New Mexico Lobos Basketball – On The Mountain West Road
Tuesday: New Mexico 78, Utah State 65
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
It wasn’t supposed to be this easy. It was.
The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum is supposed to be one of the rowdiest gyms in the West and, really, it is. But on Tuesday night the New Mexico Lobos quieted an arena and the Utah State Aggies.
The Lobos’ Twin Tower combo once again was missing the Alex Kirk tower, but the shorter of the Lobo trees – 6-foot-9 Cameron Bairstow -- was too much for the Utah State Aggies, who dropped a 78-65 Mountain West decision to the visiting Lobos.
“What can you say about Cameron Bairstow?” said Lobo Coach Craig Neal.
Bairstow scored 22 points, hauled down six rebounds and had a career-high four blocks while playing 37 minutes. The mobile Australian continued to show he is one of the premier scorers in the West. He also showed he can be a beast on defense.
Bairstow might have been the star on the stat sheet, but this was not a one-man Lobo win. Really, this was one of the more complete team wins of the season.
“I can’t say enough about what my guys have done and how they have come together,” said Neal. “We are 5-0 on the road and that’s amazing. We shot the ball well. We shared the ball. We didn’t turn it over.”
The 5-0 road record is UNM’s best ever start in the Mountain West. This also was UNM’s first win at Utah State which bumps UNM’s record in Logan, Utah to 1-10. Here's another stat to help put this 13-point win into perspective: Utah State Coach Stew Morrill is 234-35 in Logan.
Bairstow probably put the finishing touches on this road win with a running hook that put UNM up 72-61. He missed the accompanying free throw. However, UNM got the offensive board which led to a 12-foot Bairstow jumper and UNM’s biggest lead of the night at 74-61 with 2:55 to play.
UNM pretty much coasted in for the win which pushed the Lobos to 16-4 on the year and 7-1 in the MW race.
The Lobos survived their second Mountain West road game with Kirk on the bench with his left foot in a soft, walking cast. Bairstow was superb, but he got a lot of help on the scoreboard and on the court. Kendall Williams had 16 points, three assists, three steals and no turnovers.
“Those two guys have been terrific,” said Neal. “But we got good effort from a lot of guys.”
Cullen Neal added 13 points, Deshawn Delaney had 12 and Obij Aget had seven points and four boards. Hugh Greenwood hauled down 10 rebounds with four assists.
The Lobos shot 45.8 percent from the floor, 8-of-19 from 3-point range and had only six turnovers. Utah State shot 42.6 percent and went 6-of-12 from 3-point range (but just 1-for-6 after a hot early start). “We guarded the three,” said Neal. UNM also won the board battle 36-30.
The Aggies came out of the half down 41-33 and needed to slowly chisel into the UNM lead. At the 15:52 break, the Lobos had extended their lead by two points: 47-37. The Aggies took a blow during that timeout when Butterfield, who had taken a hard charge from UNM’s Obij Aget, had to go to the locker room with a minor injury. At the 11:48 break, UNM was up 52-45.
The Aggies kept chiseling away and at a timeout at 9:32 a 28-footer by Medlin had pulled the Aggies to 54-52. That break also saw Butterfield return to the floor while UNM’s Williams was helped to the bench holding his right leg off the floor. He went to the bench with 14 points.
UNM went up 59-52 on scores by Bairstow and Cullen Neal. But at 7:43 it was 59-55. Williams was still on the UNM bench. He came back to the action at 7:19. UNM went up 66-57 on five straight points from Aget. Utah State called time at 5:27 – down nine in front of a quiet home crowd.
It got worse for the Aggies. A follow by Greenwood pushed UNM up 68-57 and then a follow by Bairstow made it 70-59. The Aggies needed to throw out a furious rally and hit some bombs. It never happened.
"We made plays down the stretch," said Bairstow. "It was a fun atmosphere to play in."
First Half: New Mexico 41, Utah State 33
It was a good half for the Lobos and kind of a ragged half for the Aggies. The Lobos outshot Utah State, but the Aggies helped the Lobos with some sloppy turnovers and by missing several shots under the basket. UNM had eight points off turnovers.
The Lobos went 6-of-12 from 3-point range and got 19 points from the Bairstow/Williams combo. Delaney and Neal combined for 13 first-half points. UNM missed its final three shots of the half from long range. UNM had only two turnovers and Utah State had seven.
Utah State went 5-of-9 off the 3-ball, but went 3-of-3 early. The Aggies also missed their final three shots from 3-point range. Utah State had trouble running its offense once UNM extended its defense. Bairstow did a good job defending inside. UNM outscored Utah State at the line by five and the Aggies had five more boards, 20-15.
The Lobos got off to a quick 5-0 lead. Utah State then went 3-of-3 from 3-point range and the teams were locked in an 11-11 tie at the first media break at 15:33. UNM went up 20-13 but an 8-0 run highlighted by a trey pushed Utah State up 21-20. Greenwood hit a trey to put UNM back up 23-21 and at the 7:42 stop, a Cleveland Thomas 3-pointer had UNM up 26-23. UNM was 3-of-5 from long range at that point and the Aggies were 5-of-6. UNM was shooting 53 percent from the floor.
The Lobos stayed hot and back-to-back treys by Delaney and Cullen Neal pushed UNM into a 32-23 lead that forced Utah State Coach Stew Morrill into a timeout. A Neal trey gave UNM a 10-point lead at 35-25. The Aggies were able to cut that hole by two points – 41-33 – going into the halftime break.