New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – In The Pit
Saturday: New Mexico (5-1) 73, San Diego (7-2) 66
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
There was a Kendall Williams-Alex Kirk party going on in The Pit and Cameron Bairstow decided to join it. For a while, it didn’t look like any other Lobo wanted to join in
For sure, the 6-foot-9 Australian was a welcomed guest – by the Lobos.
Bairstow muscled for 12 second-half points and that addition to the sizzling games of Williams and Kirk was too much for the San Diego Toreros to handle in a 73-66 Pit loss Saturday.
“I really don’t want anybody else to shoot those shots,” said Coach Craig Neal of his big three shouldering the offensive load in clutch situations.
The Toreros stepped into The Pit game and they played well – at times. But when Williams (28), Kirk (21) and Bairstow (16) combine for 65 points – you are in trouble.
“Kendall was phenomenal,” said Neal. “It was a hard-fought game which I knew it was going to be. It was one of those games I scheduled because I knew they were going to be really good.”
The Toreros shot their way to a 12-point first-half lead and to a seven-point second-half lead, but each time the Lobos gave up the scoreboard, they came roaring back: behind Williams, Kirk or Bairstow. “I’m really proud of how they fought back,” Neal said of his Lobos.
Williams went 16-of-16 from the free-throw line – a school record for most made in a perfect night at the line. UNM went 26-of-29 from the line and the visitors from California went 7-of-8. That 19-point difference was huge.
“They (Kirk/Bairstow) are getting doubled and I’m getting open lanes,” said Williams of his ability to get to the line.
The Lobos got only eight points from their other two starters – five from Cleveland Thomas and three from Hugh Greenwood – and no points off the bench.
“We really need help with our perimeter shooting,” said Neal. “The only thing we didn’t do is we didn’t get any scoring from our bench. I got good production, but I didn’t get any baskets.”
The UNM bench went 0-of-7. Pancake Thomas and Greenwood went 2-of-10. That’s 2-of-17 not counting the big three. Kirk went 8-of-13, Bairstow went 6-of-7 and Williams went 5-of-12. Greenwood had a good floor game with eight boards and five assists against a single turnover.
UNM had 12 turnovers to seven for USD. The Lobos ruled the glass 40-26.
“I think we learned a lot today,” said Neal.
The Toreros got 25 points from Johnny Dee and 18 from Duda Sanadze, who both went 4-of-9 from 3-point range. The 5-7 Christopher Anderson was fun to watch. He was quick, kept his dribble alive and had good court vision. He finished with 12 assists and two turnovers.
USD went 9-of-24 from long range and UNM went 5-of-20. UNM shot 25 percent from 3-point range, but 42.9 percent overall. The Toreros shot 40.3 percent and made four more field goals than UNM. The Toreros found only two points off their bench.
Said Kirk of getting some scoring help off the UNM bench: “I think that’s definitely important. We need them to hit shots and they’re going to. They’ll do it eventually. We’re not really worried about it.”
The Lobos next play at New Mexico State on Wednesday night in Las Cruces.
Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 41, San Diego Toreros 36
The Lobos went into the second half up 32-30, but by the 14:37 media break the Toreros had pulled into a 43-38 lead with a 13-to-6 run. USD was 6-of-11 from the floor at that break and UNM was 2-of-6.
At the 11:53 break, USD was up 48-41. This was similar to the first half. The Toreros were running good offense early. The Lobos needed to change that. UNM’s shooting had dipped to 25 percent. USD was hitting at a 57.1 clip.
The Lobos came out of their huddle and turned the tide with a nice combination of Kirk and Bairstow. The 6-9 Bairstow hit a 16-footer to push UNM back up 49-48 going into a break at 9:14. At the 7:55 break, UNM was up 52-48 off a Greenwood trey. Good defense helped in grabbing the lead. USD was now shooting 40 percent and UNM was at 38.9 percent.
Coach Neal got Kirk some rest by getting good minutes out of Obij Aget. Neal called time at the 6:12 mark with UNM up 56-51 and in possession of the ball. Kirk reentered.
USD’s Johnny Dee hit three free throws off a foul by Williams to make it 56-54. The Toreros were hanging around. USD’s Anderson produced a 56-all tie with a neat crossover dribble in the lane and a left-handed scoop. Bairstow powered for a layup and Thomas hit a trey for UNM to make it 61-58 in UNM’s favor with 3:01 to play...
The Toreros came back. Dee hit a tough trey over good defense by UNM’s Williams: 61-all. At 1:50 the teams went into a break with Williams coming out shooting a 1-and-1. He was 8-of-8 from the line going into that first shot. He made them both: 63-61.
Anderson then took a chance at the other end. The 5-7 Torero drove and Kirk and got swatted. UNM turned it over, but Dee missed a 10-footer in transition that led to a transition dunk for Williams at the other end. UNM was up 65-61 with 53 seconds to play. Neal called a timeout.
The Toreros need a bucket and a stop. Instead, they made a mistake. USD lost possession on a blocking foul. UNM had the ball with 46.4 to play. Williams was fouled at 41.2 and again faced a one-and-one. He made both shots: 67-61.
Bairstow got a block on defense and Williams was back at the line with 30.5 to play: This time shooting two freebies. He ended it with two more: 69-61. UNM cruised into the 73-66 final.
First Half: New Mexico Lobos 32, San Diego Toreros 30
The Lobos earned this narrow lead. They fell into a 12-point deficit then upped their defense which sparked their offense. They scratched to a two-point lead on a dunk by Kirk with two seconds to play. Kirk finished the half with 17 points, three blocks and seven boards.
“I thought we came out really lethargic,” said Coach Neal. “We didn’t come out with the pop we usually have.”
Said Kirk: “They kind of smacked us at first. We kind of woke up and played hard the rest of the game. I don’t know if I expected them to be that good, but they are a good team and they are going to help us down the road.”
The Lobos shot 40.9 percent in the half to 37.9 percent for USD. UNM was 12-of-14 at the free-throw line while the Toreros were 3-of-4. UNM had eight turnovers and USD had three. Kendall Williams had 11 points aided by an 8-of-8 effort from the line.
The Toreros went up 27-15 with the help of five treys. The Lobos ruled the second half of the first half and finished with a 17-3 run.
San Diego looked smooth on offense early. The Toreros went into the 15:24 break with a 9-4 lead. The Toreros were scoring off their offense. The Lobos had two follows inside by Kirk.
You could tell Coach Neal wasn’t happy with his team’s defense early as he burned a 30-second timeout with the score 5-2 to give his defense some instructions. UNM was shooting 28.6 percent at that break and San Diego was at 50 percent (4-of-8).
The Lobos closed to 9-8 on a Pit-pleasing almost-dunk by Bairstow, who finished the half with four points and a single board. His jam was partially blocked, but the ball popped up and into the hole. At the 11:37 media break, San Diego was up 14-11. The Toreros doubled UNM on the scoreboard at 22-11, but a monster dunk by Kirk made it 22-13 at the 7:43 media break.
San Diego drifted away again and went up 27-15 on a trey that came off penetration by the 5-7 Anderson. That deficit seemed to spark some Lobo intensity.
UNM cut USD’s lead to 27-24 before the Toreros finally got off that 27-point roadblock by going to the line: 29-24. Williams cut it back on two free throws: 29-26 and then tied it at 29-all on a three pointer that hit the front of the rim, but bounced in.
UNM went for the halftime lead when Cullen Neal launched from the corner as the clock was winding down. The freshman missed, but the ball bounced to the same side of the rim as a crashing Kirk. He threw down another monster dunk and UNM had its 32-30 lead.
Turquoise Jersey & NB3 Auction Winners:Ted. J. Esparza, Raul Anata, Lana Tsinnajinnie, Jay Johnson, Brian Denton, Glynnis Price, Carlos Esparza, Richard Torres, Cindy Perner, Mark Fine, Jacob Maes, J. Pisto and Danile Martinez. A total of $7,510 were raised today, $7,325 from Lobo turquoise jerseys and $185 from Autographed NB3 items. The NB3 Foundation will be in contact with winners. Proceeds from this auction benefit the NB3 Foundation and UNM American Indian Student Services.