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Even though the game has lost a big chunk of its meaning, Mountain West Conference men’s basketball fans are salivating over Saturday’s matchup.
The two top teams in the MW, the University of New Mexico Lobos and the Colorado State Rams, will meet for a big conference battle Saturday afternoon at Colorado State.
Going into the week, the Lobos were clinging to a 1-game lead in the MW over Colorado State, which has been one of the big surprises in the conference this year.
The game in Fort Collins has been one of the hot-ticket contests of this season. The home allotment of 2,500 student tickets was gobbled up by fans in about three hours Wednesday morning despite freezing temperatures.
Colorado State’s website is calling Saturday’s game one of the biggest ever to be played in Moby Arena.
The game lost some of its luster, however, after the Rams dropped a big game at UNLV Wednesday night. UNLV’s Anthony Marshall hit a jumper with 7 seconds remaining that sank Colorado State 61-59.
Instead of entering with a chance to grab a share of the MW lead, the Rams (21-5, 8-3) now must win to stay on pace with UNM, which would only need to win its final two home games to claim the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
The Rams’ loss to UNLV snapped an impressive 6-game win streak, in which Colorado State knocked off Nevada in Reno and Air Force in Colorado Springs.
Prior to Wednesday’s loss , the previous Rams’ defeat was at the hands of the Lobos, who prevailed 66-61 Jan. 23 in The Pit.
Former Hilltopper Alex Kirk is having a monster year with the Lobos. The 7-foot, redshirt sophomore is averaging 11.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
He easily leads the Lobos in rebounding average and is third in scoring behind Kendall Williams (13.1 ppg) and Tony Snell (11.6 ppg).