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This game will basically be the battle for the regular season title in the Mountain West Conference. New Mexico currently has a one-game lead, but only because they already played Colorado State at home and in the MWC, no one loses at home, as long as they are a good team. The top six schools in the conference have a combined three home losses in conference play this year. The top three have yet to lose at home and that includes New Mexico and Colorado State.
This game will be in Fort Collins which gives the Rams the edge. Both of these teams only lose to teams they are supposed to. Their five total conference losses are all on the road to the top four teams in the MWC. At this point, these teams are also the only ranked teams in the conference even though CSU just lost at UNLV on Wednesday.
In similar home/away games for these teams, the Rams beat UNLV by five and SDSU by six points at home. On the road, away from The Pit, New Mexico lost to SDSU by 21 points and UNLV by nine.
The last time these teams played, UNM had a safe lead for most of the game, including a 10-point lead at halftime and 20-point advantage with 12 minutes to go. Nevertheless, the Rams fought back and came to within three points, but it was a little too late.
Surprisingly, most of the Lobos didn't even have that great of a game shooting 36.5% from the field. Tony Snell was the only player to really get things going as he had a game-high 23 points. The difference maker was their 21 free throws made compared to 13 for CSU. The interesting part of that was game was how much Colton Iverson dominated Alex Kirk down low. Iverson finished with 15 points and 14 boards for the Rams while Kirk, a player who averages 11 and 8, only managed three points and three rebounds.
If Colorado State wants to win at home, Iverson will have to do similar work against the less agile Kirk. Fellow leading scorers Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green didn't have a ton of problems in the previous matchup either so the trio should be fine. The one thing that they lacked was defense. The Rams compiled 24 fouls in that game with 20 of them going to starters, putting most of their team in foul trouble. Forwards Pierce Hornung and Greg Smith will need to be bigger factors this time around. In the first contest they combined for just nine points. In recent games, Smith led the team with 28 points and 12 rebounds at Nevada and Hornung had 13 points and 16 boards at Air Force. These players aren't talked about as much, but they can make a big difference.
The Lobos will also need increased production if they want to walk away with a road win. Out of everyone, Kirk will need to step up his defense because stopping Iverson will be a key part in this game. Hugh Greenwood is more of a facilitator and doesn't take a ton of shots, but this may be a game he needs to take a bigger role. He hasn't hit double-digits in three straight games. Leading scorers Snell and Kendall Williams haven't been super-efficient in recent games which is why New Mexico hasn't passed 60 points in three straight games. Off the bench, big man Cameron Bairstow will be used plenty in trying to contain the CSU frontcourt.
Colorado State has the upper hand playing at home, but New Mexico is still hoping they can get a big road win before the season ends to back their current No. 3 RPI ranking.
Predicted Score Colorado State 62 New Mexico 61
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