The New Mexico Lobos took their first big step in keeping their chances at a NCAA birth alive when they beat the CSU Rams 67-61 in the first round of the MWC tournament. The Lobos were lead in scoring by Kendall Williams with 16 points and Drew Gordon added a double double with 13 points and rebounds. The Lobos pulled away late on a big shot by Cameron Bairstow that put the Lobos up 4 with less the a minute to play.
The Rams were led by none other then Andy Ogide with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green added 14 and 13 points respectively. The Rams had two starters in Travis Franklin and Greg Smith who failed to score a point and had as many turnovers and rebounds with three.
What I saw of the game was the final 4 minutes as I sat down at a bar after work. From that point on you saw the disparity in the two teams. The Rams were out rebounded, had more turnovers, and had less options on offense. The Rams looked desperate on offense while the Lobos looked confident. The huge shot by Bairstow was all that was right with the Lobos and wrong with the Rams down the stretch.
The Lobos took a big step tonight and will need a huge one tomorrow as they face #1 BYU. They did win the season series against BYU and would look prime for a NCAA tournament bid if they can beat them once more.
As for the Rams they look like a middle bid NIT team depending on how many regular season league winners get booted from their own conference tournaments and into the NIT. Best case scenario the Rams get to host a game and pull in some revenue and make a run at the NIT for recruiting purposes. They could be joined by the Lobos depending how their MWC tournament goes.