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12 and Counting

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lobos Turn Back Upset Bid, Now Prepare for BYUTRAVIS A. HEUSER/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Lobo Darington Hobson and Colorado State’s Harvey Perry fight for position during Tuesday night’s game in Fort Collins, Colo. Hobson had 15 points and 10 rebounds to help New Mexico win.

 

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Steve Alford keeps talking about how young his
Lobo basketball team is. That may be true, but it’s also plenty
experienced when it comes to one thing:

Nail-biters.

And that might have been the difference  Tuesday night, as the Lobos avoided a major upset for the second time in four days with a 72-66 win at Colorado State.

“It’s helped a lot,” Alford said of his team’s rash of close calls being a factor on Tuesday. “Give Colorado State credit, they had great energy to start the game, they got to a lot of loose balls. We shoot 36 percent and win.”

 The win was the 10th-ranked Lobos’ 12th straight, but five of the last eight have come down to the final minute, and three of the last four were against teams in the lower echelon of the Mountain West Conference.

Saturday
UNM at BYU, 2 p.m.
TV: Versus (Comcast 37 or 259 HD, no Dish or DirecTV) Radio: KKOB-AM (770)/Lobo Network

On Saturday, UNM scored the game’s final four points to hold off lowly Air Force 59-56 in the Pit. On Tuesday the Lobos used a late 13-5 run to escape against the Rams (15-12, 6-7) — a team that lost its last two games by a combined 53 points and is 0-7 against the league’s top four clubs.

But margin-of-victory doesn’t count in the win-loss record, and the Lobos are 26-3 overall and on top the MWC at 12-2 with two games left. Brigham Young is a game back at 10-2 while San Diego State is third at 9-4. The Aztecs are at BYU tonight and the Lobos visit the Cougars on Saturday in a game that could decide the league title.

“As soon as that clock hit 0:00, we started thinking about BYU,” said UNM junior point guard Dairese Gary, who had a team-high 23 points and made his usual tough plays in crunch time. “Man, this is something. We’re 26-3. This is huge.”

For much of the first half, it looked like that record might be 25-4. The Rams used the long-range bombing of junior guard Adam Nigon to lead much of the opening 20 minutes.

Nigon hit a trio of 3-pointers and a pair of free throws to lead a 15-4 run and put CSU in front 32-25 with just more than a minute left in the half.

The Lobos ended the half with four straight points to make it 32-29, and it was time for Alford to deliver one of his halftime rants — which is becoming quite common of late.

“He asked us who wanted it more,” Gary said of Alford’s halftime speech. “He told us to pick our effort up in the second half and that’s what we did.”

Senior Roman Martinez said Alford definitely got their attention.

“He got into us, but that’s his job, if we’re not playing well, to do what he has to do to make us win games,” said Martinez, who hit four 3s on his way to 17 points and a game-high 12 boards. “He’s a great, great coach, and a great leader.”

The Lobos responded by scoring the first nine points of the second half while CSU could barely manage a shot against UNM’s re-energized defense. The Lobos moved out to a 38-32 advantage, but the Rams were far from finished.

Down 44-38, the Rams’ Andy Ogide capped an 11-3 burst with a vicious slam, and CSU was up 49-47 with 8:39 left. The Lobos’ Darington Hobson responded with a huge 3 and Martinez hit another. But back came the Rams, and after freshman Dorian Green and Nigon drained back-to-back 3s, CSU led again with six minutes remaining.

Hobson then took control, driving to the hole and picking up fouls. He had six points in an 8-0 run and the Lobos never trailed again. But they still didn’t put it away until making three free throws in the final 18 seconds.

“It’s disappointing to lose,” said CSU third-year coach Tim Miles. “There are no moral victories. We want to establish ourselves as a player in this league. New Mexico is the cream of the crop.”

The Lobos proved that by tying the record for most consecutive wins in MWC play. They also set the school record for road wins in a season (nine) and total wins away from home (10).

Hobson had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

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