ALBUQUERQUE— Darington Hobson hit some difficult shots, including a 55-footer at the half. None were tougher than his last two that helped New Mexico win.
Hobson scored eight of his 29 points in overtime, including two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining, to lift No. 15 New Mexico to a thrilling 88-86 victory over San Diego State on Saturday.
"I knew the game was on the line," Hobson said. "I knew it was going to be a little tough. I was a little nervous."
Hobson added 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season and the Lobos (21-3, 7-2) won their seventh straight to forge a three-way tie atop the Mountain West standings. After UNLV's 88-74 win over BYU, New Mexico shares first place with the Rebels and Cougars.
"We knew we had a chance to play for first place with seven games left in conference play, not just going into next week in first place," Lobos coach Steve Alford said. "I thought it was big because this was a good team and this was a big game."
The Aztecs (16-7, 5-4) gave everything they had, battling not just the Lobos but also a raucous capacity crowd at The Pit.
Just when the Lobos had things in control, San Diego State erased a 66-56 deficit with 4 minutes to go, with D.J. Gay scoring 10 of his career-high 25 points in the final 2:01.
"That was crazy," Hobson said. "Hands were in their faces. They did a great job of keeping their composure, knocking down shots. That was big-time."
But with New Mexico leading 78-76, Gay was fouled on a 3-point try and could have won it in regulation. Instead, he made two of three free throws.
Then after Hobson's final free throws, Kelvin Davis got a clean look at a 3-pointer but missed.
"I'm extremely disappointed for our players," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "But I'm 10 times proud of how we fought, competed, found a way to come back and gave ourselves multiple chances to win a game against a really good team in a hostile, hostile environment."
San Diego State hadn't lost in overtime since 2005 — a run of nine straight wins that until Saturday was the longest active streak in the country.
Hobson simply took over in the extra period.
The Aztecs led 82-79 after two free throws by Malcolm Thomas but New Mexico went ahead 86-85 after Hobson made a 3-pointer from the left wing. Then Hobson got the rebound when Thomas missed a free throw, and with the score tied at 86, the Lobos used a timeout with 28.2 seconds left to set up a play for Hobson.
Dairese Gary worked the clock to 10 seconds, then threw to Hobson and watched him drive. He drew a bump on Billy White and stepped to the line.
"I've stayed after practice for the past three weeks shooting free throws," said Hobson, a 62 percent free throw shooter who made seven of nine against the Aztecs. "I knew that as long as I bent my knees and followed through I was going to be all right."
Hobson added six assists and had three steals in 43 minutes, surviving a physical contest where the Aztecs seemed to target him often.
"He had one of those special nights that special players have," Alford said. "He is very, very gifted. He played all but a few minutes. He came out when he got a leg cramp."
Hobson got swatted in the eye in the first half. Early in the second half, he came out of a scrum under San Diego State's basket limping and favoring his right leg as he fought off leg cramps.
Both times, Hobson returned soon, collecting rebounds or dishing out assists. He zipped a pass to Roman Martinez for a basket, then came away with a rebound at the other end, starting a fast break that Phillip McDonald capped with a dunk.
That put New Mexico ahead 51-43 with 15:26 remaining. Hobson ended up on the floor again after Davis tried to strip him, but Hobson then swished a 12-foot jumper over Davis to give the Lobos a 53-43 lead.
"He's done that to several people," Fisher said. "He's good. He's real good."
The Lobos were firmly in control until Gay started firing, hitting two 3-pointers and a jumper in the closing 2 minutes. But had his second of his three free throws fallen through, it would have been the Aztecs who left The Pit in a celebration.
"I thought Gay was starting to shooting 3's a little early," Alford said. "I didn't think they needed 3's and his first two were from two steps behind the NBA line. In most games, those end up being bad shots. You rebound, they foul, and a 10-point lead becomes 16 in a hurry.
"But they started making all those shots."
COLORADO STATE 65, AIR FORCE 51: At Air Force Academy, Colo., Greg Hill came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points and TCU ended a four-game losing streak.
Hill connected on 7-of-10 3-point attempts as the Horned Frogs (11-13, 3-6 Mountain West) beat the Falcons (9-13, 1-8) for the fourth consecutive time. Air Force has lost nine of its last 11 games.
Ronnie Moss added 18 points and eight assists for the Horned Frogs. Moss was 7 of 8 from the field.
Evan Washington and Grant Parker led the Falcons with 16 and 11 points, respectively.
The Horned Frogs shot 61 percent from the field, including 11-of-22 from 3-point range. TCU outrebounded Air Force 27-20 and held the Falcons to 7-of-19 shooting from beyond the arc.
The first half featured multiple runs. TCU took a 13-4 lead early before Air Force answered with a 15-4 run — capped by a Todd Fletcher 3-pointer — for a 19-17 lead with 7:47 remaining.
The Horned Frogs then put together a 14-5 run and went into halftime up 31-24.
Air Force has recently been bitten by the flu bug. Starter Michael Lyons and reserve center Taylor Broekhuis received intravenous fluids before the game, and starter Fletcher played despite being under the weather. Parker also played despite not being 100-percent healthy, according to Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds, due to lingering complications from a severe groin injury.