A sloppy performance in its last game weakened New Mexico’s grip on the Mountain West Conference lead, but it still feels good about its chances.
The 18th-ranked Lobos will try to bounce back as they look for their ninth straight win over TCU on Saturday night in Fort Worth.
With three games remaining, New Mexico leads No. 21 UNLV and No. 24 San Diego State by one game. The Lobos on Tuesday could have moved closer to clinching their third regular-season title in four years, but lost 71-63 at Colorado State.
After shooting 48.3 percent while winning seven in a row by an average of 20.7 points, they shot 36.7 percent - going 6 of 23 from 3-point range - and had 17 turnovers against the Rams.
“We knew this was going to be a difficult game,” coach Steve Alford told the team’s official website. “It was a tough night for us, but those things happen in a very difficult league. It happens (on the road). We understand that. It wasn’t an effort deal.”
Leading scorer Drew Gordon had 13 points but committed six turnovers, while sophomore guard Tony Snell was held to two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Snell is averaging 11.4 points, but he was held scoreless in two of the previous four games.
Snell had his best performance in a conference game in the Lobos’ 71-54 win over TCU on Jan. 28, scoring a game-high 18 points to go with four rebounds and four assists. He went 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
While New Mexico’s lead has been trimmed, the Lobos (22-5, 8-3) are still feeling confident. After Saturday, their final two games come at home against Air Force and Boise State, who are tied for last place and are a combined 3-14 on the road.
“We’ve still got a one-game lead,” guard Hugh Greenwood said. “With three games left, we’ve made it difficult, but if we can get these three wins, we’re still conference champions and we’re still a good seed in the NCAA tournament.”
TCU (16-11, 6-5), however, has won three of four, including an overtime victory against UNLV on Feb. 14.
The Horned Frogs, who are 12-2 at home, are coming off a 65-62 win at Air Force on Wednesday. They shot 37.1 percent, but had 22 offensive rebounds and sophomore Amric Fields hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining to help them end a 15-game conference road losing streak.
“You’ve got to find a way, and we found a way to get it,” coach Jim Christian said. “That’s a big-time shot by Amric. I’m proud of their resiliency, and that’s how they’ve been all year long.”
TCU has suffered some difficult losses this season. It fell in double-overtime at Colorado State on Jan. 14 and lost by one point at Boise State last Saturday.
“We’re 30 seconds away from playing for first,” Christian said. “So we know where we are and just have to keep playing. We’re obviously playing a great New Mexico team on Saturday, but we have to just keep moving forward.”
Seven of the Horned Frogs’ eight consecutive losses in the series have been by double digits, including all three at home.