The New Mexico Lobos came into No. 13 San Diego State's loud, crazy arena and made a bold statement of their own.
Kendall Williams scored 21 points and Drew Gordon had 17 points and 17 rebounds as the Lobos stunned the Aztecs 77-67 on Wednesday night to move into sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference.
"We needed momentum and we needed a proving game, and this is a pretty good proving game for us," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said.
It's been a crazy several days in the MWC, and the Lobos (21-4, 7-2), who won their sixth straight, have been the beneficiaries. No. 11 UNLV beat the Aztecs on Saturday and then lost in overtime at TCU on Tuesday night.
"We're 21-4. Our guys have done an incredible job of being consistent and playing well all year long," Alford said.
"You know, all season people have been talking about San Diego State and UNLV going at it, so this is a nice win to put us solely in first," said Gordon, whose father, Ed, played at San Diego State in the early 1980s. "I think we'll get a little bit more recognition for being in the hunt to win the conference. It was a good win for us and we basically dictate our own fate from here on out."
It was just the second home conference loss in two seasons for SDSU (20-5, 6-3) and the first time the Aztecs lost consecutive games since January 2010. They had gone 79 games without consecutive losses.
The Lobos held Chase Tapley, the conference's leading scorer, to seven points. He came in averaging 16.2 points and had been in double figures in 18 straight games. Tapley was held scoreless until making a layup with 4:38 to play. Jamaal Franklin scored 16 points for the Aztecs, while Tim Shelton had 13 and James Rahon 11.
"I couldn't even lift my head in the locker room," Shelton said. "Before the game, we understood this was an opportunity for us, as well as for them. ... It's a hard blow for a team."
Said SDSU coach Steve Fisher: "We played a team that played better than anyone we've played to date. They beat us. I don't think we lost. We were on the downhill trying to climb back up. Every time we did, they made a basket to keep us behind."
Jamal Fenton had 15 points for the Lobos.
On Saturday, San Diego State erased a 13-point deficit at UNLV and took a one-point lead with less than 2 minutes to play but had turnovers on each of its final three possessions and lost 65-63.
When the Lobos and Aztecs met on Jan. 18 at The Pit, San Diego State fell behind 10-0 before rallying for a 75-70 win. The Aztecs trailed by 10 points in the first half of this game and tied it at 38 with a 6-1 burst to open the second half. But, fueled by Gordon's rebounding and San Diego State's turnovers and poor shooting, the Lobos responded with a 16-1 run that essentially put it away at 54-39.
"They blitzed us," Fisher said. "We were never able to get ourselves to a point where we had a chance to tie or go ahead."
Chad Adams started the run with a 3-pointer, followed by consecutive 3s by Williams. Adams made a bank shot, Gordon and A.J. Hardeman had two free throws apiece and Hardeman added a dunk.
San Diego State's only point during that stretch came when Garrett Green made the second of two free throws.
"I think we really dug our heels in defensively," Gordon said. "It's a team effort, especially on defense. Coach has really been keen on that — make sure we do everything possible on defense and hopefully our offense clicks."
New Mexico took an early lead behind Williams and Gordon. The Lobos were up 27-17 on a 3-pointer by Adams with 8:42 before halftime. San Diego State pulled to 31-29 before Williams buried a 3 from the corner.
Each team was called for a technical foul in the contentious first half. San Diego State's Franklin was whistled for one after throwing the ball off Phillip McDonald's face. Williams was whistled for a T for arguing a call against Gordon. Coach Steve Alford vigorously argued as well — even whipping off his sport coat in anger — but was spared a technical. San Diego State made three of four free throws to close to 36-32 at halftime.