FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) Patrick Cartier scored a season-high 21 points, Nique Clifford and Isaiah Stevens went a combined 8 of 9 on free throws down the stretch and No. 13 Colorado State held off New Mexico 76-68 Tuesday night in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.

Colorado State (13-1, 1-0) opened a 17-point lead with 5:15 remaining, only to see the Lobos (12-2, 0-1) storm back and make things interesting. Clifford and Stevens ended the comeback bid at the line as the Rams won their fourth straight since a home loss to Saint Mary’s on Dec. 9.

“We weren’t perfect, you’re never going to be, but I thought our guys did a lot of really good things here tonight,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said.

Stevens had 18 points and eight assists in his 131st career start. He's one away from matching the program mark held by Nico Carvacho (2015-20). Stevens already holds school records for points (he went over 2,000 on Tuesday) and assists.

Clifford finished with 12 points and 10 boards on a night when 10 Rams players took the floor for at least five minutes of action.

“Coach says it all the time - we're at our best when the ball has energy. What that means is when we're sharing it,” Cartier said. “That starts with (Stevens) and everyone follows suit.”

In a back-and-forth game, the Rams pulled away midway through the second half courtesy of a 19-5 run. Joe Palmer, known as “Headband Joe” for wearing ... well, a headband ... got the crowd revved up with a deep 3-pointer. But a big lead was trimmed to six with 20 seconds left.

Stevens took it from there - making four free throws to fend off the Lobos.

“I thought we were in control of how we were playing the whole night,” Medved said.

JT Toppin had 17 points and 11 rebounds for New Mexico, and Jaelen House scored 14 despite dealing with foul trouble most of the game. The Lobos struggled from the free throw line, going 4 of 11 as their 11-game winning streak was snapped with their first loss in nearly two months.

“Terrific team," New Mexico coach Richard Pitino said of the Rams. “We will humbly watch (the game film), see where we can get better.”

New Mexico was at full strength for the first time since the first game of the season. Jamal Mashburn Jr. returned last game after missing seven with thigh and thumb injuries. He had 13 points.

Entering this one, standout guards Mashburn and House had only played 37 minutes together on the court.

“We’ve got a lot of offensively talented guys that can get their shot anytime they want,” Mashburn said. “So when that happens on a team, you've got to find a balance and a rhythm. That’s what we’re trying to find right now. We’re going to go back to the drawing board, go back to practice and just work on it.”


New Mexico: The Lobos were outrebounded by a 38-29 margin.

Colorado State: Medved improved to 7-2 against New Mexico, while Pitino fell to 1-4 versus the Rams.


This was the second straight season the Lobos and Rams opened conference play against one another. The Lobos won 88-69 in New Mexico last season.


New Mexico: Will host Wyoming on Saturday.

Colorado State: Plays at Utah State on Saturday.


Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here.


AP college basketball: and

Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.