FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- Steve Alford told J.R. Giddens to go get one more basket and the senior obliged with a slam dunk that gave him the Mountain West Conference scoring title.
"I love Coach Alford," Giddens said with an ear-to-ear smile after scoring 13 points in New Mexico's 71-52 rout of Colorado State on Saturday. "Coach of the Year: Steve Alford."And Giddens might very well be the league's Player of the Year after edging the Rams' Marcus Walker for the conference's scoring crown by two-tenths of a point, 18.3 to 18.1.Despite being limited by foul trouble to two baskets over nine minutes in the first half, Giddens clinched the crown with a second-half surge capped by a free throw, the big dunk and a driving layup in the final four minutes while Walker watched from the Rams' bench.The Lobos showed they were anything but a one-man show, however. Daniel Faris scored 15 points and pulled down eight boards and Chad Toppert scored 14."He's a very special player, I think he's the most valuable player in this league," Alford said of Giddens. "He's done more for our team than I think any other player in the league has done for their respective team. And yet, all of that, we've got great balance. We've got guys that can hurt you."On offense and defense.Walker was limited to just six points against the Lobos, who padded their NCAA credentials with their 24th win.Under their first-year coach, the Lobos (24-7, 11-5) tied their school record for regular season wins and will head to Las Vegas next week as the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.The Rams (6-24, 0-16), who extended their school record with their 17th straight loss, will face Wyoming in the play-in game Wednesday."I said we were going to make history," Rams first-year coach Tim Miles said. "This wasn't our intention when we talked about making history."The Rams have some company in their misery: the women's team also finished without a win in league play, losing at New Mexico earlier Saturday.The Lobos led 39-30 at halftime after closing on a 13-3 run in which the Rams' only points coming from Stuart Creason, the lone Colorado State senior, who was honored in a pregame ceremony.Colorado State center Ronnie Aguilar made a surprising return from a foot injury that sidelined him for six games, but he spent most of the second half as a spectator.And so did Creason. The Rams' 7-foot center aggravated a right foot injury chasing down a loose ball 19 seconds into the second half and he sat on the end of the bench in warmups, watching as the Lobos ran away with it.Creason told The Associated Press afterward that he actually has a fractured foot, something the school didn't reveal because of privacy laws during his nine-game absence earlier this season."Taping doesn't help fractured bones," Creason said. "I fumbled the post feed from Willis Gardner and didn't want a turnover on my record. So I dived for the ball and when I dived, my foot got caught and kept bending. I felt it bending. It was fine when I was on the ground, but when I stood up I knew it wasn't right."So, Creason, a fifth-year senior, didn't get to finish his final home game and his status for the conference tournament is uncertain."It was tough for me. We were playing them close and solid in the first half. They were having trouble getting stuff at the rim because Ronnie and I were in there," he said. "As soon as we out, things fell apart and it was hard to watch."