New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – At the Charleston Classic
Sunday: 10 a.m. (MT), New Mexico vs. Davidson
LOBOS vs. DAVIDSON: The New Mexico Lobos play Davidson for third place in the Charleston Classic at 10 a.m., Sunday. The game will be aired on ESPNU. The Wildcats are 1-4 losing out on a shot at the championship game by falling 85-54 to Clemson in Friday’s semifinals. UNM lost to UMass. Davidson is led by DeMon Brooks who averages 16.8 points and 6.4 boards. The Wildcats have two other proven scorers in Brian Sullivan (13.6) and Tom Droney.
The Lobos are coming off an 81-65 semifinal loss in which Alex Kirk scored 32 points. “I want to see how our guys bounce back,” said Lobo Coach Craig Neal.
Lobos fall to UMass 81-65
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
If you look at Alex Kirk’s stat line and consider New Mexico set a school record in blocked shots, you would think the 81-65 score Friday in the Charleston Classic leaned heavily toward Lobos.
Despite a career-high 32 points from UNM’s 7-footer and despite 12 blocked shots by UNM, the Lobos were dumped into the consolation bracket thanks to a 16-point non-conference loss to UMass. The Lobos play Davidson at 10 a.m. (MT) on Sunday. Davidson fell to Clemson 85-54 Friday night.
“Alex played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play,” said Lobo Coach Craig Neal. “He went into beast mode and they couldn’t stop him.”
The Lobos needed Kirk to play like a beast on Friday in Charleston. Not too many other Lobos came with their A game probably, in part, a product of their thrilling and tiring double-overtime win over UAB on Thursday.
“I’m not making an excuse for our guys,” said Neal of the possibility his Lobos were a little leg weary. “I thought I had them prepared for the press, but we didn’t handle it very well.”
Said Kirk: "I just went to work hard. I knew my team deserved that from last night's (UAB) opening. I didn't bring it the first 15 minutes (vs. UAB). I knew I had to get off quick today." You could say 'stat line', but I missed a lot of easy shots that I definitely have to finish."
The UMass press hurt the Lobos. But so did the UNM defense which allowed the Minutemen to throw out a key run in the first half and another key run in the second half that pulled UMass out of a 61-61 tie with 7:56 to go and into a commanding 77-61 lead with 1:34 to play.
“I thought our kids played hard,” said Neal, who saw his Lobos drop to 3-1 on the season. UMass is 5-0. “We got to the 61-61 mark (coming back from 57-50) and I thought we’d be in good shape.
"I thought our kids gave great effort, but we aren’t doing a good job of guarding in the second half.”
The Lobos were down 38-33 at the half before scratching back into the 61-61 tie. UMass ended the game with a 15-6 edge in fast-break points, but also had a 46-26 edge in points in the paint. Kirk, who had five blocks, got 12 of his 32 points from behind the 3-point line where he banged in four long ones.
UMass also had 18 offensive rebounds and hit seven 3-pointers. UNM shot 39 percent from the floor (25-64) with Kirk going 11-of-26. UNM was chilly from long range going 5-of-18 from 3-point range and 1-of-9 in the second half. The Minutemen shot 41.2 percent (7-of-17) from 3-point land and 43.2 percent overall.
UMass played on Thursday in a game that had 61 fouls called. There were 30 called vs. the Lobos as both teams went 10-of-14 from the line.
“It was weird,” Neal said of the different way the game was called. “Every game has been called differently. Today’s game was like an NCAA tournament (physical). Their players realized that they (refs) weren’t going to call fouls and they went at it and played hard.”
Said Kirk: "I think this is really the first game that we didn't take advantage of using the new rules to our advantage."
The Minutemen had a slight edge in rebounding, 43-41. Chaz Williams led UMass with 19 points, Raphiael Putney had 18 and Cady Lalanne had 16 points and 14 boards. UMass had four players in double figures and got only eight points off the bench.
Williams finished with 13 points and five assists for UNM, but had seven turnovers. Cameron Bairstow ha eight points and only two rebounds. Starters Cleveland Thomas and Hugh Greenwood combined to go 1-of-8 from the field. Cullen Neal had six turnovers off the bench and UNM got only ten points from its bench. Nick Banyard had four blocked shots off the bench and Deshawn Delaney had six points.
“We could never get into the secondary part of our offense,” said Coach Neal. “We’d stay on one side and take the first shot that was open. I want to see how our guys bounce back.”