He scored 13 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and helped shut down Drew Gordon in leading Colorado State to a 71-63 upset of New Mexico (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) on Tuesday night.
"He's a big guy and he's a talented player," Hornung said. "He's fun to play against."
Hornung also had four steals as the Rams (17-9, 6-5 Mountain West) extended their winning streak to 12 at Moby Arena.
"I thought he was brilliant," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "With Will Bell being out, they were short-handed underneath, and I thought he did an unbelievable job defending our bigs, and then to be able to score, he made his free throws down the stretch, 15 rebounds. I thought he was the difference in the game."
The Lobos (22-5, 8-3) lost for the first time since Jan. 21, ending a sensational stretch in which they won seven straight games by an average of 19.3 points, one that started with an 85-52 wipeout of the Rams at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.
"It's the first time a lot of these guys have had to play being ranked and having a target on their back," Alford said. "But I give Colorado State a lot of credit. They played a four-guard lineup that really hurt us. They defended hard, and we had a hard time defending them."
Gordon scored 13 points and had six boards but played nothing like he did last weekend, when he had a career-best 27 points and 20 boards in a 65-45 demolition of then-No. 11 UNLV on national TV that vaulted the Lobos back into the rankings.
He kept turning the ball over in the paint -- six times in all -- and had a tough time finding shots, much less the basket, for much of the night.
"Defense, it always has to be a personal challenge," Hornung said. "You have to look across at the guy you're guarding and say, 'I'm not going to let you beat me.' It is the same every game."
Even against Gordon, who has 4 inches, 35 pounds and plenty of accolades on Hornung.
"You just have to be active with him. He's a heck of a player," Hornung said. "He was tough to go against all night. You have to be active and physical and match his physicality and his tenacity."
After playing tenacious defense all night, Hornung became a scoring force down the stretch as the Rams secured their second straight home win against a ranked opponent. They beat then-No. 13 San Diego State last month.
"Early on I wasn't finding a rhythm offensively. Luckily it came together at the end and I was able to make some things happen," Hornung said. "It was a right place, right time type thing."
In the first of three straight games against ranked teams, the Rams hung tough and then pulled away late, building a 60-52 lead thanks to a 6-0 run in which Hornung sank two free throws and a basket.
Gordon's three-point play with 3:22 left made it a five-point game, but when the Lobos had a chance to pull within three, Gordon slipped going to the basket and the ball bounced out of bounds. Hornung's layup at the other end made it 62-55.
The Lobos trimmed their deficit to 67-63 on Kendall Williams' 3-pointer with 31 seconds left but got no closer. Dorian Green, who led the Rams with 17 points, sank two free throws, and after yet another turnover by the Lobos, Hornung capped his spectacular night with a dunk with 6 seconds left.
Williams led New Mexico with 16 points, and Demetrius Walker had 14.
The Lobos, who had to take out forward A.J. Hardeman late in the game to match up against Colorado State's four-guard lineup, came out flat offensively in Fort Collins as Gordon took just three first-half shots, making two and pulling down two rebounds in the first half.
The Lobos missed 14 of their first 18 shots, including a dunk attempt that went awry, and the Rams built a 22-15 lead. Hardeman even shot an air-ball free throw that wasn't only short but went wide right.
However, Jamal Fenton drained a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Lobos to 30-29 at the break.
"They're not undefeated at home for no reason," Alford said. "They're 6-0 [in conference] at home. Their problems have been on the road. We knew this was going to be a tough battle, and we didn't shoot the ball well. It was a night where we didn't make a lot of shots."