PROVO — Even amid all of the hype and buildup going into last week's titanic top-10 showdown between No. 9 BYU and No. 4 San Diego State, Cougar coach Dave Rose kept reminding the media that his team had another difficult test on Saturday at The Pit.
And Rose was right, of course.
Just days after a memorable 71-58 victory over the Aztecs, BYU saw its 10-game winning streak, and much of the momentum it had built after knocking off the Aztecs, come to a ignominious end in an 86-77 setback at New Mexico before a rabid sellout crowd in Albuquerque.
The Lobos battled back from a 13-point second-half deficit, shooting 57 percent over the final 20 minutes, to upset BYU.
"Their pace really changed. They came right at us and they hit some shots and got some confidence," Cougar coach Dave Rose said of New Mexico's rally. "They were scoring on almost every possession. We were trying to do some defensive adjustments. We were on our heels defensively. That was an issue for us. If we could have gotten some stops there, we could have gotten the lead back up. That's a good offensive team."
The Lobos had five players score in double figures, led by freshman Tony Snell and Kendall Williams, who each scored 16 points. UCLA transfer Drew Gordon scored 15 points and added 12 rebounds.
It was just the second loss this year for the Cougars (20-2, 6-1), and their first defeat in Mountain West Conference play. BYU's sole possession of first place in the league standings was short-lived, as the Aztecs bounced back with a 96-57 blowout win over Wyoming Saturday night in San Diego to pull the two teams even once again with one loss apiece.
"It's disappointing. It's a loss," BYU forward Charles Abouo said outside the locker room following the defeat at New Mexico. "But they're a tough team to play here. They play really well here. One thing we can take from the loss is to get better from it. We'll look at some things and use it to help us move forward."
The Cougars will find out their fate in the national rankings today when the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN coaches polls are released.
When it comes to losing as a ranked team, BYU was not alone as No. 5 Connecticut, No. 8 Villanova, No. 9 Syracuse (the Cougars were tied in that spot with the Orangemen), No. 11 Missouri, and No. 13 Texas A&M all lost on Saturday, too.
With its January schedule in the books, BYU opens the month of February with a visit to Wyoming on Wednesday, then the Cougars host UNLV on Saturday.
The Cowboys have lost five consecutive games and are tied for last place in the conference standings with TCU.
Cougar guard Jimmer Fredette remains the nation's leading scorer, averaging 27.6 points per game after pouring in 32 at New Mexico.
Cougars on the air
No. 9 BYU (20-2, 6-1) at Wyoming (8-13, 1-6)17 comments on this story
Wednesday, 6 p.m.
TV: The Mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM