With the game tied, the CSU menâ€™s basketball had to win the final two minutes of action to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
But after two Wes Eikmeier free throws tied the game at 59, New Mexico took the lead off of a Dairese Gary layup as the Lobos scored the next seven points of the game to beat the Rams 67-61 in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
â€œEnd of the game, we get a tie, Dairese Gary makes a great back cut layup, misses the foul shot, then we go down and miss an inside shot,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œThen (Cameron) Bairstow hits the shot at the end of the shot clock. They made good plays. That was the whole nutshell right there.â€
In a matchup featuring the fourth-seed Rams against the fifth-seeded Lobos, the game was dripping with intensity from the start as both teams fought for their postseason lives.
The first half was back and forth, with New Mexico turning a late run into a 36-29 halftime lead.
Having only two players provide any offensive production in the half hindered the Rams. In the first stanza Andy Ogide and Dorian Green combined to provide CSU with 23 of its 29 points, with Ogide notching 13 while Green chipped in 10.
But in the second half CSU received contributions to help the attack, the most significant of which came from Eikmeier.
The sophomore, starting in place of senior Adam Nigon who hurt his ankle in practice on Wednesday, scored 14 points, all in the second half.
Ogide finished the night with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the final conference game of his career. But his running mate, Travis Franklin, continued his downward slide that has plagued him the second half of the season. Franklin finished with zero points and only 12 minutes of action.
The game, however, was won on hustle plays. The Lobos out-rebounded the Rams 41-28 for the game and recorded 19 offensive rebounds. Despite both teams having the same number of turnovers, New Mexico outscored CSU by 12 on points off of turnovers.
â€œThey were getting the 50/50 balls. Seemed like they got every single one,â€ Ogide said. â€œI donâ€™t know what the particular reason was. Maybe we were holding our block outs, not going for the ball. They seemed to get every 50/50 ball.â€
The Rams are now likely headed for the 32-team National Invitational Tournament (NIT). The selection show for the NIT will air live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. Sunday night.
â€œItâ€™s very disappointing,â€ said Ogide on missing out on the NCAA tournament. â€œI mean, you work really hard to get to the point to put yourself in that position, and we just fell short. Only thing I can hope good that comes from this is the younger guys can see how hard they have to work.
How hard it is going to be to get to the NCAA tournament.â€
Menâ€™s basketball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org._
- Final: New Mexico 68 CSU 61
- Where: Thomas & Mack Center Las Vegas, Nevada.