New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – The Pit
Wednesday: New Mexico 94, Jamestown 51
Saturday: 8:05 p.m., Alabama A&M at New Mexico – The Pit
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network; ROOT Sports
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was an exhibition game that served its purpose nicely. It let a whole lot of Lobos break a sweat in The Pit while breaking down the Jamestown Jimmies 94-51 Wednesday night on Bob King Court.
“Those guys (off the bench) are going to play minutes this year,” said Coach Craig Neal. “They don’t know where they’re going to come or what they’re going to do, but that’s why they’re here.
“We got a lot of guys in, a lot of guys got to play some minutes when it counted.”
It didn’t count for long. The Lobos slipped away to a 43-31 halftime lead, held the Jimmies to 20 second-half points and pretty much strolled to their second exhibition win in The Pit. The Lobos play for real Saturday in The Pit when Alabama A&M visits at 8:05 p.m.
“We got a lot done tonight,” said Neal. “We got a little bit better defensively in the second half. My goal to them at halftime was to hold them under 60 and they did that.”
Another good thing about the Lobo bench was those subs playing some nasty defense. Jamestown missed its final 14 shots.
“Definitely, as a team we took steps,” said 7-foot Alex Kirk, who had 12 points and 10 boards. “But there are a lot of things we have to work on. We have a lot of room to improve.”
Said 6-9 Cameron Bairstow, who had 16 points and nine boards: “It wasn’t really until the end that we started blazing away. We have a very high ceiling, but whether we reach it is up to us.”
The Lobos had a distinct height advantage over the Jimmies of NAIA ball and ripped down 56 boards to 26 for Jamestown. The Jimmies helped that board count by launching 40 times from behind the 3-point line and making only 11 of them. Jamestown did not shoot a free throw.
“I knew they were going to do that. That’s just the way they play,” Neal said of the Jimmies’ bombs. Jamestown shot 29 percent for the game and 23.5 percent in the second half. They missed 49 shots.
The Lobos had all five of their starters in double figures with freshman Cullen Neal getting his first start as a Lobo. He had 14 points, seven boards and four assists. Hugh Greenwood had 10 points and seven boards and Kendall Williams had 11 points and six assists.
“We can do some things better,” said Neal. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well. We went 5-17 from the three-point line, but I think that’s going to come. Overall, it was a good effort and now we need to gear up for Saturday and I’m really excited about the opener.”
Neal said one key to UNM success in 2013-14 is finding production – and productive minutes – off his bench. He had 10 players reach double figures in minutes played and got 31 points off that bench.
The Lobos obviously had the advantage inside and outscored Jamestown 46-to-16 in the paint. UNM also won the second-chance battle with 18 points to three.
Neal said his top four Lobos are pretty much cast in stone – Williams, Greenwood, Bairstow and Kirk – and he isn’t sure who will get the start on Saturday.
“He (Cullen) played pretty well tonight and I don’t know what we’ll do, but right now it’s kind of up in the air,” said Coach Neal. “We’ll see what happens. But, I feel comfortable starting any of those guys. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal that we need to decide right now.”
The Lobos pulled away enough at the halftime break (43-31) to make the ultimate outcome a formality. Well, unless the Jimmies maybe didn’t miss a 3-pointer in the second half. At the 16:56 mark, a 3-pointer by Neal put UNM up 56-36 and the 20-point deficit in The Pit convinced Jamestown to burn a timeout.
The break really didn’t help the Jimmies much. The Lobos were now playing loose and confident and Neal quickly dipped into his bench to let a few more Lobos get in on the fun.
At the 15:17 media break of the second half, UNM was up 60-39 with Obij Aget coming out of the huddle to shoot a pair of free throws. He made both and UNM rode that 62-39 lead to its second exhibition win in The Pit.
Neal also said he liked the pace of the game. “We’re playing faster,” he said.
Kirk said: “That was something I really worked on tonight (running the floor). Coach has been pushing me to push harder and it just ends with us getting easier buckets.”
First Half: New Mexico 43, Jamestown 31
The Lobos went inside early and got their first seven points from Bairstow (5) and Kirk (2) to form a quick 7-2 lead. A pull-up 15 footer by Williams made it 9-2 before the visitors struck from outside to pull to 9-5 and inside to make it 9-7. At the 15:26 break, UNM used a Kirk layup and a coast-to-coast basket by Neal to hold a 13-7 lead. UNM was shooting 6-of-10 from the floor at that mark.
The Jimmies were content to launch their bombs. They were hitting enough to hang around. They cut UNM’s lead to 17-16 before UNM used a short run to go up 22-16 at the 9:51 media stop. At the 6:30 break, the Jimmies were down a bucket, 28-26.
The Lobos again threw out a little run ended by a soft Kirk dunk to take a 34-26 lead into the final media break at 3:59. The Jimmies had thrown up 30 shots at that point, 20 of them from 3-point range. They were 6-of-20 from long range.
The Lobos again threw out a run to carry a 43-31 lead into the halftime break. UNM outscored Jamestown 15-to-5 in the final 6:30.
The Lobos shot 50 percent in the first half with Williams scoring nine and Greenwood adding eight points. The Jimmies ended up 7-of-25 from trey range while UNM was 1-of-7. UNM ruled the boards 27-13 and obviously won the paint scoring battle 24-to-10. Kirk and Bairstow combined for 13 points and 11 boards in the first 20 minutes. Kirk had six boards while Bairstow and Neal each had five rebounds.