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New Mexico, No. 13 Colorado State paired in early MWC headliner

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Along with a 12-1 record entering this Mountain West Conference opener, visiting New Mexico and No. 13 Colorado State head into Tuesday’s matchup with a few common bonds.

The Lobos and Rams each have one loss. Both fell short against Saint Mary’s.

New Mexico, which has won 11 straight, lost at Saint Mary’s, 72-58, on Nov. 9.

Colorado State has won three in a row since losing to St. Mary’s 64-61 at home Dec. 9.

Both teams are also coming off decisive blowouts of Division II opponents Friday.

New Mexico completed its nonconference schedule with an 87-54 blowout of visiting Eastern New Mexico.

Jaelen House scored 22 points to lead New Mexico, which had five double-figure scorers.

Jamal Mashburn Jr. added 17 points in his first action since Nov. 22 after suffering ankle, quad and thumb injuries.

Nelly Junior Joseph had 13 points and a season-high 16 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.

Reserve Braden Appelhans scored a career-high 14 points and Mustapha Amzil matched a season high with 11 points.

“It felt good; I’m grateful to be able to get back out there and play the game I love, be out there with my teammates,” Mashburn said. “I can work out all I want over the span of a couple of weeks, but nothing like playing a real game. So, I’m glad I got the first one under my belt and now I’ve got to get ready to get Colorado State.”

The Rams are coming off a 106-61 drubbing of visiting Adams State.

Colorado State made 14 shots from 3-point range, converting 50 percent of its shots from beyond the arc — both season-high marks.

The Rams had seven players in double figures led by 13 points apiece from Isaiah Stevens and Patrick Cartier.

Stevens, who leads the Rams in scoring at 17.5 points per game, made all three of his 3-point attempts.

While Mashburn had been sidelined for New Mexico, Colorado State has weathered four players out with injuries: Cartier, Taviontae Jackson, Jalen Lake and Josiah Strong.

Lake, who was out for a month with a broken finger before returning against Adams State, contributed 12 points and five assists.

Strong has missed the last five games after suffering a broken wrist on Dec. 2 in an 86-81 win over Washington.

“We’re in a position to be in position,” coach Niko Medved said of his team’s ability to win despite injuries. “Clearly for us, in college basketball, the games in November count the same as far as a tournament resume as they do in February.

“We’ve done our job for our program, and I think we’ve done our job for the league. But now that’s over. Now, we have to step up into league play and we have to perform.”

The top five teams in the Mountain West (Colorado State, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah State and San Diego State) are a combined 60-6.

“I’m excited,” Colorado State guard Nique Clifford said. “That’s what we want, a good schedule. We want to be tested. We don’t want to be able to just roll over teams. That’s going to pay off at the end of our season, playing good teams.”

–Field Level Media

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