ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico nearly squandered a 22-point lead but ultimately hung on to defeat Colorado State 66-61 Wednesday night in a Mountain West Conference game.
The 15th-ranked Lobos (17-2, 4-0 MWC) led 54-32 at one point, only to see the Rams (15-4, 2-2) roar back to life late in the second half.
Colorado State could not get any closer than six points until Pierce Hornung's putback and Wes Eikmeier's 3-pointer made it 64-61 with 8.2 seconds left.
New Mexico's Tony Snell, who led all players with 23 points, was then fouled and made two free throws with 7.1 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
The game seemingly was in hand when Jamal Fenton made two free throws to give New Mexico a 56-36 lead midway through the second half, but from that point forward, the Lobos went through a dreadful 0-for-9 shooting slump from the floor.
Colorado State took advantage with a 13-1 run to suddenly pull within 57-49 with 4:51 remaining.
Cameron Bairstow briefly gave the Lobos some life with a dunk, and Snell hit his first shot since early in the second half, but the Rams would not go away. Red-hot Dorian Green (14 points) nailed a 3-pointer, and Colton Iverson (15 points) made two free throws to keep Colorado State within seven points.
Bairstow missed two free throws with 2:12 left.
Green was whistled for an offensive foul on Colorado State's ensuing possession, giving the Lobos the ball back with 1:30 to go.
Fenton missed a 3-pointer, but New Mexico got the rebound with one minute to go, and Kendall Williams drew a foul. He made one of two free throws to extend the Lobos' lead to 62-54.
Iverson was fouled and made both free throws, but Fenton countered with two more made free throws to keep the margin at eight.
The Lobos finished the first half with an 8-0 run to take a 35-25 into intermission. Snell ignited the burst with a long jumper, forcing the Rams to call their second timeout.
It did not help as Colorado State turned the ball over and Snell made them pay with a drive through the lane that ended with a thunderous one-handed dunk.
Chad Adams would add a short jumper and Williams made two free throws to finish the run.
Snell led all first-half scorers with 14 points, while Iverson paced the Rams with nine points and nine rebounds.
New Mexico was 11-for-12 from the free-throw line and 4-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half. In contrast, Colorado State was 4-for-10 from the line and 1-for-6 on three-pointers, negating a 23-15 rebounding advantage.
The game was close early, with neither team opening more than a three-point lead. The Lobos finally seemed poised to pull away when Snell nailed a 3-pointer and Jamal Fenton made two free throws to put New Mexico ahead 21-15.
Eikmeier brought Colorado State back, hitting the Rams' lone 3-pointer and a long jumper to pull them within 23-22 with 6:49 left.
Adams then made two free throws and followed with a long jumper to extend the Lobos' lead to 27-22. Eikmeier countered with a jumper and Iverson made one of two free throws to complete the Rams' first-half scoring.
NOTES: The Lobos entered the game 3-0 in Mountain West play, marking their best start in conference history. The last time New Mexico started league play 3-0 it was in the WAC back in 1994. ... Alex Kirk, who sat out Monday's practice while battling the flu, was ruled healthy enough to play Wednesday. He scored three points. ... Colorado State's Hornung and Iverson entered the game as the leading rebounders in the Mountain West, with Hornung averaging 10.1 per game and Iverson at 9.0 per game. As a team, the Rams have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 13.8 per game. They posted a 50-34 rebounding edge Wednesday.