New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – In The Pit
Saturday: 2:05 p.m. (MT) -- Cincinnati (7-0) at New Mexico (6-1)
On The Air: CBS Sports Network; 770-AM KKOB/ Lobo Radio Network
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
You want to open up a special Christmas gift a few weeks early? Here’s your chance. Hit The Pit on Saturday. This game was gift wrapped by the Santa Claus of collegiate basketball.
It’s the 6-1 New Mexico Lobos vs. the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats. And it’s on CBS Sports Network, but this game has all the markings of one of those legendary “Pit Games.”
The Bearcats are good. Heck, they must be good. They are 7-0 and coming off an 86-50 win over USC Upstate where the Bearcats made 13 three-pointers.
That’s made 13 three-pointers – not shot 13 three-pointers.
The Cincy Cats probably are looking forward to this road trip to The Pit – and probably are a bit worried, too. Cincinnati’s 7-0 mark was carved out in the warm and friendly confines of Fifth Third Arena.
The Bearcats need to be tested on the road. The Lobos in The Pit are a severe test.
The Bearcats have to be looking for some payback, too. The Lobos beat Cincinnati 55-54 last December in Cincinnati.
A win over the Lobos in The Pit might just push the Bearcats into the Top 25. Right now, they are receiving votes, in part, because of a modest schedule. You leave The Pit with an 8-0 record and you turn some heads.
Really, this is a great game for both teams, but also a December treat for New Mexico Lobo fans. Cincinnati is a program soaked in NCAA success. Cincinnati is basketball royalty.
The Bearcats have two national titles. The Bearcats have six Final Four appearances, eight Elite Eight appearances and have marched into 10 Sweet 16s.
The Bearcats have gone where Lobos only dream of going, but the Bearcats have never won a basketball game in The Pit. OK, this is their first-ever chance, but they know the history of The Pit and how tough it is to beat any Lobo team on the Bob King floor.
At that dizzying mile-high elevation. Did the Bearcats remember to bring their oxygen tanks and their passports?
And this is a good Lobo team. They are coming off a 79-70 Las Cruces spanking of a good New Mexico State team and the Lobos were Top 25 at the beginning of the season. Obviously, it’s a good opportunity for the Lobos, too. If they put the first stain on Cincinnati’s record, the Lobos (also receiving votes) will turn a few more voting heads toward Albuquerque.
The Bearcats will come into The Pit with the same worries as all UNM opponents. How do you slow down Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow? There might not be a way to slow down Williams. He is playing at a high level. He can hurt you from the outside or with his drives that are more under control in his senior season.
Kirk and Bairstow also are playing at a high level, but they have had a few ups and downs. Still, Cincinnati might be more concerned about New Mexico’s Twin Towers. The Bearcats are athletic and quick, but not huge.
Their projected starting lineup for Saturday goes 6-8, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4 and 6-1. They list three forwards and no center in the starting lineup, but they get 28.7 points and 16.4 boards from those three forwards. The 6-8 Justin Jackson (10.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg), the 6-7 Titus Rubles (11.1/6.3) and the 6-7 Shaquille Thomas (6.9/3.4) can be tough to handle on the offensive end.
But which one of those Bearcats can handle the 7-1 Alex Kirk and the 6-9 Cameron Bairstow on the other end? Kirk averages 19.1 points and 11 boards. Bairstow also scores at a 19.1 clip and hauls down 6.3 boards a game. Williams averages 20.4 points.
This is a nasty trio to deal with defensively. Pick your poison.
The Bearcats have a top-shelf guard in 6-4 Sean Kilpatrick, who will carry a 19.7 scoring average into The Pit. Kilpatrick is good. He hit six 3-pointers vs Upstate. He played with UNM’s Kirk this past summer for USA Basketball at the World University Games in Russia.
Kilpatrick’s wing man out front is 6-1 Ge’Lawn Guyn with a 7.3 average. He has averaged 11 points over the past three games. Cincinnati has four players off the bench averaging 13.1 to 19.4 minutes and that foursome has been productive on the board combing for 21.4 points per game.
The Bearcats have a 7-1 senior center in David Nyarsuk, who has averaged 8.3 minutes. He might play more if the Bearcat forwards have trouble guarding Kirk.
This game has all the makings of a Pit Classic. You have two very good basketball teams on the cusp of returning to the national rankings and the winner probably will make that move.
You have two of the top guards in the nation in Kilpatrick and Williams. You have two former USA Basketball teammates in Kirk and Kilpatrick.
You have an undefeated Cincinnati team needing a marque road win and definitely looking for some payback from UNM’s win in Cincinnati: A win sealed by Kirk blocking a Kilpatrick trey in the closing seconds. The Bearcats made 11 treys in that game.
And here’s another interesting footnote: The No. 8 ranked Bearcats were undefeated last year when the Lobos slapped them with their first loss.
Will history repeat itself in a different gym? Will the Bearcats get some payback? Come find out!
New Mexico Lobo Men's 2013-2014 Season Roster
|Hometown (Prev School)|
|1||Cleveland Thomas||G||6-3||195||So.||1L||Baton Rouge, La. (Scotlandville Magnet HS)|
|2||Chris Perez||G||6-0||190||Sr.||SQ||Corona, Calif. (Centennial HS)|
|3||Hugh Greenwood||G||6-3||205||Jr.||2L||Hobart, Australia (Australian Institute of Sport)|
|5||Arthur Edwards||G||6-6||205||So.||JC||Temple Hills, Md. (National Christian Academy)|
|10||Kendall Williams||G||6-4||180||Sr.||3L||Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (Los Osos)|
|11||Obij Aget||C||7-1||225||Fr.||HS||La Porte, Ind. (La Lumiere HS)|
|12||Devon Williams||F/G||6-7||205||RFr.||RS||Dallas, Texas (Woodrow Wilson HS)|
|13||Cullen Neal||G||6-4||180||Fr.||HS||Albuquerque, N.M. (Eldorado HS)|
|22||Merv Lindsay||F||6-7||205||RSo.||TR||Moreno Valley, Calif. (Canyon Springs HS)|
|23||Nick Banyard||F||6-8||205||So.||1L||Flower Mound, Texas (Marcus HS)|
|24||Tim Myles||F||6-6||225||Fr.||HS||Etiwanda, Calif. (Etiwanda HS)|
|33||Deshawn Delaney||G||6-5||190||Jr.||JC||Chicago, Ill (Vincennes JC) (Carver Military)|
|41||Cameron Bairstow||F||6-9||250||Sr.||3L||Brisbane, Australia (Australian Institute of Sport)|
|53||Alex Kirk||C||7-0||245||RJr.||2L||Los Alamos, N.M. (Los Alamos)|