No. 15 New Mexico still has 12 games to play in the rugged Mountain West Conference which means it can't feel too comfortable with a two-game lead on the rest of the league. But the reality is every other team in the conference would gladly trade places right now.
The Lobos were running away with an easy win Wednesday night at the Pit, up by 22 when they suddenly stopped executing and Colorado State turned up its intensity. The combination allowed the Rams to claw all the way back to within three points before New Mexico sealed the 66-61 win at the free throw line.
The Lobos have only lost twice this season and both setbacks came within a nine-day span in December. Since then they have won four straight with three of those victories coming against other MWC contenders UNLV, Boise State and CSU.
At 17-2 with a two-game lead in the conference, it might be tough to temper the expectations in Albuquerque, especially when the man who would be doing so is taking the opposite approach. Coach Steve Alford is excited by what he's seeing from his team.
''We're pretty good,” Alford said after Wednesday's win. “We're a pretty good basketball team and I think we're getting better because we beat a really good basketball team.''
Of course, Lobos fans have seen their team succeed in the regular season under Alford. They've seen them win the conference title and the conference tournament. What they haven't seen is a team that produces results when it matters most. But maybe these Lobos are different.
The next week could prove whether the Lobos are capable of holding off the rest of the conference and maybe even widening their cushion in the standings. They travel to San Diego State on Saturday and play at Wyoming next Wednesday. Those are two of the toughest places to win in the conference.
The Lobos are also going to have to be good on the road with seven of the final 12 games scheduled away from The Pit, but they haven't been bothered by leaving home to this point. They are 5-1 in road games this season.
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