Going into last night's game, the New Mexico Lobos (22-4, 11-2 MWC) were ranked first in the Mountain West Conference standings. CSU (14-12, 5-8 MWC) was ranked sixth. The game was closer than one may expect, but in the end, the Lobos showed why they sit atop the MWC, securing the win in the game's final minutes after forcing multiple Rams turnovers. The Rams fell to the Lobos 71-63.
"We're disappointed to lose the way we did-(by) turn(ing) it over five of the last six possessions," said Chris Denker CSU head coach. "I thought we played a pretty good ball game up to that point."
Both teams traded baskets and defensive stops in the first half. The Rams' stingy defense held the Lobos to 34.6 percent shooting and forced seven New Mexico turnovers in the first half. CSU shot 34.3 percent from the field and committed nine turnovers.
Despite sloppy play and low percentage shooting, CSU entered halftime with a 28-24 lead after freshman guard Sara Hunter drained a three-pointer as time expired.
The defensive struggle that appeared to be developing into in the first half quickly disappeared as both teams scored at will for much of the second half.
The Lobos snatched the lead with 16:57 remaining in the game after freshman forward Dionne Marsh converted a layup, but the Rams came storming back, tying the game, 39-39, after Hunter drained a three-pointer with 14:25 remaining.
The Rams went on an 8-0 run to take a 59-54 lead with 5:01 remaining. The Lobos came storming back, however, cutting the lead to 58-57 after senior forward Lindsey Arndt drilled a three-pointer with 4:08 remaining.
The Rams were unable to hold on, as Hunter committed several turnovers, and the Rams let the lead slip away in the game's final minutes.
"I kind of lost my composure and didn't make the safe pass (in crunchtime)," Hunter said.
CSU received balanced scoring with three Rams players scoring in double-figures. Leading the way for the Rams was Hunter with a team-best and career-high 17 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. Junior center Lindsay Thomas poured in 15 points and grabbed a team-best 10 boards. Junior forward Melissa Dennett chipped in with 16 points.
Thomas was limited to only 17 minutes of playing time after battling foul trouble for much of the game.
"I tried to focus on my game and not let the refs take me out of my game, which they seemed hell-bent on doing," Thomas said. "The whole conference season, the refs have been inconsistent."
The Lobos received a team-high and game-high in points from Marsh, who poured in 26 points. Arndt contributed to the Lobos' victory by scoring 17 points, including a three-pointer to give New Mexico a 59-57 lead with 4:07 remaining in the game.
The Rams will wrap up their regular season tomorrow afternoon in a home game against Air Force.
Air Force has struggled this season, posting a record of 8-17 overall, 2-10 MWC, going into last night's game at Wyoming. The Falcons were tied for last place with San Diego State going into last night's game.
CSU is looking to go 2-0 against Air Force this season after toppling the Falcons in Colorado Springs 63-42 on Feb. 3.
The Falcons are led by freshman guard Alecia Steele, who posts team-bests in points, with 11.5 per game, and rebounds, with 6.7 per game.
The Rams and Falcons will tip-off tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Moby Arena.