

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The Rams return to action Wednesday night when they host rival Wyoming in the first installment of the Border War at Moby Arena. Wednesday’s game tips off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Mountain West Network.

Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.