Defensive woes lead to 108-87 loss for CSU in regular season finale

Colin Barnard

14 seconds – that’s how long Colorado State didn’t trail against New Mexico Wednesday night in a regular season-ending beat down in Moby Arena.

Two days after learning of former head coach Larry Eustachy’s resignation, the Rams (11-20, 4-14 Mountain West) turned in its worst defensive performance in years, culminating in a 108-87 loss.

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a player tries to make a pass mid fall
Prentiss Nixon makes a pass mid-fall during the last home game of the season on Feb. 28. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

The 108 points surrendered is the third-most in the history of CSU basketball, and the first time a team has eclipsed the century mark on CSU since a double-overtime game in 2015.

“I didn’t think we came out ready to play which was disappointing,” interim head coach Jase Herl said. “I didn’t think we were ready to play and it showed. That game was lost in the first eight or ten minutes.”

One week removed from its worst loss of the season against Boise State, CSU displayed the same lack of energy in the opening minutes as New Mexico (16-14, 11-6 MW) jumped out to a dominating 21-5 lead less than six minutes into the game.

CSU’s lackadaisical approach on the offensive end led to turnovers and easy buckets for New Mexico. The Lobos forced 13 first-half turnovers which they translated to 27 points. After pushing their lead to double digits just four minutes into the game, the deficit only expanded throughout the contest.

The Lobos utilized an unfathomable 93 percent (14-of-15) shooting mark from inside the arc during the first half to extend their lead to 58-31 at halftime.

“We just didn’t keep them in front of us,” Herl said. “You’ve got to be able to guard the basketball and keep it in front of you and stay in rotations…Something we wanted to do was get them off the 3 (3-point line), but they played extremely well inside the 3.”

Frustrations continued to build in the second half as defensive inefficiencies only worsened and the Lobos crept closer to the century mark.

Despite the defensive performance, the Rams’ offense straightened its ways to briefly cut into the lead. In all, CSU pushed its field goal percentage to 50 percent while committing just six second-half turnovers. CSU’s scoring tally was just three points shy of its highest total this season.

After the first half, though, it was too little, too late.

“We just kind of played on our heels the first eight minutes,” guard Prentiss Nixon said. “We played tentative, didn’t want to attack and that forced seven turnovers in the first five or six minutes.”

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“We were scrambling a lot on defense and we didn’t play our way of basketball,” forward Deion James added. “They started scoring down low and started dropping it off so it was a lot of easy baskets for them. Once you get easy baskets, the flow of the game gets better.”

New Mexico forward Joe Furstinger, infamous to CSU fans after his hard foul late last season, led the charge with 22 points and seven rebounds. He made 6-of-7 attempts from the field and all 10 free throws.

Six other teammates joined him with at least 10 points as only two Lobos failed to reach double digits in the scoring outburst.

Guard Prentiss Nixon paced CSU with 27 points, his second consecutive game scoring 27. Raquan Mitchell scored 21 points, shooting 7-of-12 from the field. He set a new season high in points, besting his previous mark of 17 points.

Lone senior Che Bob was honored in a pregame ceremony on Senior Night. He finished with eight points, five rebounds and two assists before fouling out late in the game.

CSU now turns its attention to the Mountain West Tournament, something that remains a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel. Locked into the 10 seed in the tournament, the Rams will play Wyoming, UNLV or Utah State on Wednesday, March 7 at 2:30 p.m. MT in Las Vegas, Nev.

Collegian sports director Colin Barnard can be reached at sports@collegian.com or o Twitter @ColinBarnard_.