ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – San Diego State has seen some tough opponents this season, but coach Steve Fisher would stack New Mexico up against any of them.
"They're the best team we've played this year," Fisher said after the Lobos beat his sixth-ranked Aztecs 58-44 on Saturday night. "That includes Kansas. That includes Creighton. That includes Marquette. They're a terrific team and they played that way (Saturday). I'm sure that they'll be ranked next week."
San Diego State (23-3, 12-2 Mountain West) had no answer for New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow, who finished with 26 points and nine rebounds.
And the Aztecs couldn't find the basket offensively, shooting 32.3 percent (21 for 65), with leading scoring Xavier Thames going 3 for 15 and finishing with seven points, 10 below his average.
Winston Shepard led San Diego State with 10 points.
"I know in the first half we got quick with the trigger with our shots," Fisher said. "They did to us what we say we want to do to other people. Make your opponent take hard 2s and that's what we did tonight. We took hard 2s."
Meanwhile, New Mexico (21-5, 12-2) systematically shredded the Aztecs' defense that has been holding opponents to 37.6 percent from the field. The Lobos, led by Bairstow's 11-for-18 performance, made half its 50 shots.
"They've got size," Fisher said of New Mexico. "They've got strength. They've got veteran leaders and they're good. They create a lot of issues for us."
The Aztecs went 2 of 10 on 3-pointers and missed all three of their foul shots.
"We couldn't get to the line," Fisher said. "We shoot over 30 free throws a game."
The Lobos knew it was going to take special effort to get the win, coach Craig Neal said.
"Fish has done a great job with their team to be ranked where they are, losing Franklin and some guys," he said. "They've had a great run. They're a great team and I respect them. It's a good battle back and forth."
New Mexico's ability to guard Thames was an important aspect to the outcome, Neal said.
"I thought the difference was our defense," Neal said. "We wanted to give them space. We wanted them to make jump shots over us. We no-helped Thames. So if he was on ballside or anywhere by the ball, we didn't want him to get it back. So I thought that was a big key to our game."
The game turned early in the second half after the Aztecs opened it with a basket, New Mexico then hammered out 21-2 run over a span of almost 9 minutes to take a 50-26 lead.
"We just weren't playing our game," San Diego State forward J.J. O'Brien said. "We were fighting but our defense just wasn't up to par. We still weren't making shots and they were. They were hitting from the 3-point line and inside. They just got hot."