Close is not good enough for the CSU Rams.
The Rams (15-12, 6-7 MWC), powered by a stellar 23-point performance from guard Adam Nigon, nearly upset the No. 10 New Mexico Lobos (25-3, 11-2 MWC) in front of 4,300 packing Moby Arena Tuesday night, but fell just short.
Down six points late, CSU called upon a hot-handed Nigon to try and keep them in the game. The junior answered, hitting a three-pointer with 24 seconds left and bringing the Rams within three points of the Lobos 66-69. Thatâ€™s as close as the green and gold would get.
New Mexico hit critical free throws down the stretch while the Rams missed critical shots with time running out, and CSU lost by a final score of 72-66.
The Lobos dominated the Rams on the glass throughout the night, out-rebounding CSU by 12 while grabbing 19 offensive boards.
CSU head coach Tim Miles explained giving up that many offensive rebounds was the most frustrating part of the last minute loss and explained the Rams had trouble containing two particular New Mexico players.
â€œThat was the disappointing part,â€ Miles said in the postgame press conference. â€œTwo guys, Roman Martinez and Darington Hobson, absolutely kicked our butts in the lane getting offensive rebounds. Our match ups were guys we wanted on them, guys that are good rebounders. Thatâ€™s our greatest disappointment in that they beat us in something thatâ€™s a strength of ours. Thatâ€™s very frustrating.â€
Hobson and Martinez combined for 11 offensive rebounds for the Lobos. Guard Dairese Gary added 23 points for New Mexico in the win.
CSU forward Andy Ogide agreed with Miles, saying giving up too many second- chance opportunities is what lost the Rams the game.
â€œThey just kept getting offensive boards when we got stops,â€ said the junior, who finished the game with 12 points. â€œWeâ€™ve been preaching one and outs the whole year, and we werenâ€™t doing that tonight. It killed us tonight.â€
The Rams came out strong in the game and kept pace with the Lobos throughout the first half. Nigon announced his presence early for CSU, hitting four first half threeâ€™s and finishing the half with 14 points.
Nigonâ€™s effort, combined with 12 New Mexico turnovers, sent the Rams into the locker room with a 32-29 lead.
New Mexico roared back into the game to start the second half, going on a 9-0 run coming out of the locker room, earning a 38-32 lead.
Nigon, who was tied for the game-high with 23 points, including six three-pointers, said that his performance meant nothing since the Rams lost.
â€œI was kind of in the flow,â€ the junior said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t mean a whole lot right now.â€
Miles still credited Nigonâ€™s performance, despite losing the game.
â€œHe was trying to will a win for us tonight, and you could just see it in him,â€ the third-year CSU coach said. â€œHe was making big shot after big shot, tough shot after tough shot. I think the kid did all he physically could to keep us around.â€
With the loss, the Rams have now dropped three straight games and move below .500 in conference. Even though his team nearly knocked off a top ten team, Miles still sees Tuesdayâ€™s game as a huge disappointment.
â€œThere is no consolation. Itâ€™s just disappointing to lose,â€ he said. â€œWe want to win. There are no moral victories. We want to go in and establish ourselves as a player in this league. To do that, we need to beat the cream of the crop. New Mexico is certainly that.â€
The Ramsâ€™ next opportunity to stop their three-game losing streak is set for this Saturday as they head south to face the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.
New Mexico: 72