Nov. 14, 2010
Albuquerque, N.M. --- New Mexico was stellar over the first 32 minutes of their season opener against Detroit, more than enough as it turned out as the Lobos got a double-double from true freshman Alex Kirk in his first game as UNM cruised wire-to-wire 63-54 in front of 15,145 extremely loud fans at the Pit. Along with Kirk, Dairese Gary became the 28th Lobo in school history to record his 1,000th point to cap the evening off.
New Mexico basically led wire to wire, and fittingly it was Kirk who got UNM on the board first with a soft jumper in the lane 1:35 into the contest. The Lobos would never allow Detroit to get within two after that, and every time the Titans, who went 20-14 last year, tried to get close, the Lobos had an answer.
After a seven point 15-8 lead was whittled to just two, Curtis Dennis drained one of his two threes on the way to a game-high 12 points. Later in the half Detroit got a pair of free throws to cut the lead back to 24-21, but UNM finished on a solid 8-0 run to close the opening stanza out. First Gary hit three free throws, and then he fed Kirk for an easy deuce. Emmanuel Negedu then made his presence felt with a monsterous follow-up jam to make it 30-21, and he threw down a second dunk less than a minute later to give the Lobos an 11-point halftime lead.
The second opened with a three by Nick Minnerath, but that would be the final time the lead was in single-digits until 15.7 seconds remaining was freshman Ray McCallum, the son of Detroit coach Ray McCallum, hit a shot to make the final score 63-54.
In between it was a whole lot of Lobo basketball. The crushing blow was a nine-point outburst over a 1:17 span that made it a 21-point game with 8:06 to go. Kendall Williams got fouled and made two shots before he stole a ball and hammered home his first career dunk. Williams then fed Negedu for a pretty finger-roll in the lane before Jamal Fenton drilled a three from the corner for a 53-32 lead.
Detroit would close the game on a 22-10 run to make the final seem a little closer than the game actually was, and that certainly got head coach Steve Alford's attention.
"Openers are always tough; you have a lot of questions with openers and I thought I guys did good," said Alford, adding "Other than the last eight minutes it was a solid effort."
"I think we had eight guys in the locker room who had never played our game plan and I think they executed it well."
While Dennis led the Lobos with 12 points, he was one of six players who scored between 12 and seven points in a very balanced effort. Kirk had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and although Dairese Gary's streak of double-figure games ended at seven, he did score nine, giving him 1,001 points in his Lobo career. He got it on a free throw with 1:46 to go, extending UNM's lead at the time to 12.
For the Titans, Indiana transfer Eli Holman was a handful with 15 points and 13 rebounds in a solid effort, and Nick Minnerath had 11, including three threes before fouling out. The Lobos shot just .396 from the field and went just 3-for-20 from the three, but they held Detroit to .309 from the field and only .182 from the three as well.
New Mexico doesn't get a lot of time to think about this one as they host Arizona State in the first of two straight Pac-10 matchups on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at the Pit. That game will be shown live on Versus.
NOTES: The Lobos improved to 4-0 in season openers under Alford, and 35-0 under Alford when holding teams to less than 60 points ... UNM's defense harassed Chase Simon of Detroit into an 0-for-10 night from the field