New Mexico has finished with at least a share of first place in the Mountain West in three of the past four seasons and would put itself in a strong position for another regular-season title with a victory in its next game.
The 15th-ranked Lobos will try to gain a two-game lead in their conference by knocking off visiting Colorado State on Wednesday night.While some of the other Mountain West contenders have been up and down in the early going, New Mexico (16-2, 3-0) has stayed unbeaten in the league by winning a pair of close games. The Lobos topped then-No. 24 UNLV 65-60 in their conference opener Jan. 9 and won 79-74 in overtime at Boise State in their most recent game last Wednesday.Despite fighting an illness, Hugh Greenwood made a tying layup with 54 seconds left in regulation and hit a pair of key shots in the extra period. The Australian finished with 15 points and seven rebounds while junior Tony Snell scored a team-best 22."It's just something that I've got to learn to be aggressive every game," Snell said. "I know it's conference time, and I'm trying to get another ring. That's my main focus. If I want to get another ring, I've got to play hard every game."The close games might not end soon as the Lobos will face the second-place team in the Mountain West, Colorado State (15-3, 2-1), before visiting two other potential contenders, San Diego State and Wyoming."We're going to get everybody's best shot," coach Steve Alford told the school's official website.The Rams will try to move into a tie for first place by ending a 21-game road losing streak against ranked opponents. Their last such victory was against North Carolina on Dec. 29, 1989.Colorado State has dropped its past three road games overall and 10 of 11 on the road in conference play. The Rams, though, took then-No. 16 San Diego State to overtime in the Aztecs' arena before falling 79-72 on Jan. 12.They've recovered from that loss with back-to-back victories, including a 66-61 win over UNLV on Saturday. Dorian Green scored a season-high 24 points and had eight of his team's 15 consecutive made free throws to end the game."It just gives us confidence," Green said. "We know what kind of team we are and we know if we play the game we want to play, we can beat anybody. We've just got to continue to do what we do because this conference is going to be tough."Greg Smith added 16 points against the Runnin' Rebels, helping to make up for a 1-of-8 shooting performance by leading scorer Colton Iverson. Iverson, averaging 14.4 points, finished with a season-low seven and Colorado State won despite shooting just 38.9 percent.The Rams knocked off then-No. 18 New Mexico 71-63 in the most recent meeting Feb. 21, but the Lobos have won five straight home matchups, routing the Rams 85-52 last season in Albuquerque.