Stevens: Lobos Battle Grand Canyon Tonight in Pit
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/21/2013


New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – In The Pit

Monday: 7 p.m. (MT) -- Grand Canyon at New Mexico

On The Radio: 770-AM KKOB; ESPN Deportes (1450 KRZY-AM and José 105.9-FM).

On TV:  ROOT Sports (Dish 414, DirecTV 683, Comcast 261)

Craig Neal’s New Mexico Lobos return to The Pit at 7 p.m., tonight (Dec. 23) to battle the Grand Canyon Antelopes. The Lobos are coming off a 75-68 win over Marquette at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.  The Antelopes have a 5-5 record, but are 0-4 on the road and eyeing The Pit to produce their first road win of 2013-14. The Lobos are led in scoring by 6-9 Cameron Bairstow with a 20.6 average. The Antelopes are in their first year at the D-I division and play in the WAC.   Grand Canyon is led in scoring by Demetrius Walker, who graduated from UNM this past May, but is eligible to play for the Antelopes as a graduate student.

 New Mexico Lobos 75, Marquette 68 

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.

The production Coach Craig Neal was looking for from Lobos not considered in the “Big Three” fraternity came through in a big way Saturday night in Las Vegas.

“Your have to be five,” said Neal.  “Four fingers don’t make a fist.  We were five fingers tonight on a lot of possessions.”

The Lobos got 24 points from Cullen Neal (six treys) and 10 points and 10 boards from Deshawn Delaney as the Lobos rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to a convincing and much-needed 75-68 win over Marquette.

“That was a big win for us,” said Coach Neal.  “The thing I was most impressed with about our team was our mental toughness.  I thought our guys were terrific.”

It was an opportune time to find addition Lobo production as New Mexico (8-3) played without injured Hugh Greenwood and got only three points from Alex Kirk, who took only four shots and made a single field goal.  Kirk played a solid floor game and good defense, but the scoreboard was missing his 16.5 average.

“I was really proud how we did tempo tonight,” said Coach Neal. “Alex didn’t have a great stat line, but he sacrificed for his team.  He made all the right plays.”

The Lobos got 20 points and 10 rebounds from Cameron Bairstow and 14 points from Kendall Williams, a total that was 5.4 points below Williams’ season average.  Kirk, who brought a 9.8 board average into the contest, had only five rebounds.

Neal and Delaney more than made up for that unexpected shortage, but another hero in this Lobo win was the New Mexico defense.  Marquette shot 58.3 percent in the first half, but fell to 36.4 percent in the second half as UNM upped its defensive intensity both inside the paint and on the edge.

“That was a mental, gut-check game,” said Coach Neal.

Cullen Neal got the start with Greenwood on the bench and Delaney slipped into the starting lineup ahead of Cleveland Thomas.  The two Lobo rookies stepped up big time on a big-time stage in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.

"He's a beast," Cullen Neal said of Delaney. "He had a double-double in his first start. You can't do better than that."

The Lobos had only 12 turnovers and out rebounded Marquette 37-30.  “I was really happy with the way our guys rebounded,” said Coach Neal. “Everybody was tuned into, ‘Hey, we have to gang rebound.’”

Bairstow, Delaney and Kirk combined for 11 assists.  Thomas played 17 minutes off the bench and had four points and three boards.  He was the only sub that scored vs. Marquette.

The Lobos fell behind 39-30 a few seconds into the second half, but led all the way after a 60-60 tie at the 6:33 mark. The Lobos got big buckets and big free throws down the stretch, but the Lobo defense also was huge down the stretch as it forced Marquette into bad shots and bad decisions.

“Just the little things,” said Coach Neal of the win.  ““We made some great defensive stops in the seconds half. I thought Kendall really took over in the second half when we needed him. We battled and battled 'til the end and got the win.”

Cullen Neal was a big lift for UNM throughout the game by hitting big shots – mostly from long range.  He went 6-of-8 from 3-point land and UNM was 9-of-24 from that line with Williams going 3-of-7. “He played the way I know he is capable of playing,” said Neal of his son, Cullen. “As a coach, I always knew he had that in him.  A lot of it was he let the game come to him tonight.  He played within himself.”

 UNM went 18-of-24 from the line where Marquette went 9-of-14.  The Golden Eagles had only eight assist to 16 for New Mexico.  Marquette got 17 points from Jake Thomas and 15 from Jamil Wilson.

"Tonight was a huge team win," said Cullen Neal, who went 8-of-12 from the field. "We just have to stay with the positive and stay focused.  We just played well together and everybody made plays." 

Second Half:  New Mexico 45, Marquette 31

Cullen Neal stayed hot from outside and his three 3-pointers helped push UNM into a 46-45 lead at the 14:55 mark. Neal had 22 points at that point.  Williams also banged in a 3-pointer to help the Lobo crawl out of a 39-30 hole.

The Lobos got a dunk inside from Delaney off a Bairstow feed and Bairstow followed that with a 10-foot jumper to give UNM a 50-46 lead going into a break at 12:23.  UNM had outscored Marquette 20-to 7 to take that four-point lead. At the 11:32 mark, UNM was up 53-47.

The Golden Eagles hit a layup and got three free throws to pull to 53-52.  Mayo scored on a long drive and Marquette was back up 54-53 at the 9:28 mark.  A UNM turnover led to another Marquette layup and a 56-53 lead.  Williams hit a tough trey to form a 56-56 tie.  At the 7:28 media break, Marquette held a 58-56 lead with Williams coming out of the break looking at two free throws.  He made one: 58-57.

The Lobos got two free throws from Williams and one from Delaney to tie the game at 60-all heading into the final six minutes. Bairstow added two more and UNM was up 62-60.  Neal picked up his fourth foul at 5:02 and went to the bench.

Delaney skied to rebound a Williams’ miss and touched a short jumper off the glass to push UNM up 64-60.  Marquette called time with 4:19 to go.

The Lobos sandwiched a Thomas jumper around a couple of forced shots by Marquette to take a 66-62 lead into a break at the 1:58 mark.  Bairstow hit a running fade in the lane to make it 68-62.  Marquette called time at 1:22.  Marquette forced up another shot and fouled Neal with 1:07 to play. Neal made them both: 70-62 which allowed UNM to coast into the 75-68 final.

 First Half:  Marquette 37, New Mexico Lobos 30

Cullen Neal led the Lobos in scoring after 20 minutes with 11 points going 3-of-3 from 3-point range. UNM got seven points from Bairstow, but only three from Kirk and three points from Williams.

The Golden Eagles hit five treys and UNM hit four.  Marquette shot 58.3 percent from the floor and UNM shot 37.9 percent.  Jake Thomas led Marquette with 11 points going 3-of-4 from long range.  The Eagles got 11 points off the bench to two points for UNM.

The Lobos ran to a quick 12-5 lead before Marquette rallied to leads of 13-12 and 22-20 at the 6:40 mark.   UNM got a 24-24 tie off a Bairstow layup plus a free throw before Marquette ran to leads of 28-24, 33-28 and 37-30 and the half.

“We lost them in transition,” said Neal at the half.  “We let them get some threes in transition and it hurt us.  We have to get Kendall Williams going.”

New Mexico Player Notes....

Freshman G Cullen Neal

*Cullen Neal had a career-high 24 points and a career-high 6 threes.  He had 19 points in his last five games combined.

*Neal is the first Lobo with six or more threes since Tony Snell hit seven against Air Force on March 9, 2013

 Senior F Cameron Bairstow

*Bairstow had his fifth straight 20-point games to his credit and had a career high of five assists.

 Senior G Kendall Williams

 *Kendall Williams scored in double-figures for the 11th time this season

 Junior G Deshawn Delaney

*Deshawn Delaney had a career-high of 10 points and 10 rebounds.