FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Wednesday night wasn’t a good one for the “No moral victories” crowd.
Down yet another starter and entering a hostile Moby Arena as 16-point underdogs against the preseason conference favorite Colorado State, the undermanned UNM Lobos shot 50% from the field and hit 14 3-pointers while playing as inspired and focused a game as they have all season in front of an announced crowd of 6,516.
But inspired play can only do so much when the other team has David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens.
CSU’s star 1-2 punch finished with a combined 37 points and 10 assists and carried the veteran team down the stretch to a more-than-they-bargained for 80-74 win, improving to 14-1 overall and 4-1 in Mountain West Conference play.
The Lobos dropped to 7-11 overall and 0-5 in league play for the second consecutive season.
“I think a lot of positive,” Lobos coach Richard Pitino said when asked what there was to take away from Wednesday’s loss.
“You hate to be about moral victories, but I thought we did a lot of good things with another starter out. The free throw line clearly hurt us. They made 20-something. We made two. And it wasn’t the refs’ fault we weren’t getting there. … But there’s a lot of good. We need our guys to stay confident. Keep believing in what they’re doing.”
Four Lobos scored in double figures, including 18 apiece from Jaelen House and Javonte Johnson in his return to his home state.
A K.J. Jenkins 3-pointer — one of his five and one of UNM’s 14 made triples on the night — put the Lobos up 57-56 with 8:45 remaining in the game and the Moby Arena crowd in a little bit of shock.
But it would be the Lobos’ last lead of the night.
The Rams strung together a 6-0 run and later a 7-0 run to take a 69-61 lead into the final media timeout with 3:43 left in the game. They hit eight of their 20 free throws in the final five minutes to ice the game.
Stevens scored nine of his 16 points in the final 8 minutes and Roddy scored seven of his 21 in that span, adding a pair of great assists to open teammates when the Lobos trapped him in the corner.
“We had some turnovers at the end and a couple of defensive rotations where we trapped Roddy,” Pitino said. “You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t, you know? He’s so talented. They have such good offensive chemistry.”
Jenkins, who finished with 17 points off the bench and hit UNM’s only two made free throws (UNM was 2-of-4 and CSU was 20-of-26 at the line), said as proud as he was with his team’s effort, it wasn’t the complete game they needed.
“We need to stay disciplined toward the end of the game,” said Jenkins. “We’ve got to realize it’s 40 minutes — not 20 minutes, not 30. We can’t get too happy if we’re up 3 or anything like that. It’s a 40 minute game.”
NOTES: Saquan Singleton, the 6-6 senior guard, did not play Wednesday night as a toe injury he’s been playing with since hurting it in practice prior to the Jan. 1 game at Nevada has continued to nag him and has not been getting better.
After another setback, the team decided to give it some rest. Singleton, who was at Wednesday’s game in a walking boot, has played in 12 games, starting four times and averages 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds. Pitino said Singleton is “day-to-day” and his status for Saturday’s game at Wyoming is unknown. …
The Lobos were to fly a charter plane home after the game, but stayed the night in Fort Collins instead because of ice and winter conditions making it unsafe to fly. …
Colorado State announced a record student attendance of 3,844 at Wednesday’s game.
UP NEXT: Saturday, UNM at Wyoming, 5:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/96.3 FM
BOX SCORE:Colorado State 80, New Mexico 74