Fort Collins, CO – Slowly creeping up on the competition in the Mountain West Conference, the New Mexico Lobos not only find themselves ranked 18th in the nation this week, but they are also all alone atop the league standings as they get ready to clash with the Colorado State Rams at Moby Arena in Fort Collins tonight.
Since losing to both San Diego State and UNLV last month in back-to-back contests, the Lobos have been playing catch-up and finally reached a new height on Saturday when they completely dominated the Runnin' Rebels in The Pit, 65-45. Add to that the 77-67 triumph over San Diego State on the road three days prior and now UNM is celebrating with a seven-game win streak that has pushed the group to sole possession of first place in the MWC at 8-2.
As for the Rams, they enter play this week tied with TCU for the fourth spot in the standings, sporting a 5-5 league mark after taking out Wyoming in one of the installments of the annual Border War on Saturday, 54-46. The win snapped a two-game slide by CSU, but is just the third in the last eight games after opening conference play with back-to-back triumph.
The Lobos won the first meeting of the season at home last month by a lopsided 85-52 final as Drew Gordon posted a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds for the hosts, the team shooting 52.2 percent from the floor and forcing the Rams into 20 turnovers. With that outcome the all-time series now favors New Mexico by a count of 69-42.
Drew Gordon was a man among men on Saturday as he exploded for a huge double- double consisting of a career-high 27 points and a massive 20 rebounds in the win versus UNLV. At the defensive end of the floor Gordon helped hold one of the nation's top rebounders, Mike Moser, to just four points and eight points. The other strong effort on offense for the Lobos came from Tony Snell who dropped in 12 points and handed out five assists, all without a single turnover. While it probably wasn't something he looked at as a positive immediately after the game, it must be comforting for head coach Steve Alford to know that his team can shoot just 4-of-16 beyond the arc and still win by 20 points. Gordon, who is smart enough to know that his strength is in the paint where he is pulling down 11.1 rpg and is scoring 12.7 ppg, is one of only two player on the roster who hasn't even attempted a three-pointer this season. Kendall Williams (12.3 ppg) and Snell (11.8 ppg) are also key components in a balanced scoring attack as the Lobos outscore the opposition by 16.1 ppg through 26 games.
Avenging their loss to Wyoming on the road in Laramie last month, the Rams dialed up the defense in the second half as they held the visiting Cowboys to just 18 points en route to the eight-point home win in Fort Collins. At the offensive end of the floor, CSU got off just 37 field goal attempts, luckily hitting on 19 of those tries thanks to Greg Smith and Dorian Green who combined to converted 11-of-18 shots and scored 14 and 13 points, respectively. Wes Eikmeier, generally a reliable scoring source for the Rams, hit just 1-of-5 from the field and finished with a mere four points, yet he still leads the program in scoring overall this season with his 16.2 ppg. Green checks in with another 13.0 ppg and continues to be a lethal weapon on the perimeter where he has connected on 46.3 percent of his tries. Pierce Hornung has been only a part-time starter during his 19 appearances, but his 8.2 rpg and his efforts in the paint have been key to limiting the opposition to only 29.7 rpg this season.