The CSU menâ€™s basketball team opened a crucial three-game stretch against what are thought to be the top teams in the Mountain West on Wednesday night.
And if the result is any indication, the Rams (13-6, 2-2 MW) arenâ€™t ready to hang with the big boys yet.
CSU got blown out 85-52 by New Mexico (16-4, 2-2 MW) at the Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. It is the Ramsâ€™ second-straight loss after winning eight consecutive games.
The story of the game was written in the first half when CSU literally handed the game to New Mexico.
At halftime the Rams trailed by 18 points, 47-29, and their 11 turnovers had been turned into 16 points for the Lobos.
â€œIt was one of the keys to the game for us too, which was disappointing,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said about turnovers.
And when CSU wasnâ€™t turning it over, the shots werenâ€™t falling. At the intermission CSU was shooting only 43 percent from the floor. That number dipped to 37 percent by the end of the game.
And the Rams, the fourth best three-point shooting team in the nation coming into the game, hit only 3-of-14 attempts from long-range.
In the second half CSU made an early 5-0 run, but New Mexico never allowed the Rams back into the game. And the Lobos rode a balanced attack all the way through.
â€œGive the credit to New Mexico, they played well,â€ Miles said. â€œThey balanced it out and they were on the attack, but a lot of that is because of us. We were a pretty easy target tonight.â€
New Mexico shot over 50 percent and had 23 assists on 35 made baskets. In addition, New Mexico had 11 players score in the game, and that wasnâ€™t just because coach Steve Alford was able to clear his bench at the end of the game. By halftime, 10 Lobos had scored.
The loss leaves CSU at 2-2 in the conference and in fifth place, with first-place and No. 12 San Diego State coming to Moby Arena on Saturday.
â€œI just think right now weâ€™re a poor team in every sense of the word,â€ Miles said. â€œWeâ€™re not very good in team defense, in helping each other, keeping our rotations.
â€œI look at the offensive end. Five assists and 20 turnovers. Weâ€™re not moving the ball. We just kind of disintegrated the last two games trying to play hero basketball.â€
The Rams are still very much in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth due to their strong schedule, but will need to turn things around quickly to remain in the hunt.
â€œWeâ€™ve just got to go correct it, and weâ€™ve got to do it sooner rather than later,â€ Miles said. â€œYou look at these next two ball games (SDSU and at UNLV) and thereâ€™s no room for error.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.
Final: CSU: 52 New Mexico: 85
Key stat: 20 CSU turnovers, New Mexico 28 points off turnovers
Up next: Saturday vs. San Diego State. 2 p.m. Moby Arena