San Diego State clawed their way back from a halftime deficit Saturday, but hurt by the loss of their big man, fell to New Mexico at Viejas Arena 76-67.
The loss gave the Aztecs (13-4, 4-1 Mountain West) their first setback in conference play, and ended their six-game winning streak, as Nevada, with one more win, now sits atop the MW.
SDSU’s shooters were cold to open the game, hitting just 38% of their shots in the first half. They weren’t much better from the line, hitting just one of their seven free-throw attempts.
The effort resulted in a 10-point deficit at the break, as New Mexico (16-2, 3-2 MW), led by Jamal Mashburn Jr., who scored 15 points, built a 38-28 lead.
They fought their way back in the second half, but the Aztecs could only go so far without Nathan Mensah and they lost him to foul trouble – and his temper.
San Diego State tied the game nearing the midpoint of the half, as the Lobos missed eight of nine shots. Following an errant jumper by Darrion Trammell, Micah Parrish grabbed the rebound and made the second-chance layup to knot it up at 45.
They then took the lead for the first time, on free throws by Parrish, who was fouled under the basket following a fast break off a Donovan Dent turnover.
Mensah forced the turnover, but one minute later he was gone. Called for a reach for his fourth foul, and angered, he drew a technical and fouled out. After Jaelen House made both the free throws, then hit a three pointer, New Mexico snatched back the lead.
The Aztecs drew head coach Brian Dutcher’s ire, but after a time out in which he aired his displeasure, the Lobos took charge, adding seven more unanswered points, to jump ahead 60-49.
SDSU pulled back within four with three minutes to play, as Lamont Butler landed two free throws, but neither Matt Bradley, with 14 points, nor Trammell, with just four, had a big night.
Overall, the Aztecs shot 42% against the Lobos, and made just 11 of 21 free-throw attempts.
“We fought back twice,” Dutcher told San Diego Sports 760. “You can only fight your way back so many times and not take advantage of (it).”
The Lobos’ guards, however, did, as House dominated in the second half, with 21 points, like Mashburn had in the first. House scored 29 on the night and Mashburn 22.
Next, SDSU travels to Colorado State for a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday contest.