The Fresno State Bulldogs brought the New Mexico Lobos back down to earth last week.
“This group has been working really hard,” said Fresno State coach Justin Hutson, whose Bulldogs stunned the Lobos, 71-67, on Jan. 3 in front of 4,868 fans in Fresno. “They stick with it and that’s what it’s about, right?”
The loss snapped a season-opening 14-game winning streak for New Mexico. The Lobos also lost again four nights later, 84-77, at home to UNLV and fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings.
“It was an unbelievable run to go two months without a loss,” said New Mexico coach Richard Pitino, whose Lobos (15-2, 2-2) broke their brief two-game losing streak on Monday with an 82-75 non-conference win over Oral Roberts.
New Mexico’s Jamal Mashburn had 22 points against Fresno State. The Lobos led the Bulldogs 67-66 with 1:58 to go but didn’t score the rest of the game.
Morris Udeze had 22 points and 13 rebounds in New Mexico’s loss at UNLV. The Lobos wasted a 43-38 halftime lead in front of 15,424 fans at The Pit in Albuquerque, the largest Lobos home crowd since 2009.
“I am disappointed our fans had to walk out of here with a loss,” Pitino said.
Fresno State, ranked No. 9, didn’t build on its win over New Mexico. The Bulldogs fell at Colorado State, 79-57, four nights later. Isaih Moore had 23 points and eight rebounds for Fresno State, which fell to 6-9, 2-2.
“They (Colorado State) were good tonight and we weren’t any good,” Hutson said. “You have to let everybody know we weren’t Bulldogs tonight.”
San Diego State (12-3, 3-0) climbed to No. 1 by beating Wyoming, 80-75, last week. Lamont Butler scored a career-high 23 points for the Aztecs, draining 5-of-11 3-pointers. Butler had scored just 29 points over his last four games combined.
“He played with confidence,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “Someone has to step up unguarded and make shots and tonight it was Lamont. If Lamont was sitting there and saying, ‘They’re leaving me open, I can’t shoot,’ then we never would have won the game.”
The 6-foot-2 Butler, in his third season at San Diego State, had just six 3-pointers all season before the game.
“I put in too much work in the summer to just let people guard me like that,” Butler said. “I haven’t been shooting as well as I wanted to this year but today I was just unconscious.”
The Aztecs will host No. 2 Nevada on Tuesday in a matchup of the top two teams in the conference. Nevada, winner of six in a row, is now 14-3 overall and on top of the conference at 4-0 after beating Colorado State, 80-69, and San Jose State, 67-40, last week.
“Nevada was just more aggressive and more connected,” said San Jose State coach Tim Miles, whose Spartans did not score over the final 10 minutes of the first half against the Wolf Pack. “Nevada committed two players to the ball and their defensive length and pressure was good. We just never set that threshold that Nevada set. The aggressor wins and we didn’t rise to the level needed.”
No. 7 San Jose State (11-6, 2-2) also lost to Boise State, 67-64, last week. Boise State’s Marcus Shaver connected on a 3-pointer with two seconds left for the victory for the No. 4 Broncos (12-4, 2-1). Boise State nearly lost at home after leading 41-29 at halftime.
“We were leaking oil,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “It was getting dicey. We couldn’t stop them, we were struggling offensively.”
Shaver finished with just nine points.
“I was really calm (on the final shot),” he said. “I’ve been in that situation a lot. It felt like I was just at the park getting up shots.”
The Broncos also beat Utah State, 82-59, at home last Saturday as Tyson Degenhart had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Boise State made 11-of-19 threes.
“Thank you, fans,” said Rice, referring to the crowd of 12,007 in Boise. “That was a huge atmosphere and we had to play a great game to beat them.”
“These types of games are why you play college basketball,” said Boise’s Max Rice, who had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists and made four threes. “It was a sold-out arena against a team that is super competitive.”
No. 5 Utah State (13-3, 2-1) began its week with a 77-65 win at Air Force on Tuesday. The Aggies led 44-28 at halftime and were 21-of-27 from the line to go along with six threes. Utah State will come to Reno to take on Nevada this Friday at Lawlor Events Center.
No. 6 UNLV (12-3, 1-2) beat New Mexico, 84-77, last Saturday behind 25 points from Elijah Harkless.
“That atmosphere (15,424 fans in Albuquerque) just gets everybody’s competitiveness going,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said. “Everyone was fighting. We got off to a slow start (down 43-38 at halftime) but the guys took a deep breath.”
No. 8 Colorado State (9-8, 1-3) rebounded from an 11-point loss at Nevada last Wednesday to whip Fresno State, 79-57, three nights later. Isaiah Stevens had 16 points, six assists for the Rams. The Rams had 26 assists on 29 field goals and made 14-of-29 threes. Colorado State had lost four in a row and 6-of-8.
No. 10 Air Force (9-7, 0-3) and No. 11 Wyoming (5-10, 0-3) bring up the bottom of the rankings and are both still searching for their first league victory.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Jan. 9:
1. SAN DIEGO STATE (12-3, 3-0): Last week: San Diego State 80, Wyoming 75 (Jan. 7). This week: Nevada at San Diego State (Tuesday); New Mexico at San Diego State (Saturday).
2. NEVADA (14-3, 4-0): Last week: Nevada 80, Colorado State 69 (Jan. 4); Nevada 67, San Jose State 40 (Jan. 7). This week: Nevada at San Diego State (Tuesday); Utah State at Nevada (Friday).
3. NEW MEXICO (15-2, 2-2): Last week: Fresno State 71, New Mexico 67 (Jan. 3); UNLV 84, New Mexico 77 (Jan. 7); New Mexico 82, Oral Roberts 75 (Jan. 9). This week: New Mexico at San Diego State (Saturday).
4. BOISE STATE (12-4, 2-1): Last week: Boise State 67, San Jose State 64 (Jan. 3); Boise State 82, Utah State 59 (Jan. 7). This week: Boise State at UNLV (Wednesday); Boise State at Wyoming (Saturday).
5. UTAH STATE (13-3, 2-1): Last week: Utah State 77, Air Force 65 (Jan. 3), Boise State 82, Utah State 59 (Jan. 7). This week: Wyoming at Utah State (Tuesday); Utah State at Nevada (Friday).
6. UNLV (12-3, 1-2): Last week: UNLV 84, New Mexico 77 (Jan. 7). This week: Boise State at UNLV (Wednesday); Colorado State at UNLV (Saturday).
7. SAN JOSE STATE (11-6, 2-2): Last week: Boise State 67, San Jose State 64 (Jan. 3), Nevada 67, San Jose State 40 (Jan. 7). This week: Fresno State at San Jose State (Tuesday).
8. COLORADO STATE (9-8, 1-3): Last week: Nevada 80, Colorado State 69 (Jan. 4); Colorado State 79, Fresno State 57 (Jan. 7). This week: Air Force at Colorado State (Tuesday); Colorado State at UNLV (Saturday).
9. FRESNO STATE (6-9, 2-2): Last week: Fresno State 71, New Mexico 67 (Jan. 3); Colorado State 79, Fresno State 57 (Jan. 7). This week: Fresno State at San Jose State (Tuesday); Air Force at Fresno State (Saturday).
10. AIR FORCE (9-7, 0-3): Last week: Utah State 77, Air Force 65 (Jan. 3). This week: Air Force at Colorado State (Tuesday); Air Force at Fresno State (Saturday).
11. WYOMING (5-10, 0-3): Last week: San Diego State 80, Wyoming 75 (Jan. 7). This week: Wyoming at Utah State (Tuesday); Boise State at Wyoming (Saturday).
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