While No. 24 Colorado State entered Saturday’s game at New Mexico with an unblemished record of 14-0, the best start in school history, it was clear that Larry Eustachy’s team had some things to clean up. In each of their last two games the Rams got off to slow starts offensively, only to snap out of that funk in wins over New Mexico State and Boise State.
Unfortunately for the Rams they were unable to turn things around in the second half Saturday night, as Craig Neal’s team put together a commanding performance in a 66-53 win that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.
How did the Lobos get the job done? By relentlessly attacking the Colorado State defense and working to get to the basket instead of settling for perimeter shots. Of New Mexico’s 66 points 42 were scored in the paint, with Sam Logwood scoring 15 points off the bench, Devon Williams adding 13 and Tim Jacobs accounting for nine points and five rebounds.
Those contributions, ten of the 11 Lobos who saw action managing to score, ensured that New Mexico maintained control of the game despite off shooting nights from leading scorers Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delaney.
Greenwood scored just four points, shooting 1-for-10 from the field, but he did contribute team highs in both rebounds (eight) and assists (six). Delaney was even quieter offensively, scoring three points and grabbing two rebounds. New Mexico shot 51 percent from the field and 59.5% on two-point shots. New Mexico isn’t a particularly good three-point shooting team, especially with Cullen Neal out for the remainder of the season, which makes it imperative that they work to get scoring opportunities around the rim.
New Mexico was greedy when it came to the quality of shots they looked for, and during an 8-0 second-half run that saw them push out their lead to 18 points (55-37) the Lobos repeatedly scored at the rim. By comparison Colorado State spent the majority of its time hoisting up challenged jump shots, which also contributed to New Mexico scoring 17 fast break points.
As a team Colorado State shot 32.7% from the field, with Daniel Bejarano (13 points) making four of his 13 attempts and J.J. Avila scoring just six points on 3-for-10 shooting. Colorado State’s been a good perimeter shooting team this season, but when those shots aren’t falling settling for too many jumpers can be costly.
But even with Colorado State’s shooting issues Saturday night, it was their defense that got them beat in Albuquerque. Even with their 14-0 start the Rams showed that they still have of work to do defensively, as they entered Saturday ranked eighth in the Mountain West in field goal percentage defense and defensive efficiency and ninth in three-point percentage defense.
Prior opponents may have shown that Colorado State needs to get better defensively, but it was New Mexico who managed to hand the Rams a loss while doing so.