New Mexico Lobos Mountain West Basketball – In The Pit
Wednesday: UNLV 76, New Mexico 73
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
Lobo Coach Craig Neal didn’t necessarily like what he saw in The Pit Wednesday night because the sour ending on the scoreboard favored the UNLV Rebels 76-73.
But Neal also didn’t like what he didn’t see: A killer Lobo instinct, a Lobo edge – defense.
“They used to have a killer instinct in them,” Neal said of his Lobos, who dropped to 3-1 in Mountain West play. “They’ve lost an edge. I can’t figure out what it is. They (still) have it and they are going to find it.. If they don’t get it back, it’s going to be a long year.
“That’s a tough loss. I thought UNLV did a really nice job coming in here and playing the way they wanted to play. We can’t give up 46 points in a half and expect to win. I thought UNLV was terrific and they really played well.”
The Rebs fired up the scoreboard for 46 in the first to grab a 46-42 lead. UNM won the second half by a point, 31-30, which formed the 76-73 final. UNM dropped a game behind 4-0 San Diego State, and Nevada is 4-1 after a home loss to Boise State.
The Lobos had the ball in the final 26 seconds but missed three attempts from long range trying to produce an overtime period. The difference at the end was marginal. The Rebels needed a stop and a basket. the Lobos needed a basket and a stop. It went the way of the Rebels.
“We had opportunities to win the game and we didn’t,” said UNM’s Cameron Bairstow, who had 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. “I thought we had a good mindset coming in, but defensively we weren’t quite ready.”
Bairstow said the Lobos might have underestimated UNLV’s offensive weapons. The Rebels shot 56.6 percent in the first half and 50 percent for the game. UNM shot 44.4 percent over the 40 minutes.
The Lobos had four players in double figures: Bairstow (27), Alex Kirk (12), Kendall Williams (15) and Deshawn Delaney (11). Kirk had 11 boards and Williams had nine assists with no turnovers. UNLV got 23 points from Bryce Dejean-Jones, who went 11-of-13 from the line and hit two free ones to push UNLV up 76-73.
“He was the key to their win,” said Neal.
It was a clean game for both teams. UNM had seven turnovers and UNLV had six. UNM won the board battle 33-26 and had 20 assists to eight for UNLV. Coach Neal saw a reason for Vegas’ low count on assists.
“We were getting beat on dribble drives,” said Neal. “It had nothing to do with 3-point shots.”
The Lobos had the ball at the 45.5 mark down a single point (74-73). UNM went to Bairstow on the baseline for the lead. His shot was short. UNLV got the board and the Lobos fouled Dejean-Jones. He made both free shots to give UNLV its 76-73 lead. UNM called time at 26.8 and got 3-point shots from Hugh Greenwood and Delaney that missed.
“It’s difficult to get down that much and claw your way back,” said Bairstow.
Said Coach Neal: “We had four shots in the last 35 seconds to take the lead or tie it. Cam had a good look to put us ahead and it didn’t go in. That’s the breaks. It’s a tough one to learn from. You can’t lose these types of game at home. Now, we have to pick up one somewhere else.”
The Lobos get that chance on Saturday – at Fresno State.
Second Half: New Mexico 31, UNLV 30
At the 15:12 break of the second half, the Lobos had cut their six-point halftime deficit by one: 56-51. Greenwood had hit a baseline trey and Bairstow turned an offensive board into an assist to a cutting Delaney. At 12:00, UNM used a Kirk dunk and a Delaney layup to convince UNLV to call a timeout with UNM close at 61-57. UNM called time at 8:28, down 66-62 and coming off a Williams' trey.
At the 6:37 break, UNM was down 69-67 with Greenwood hitting a big trey to answer a big trey by UNLV’s Deville Smith. At the 3:22 stop, UNM was still down by two points, 71-69, but came out of the timeout with ball possession.
It got tighter. UNLV called timeout at 1:24 up 74-72 with Bairstow coming out of the UNM huddle looking to add another free throw. He did: 74-73. UNLV drove and missed a short jumper, a good shot. Kirk soared above the pack to pull down the board. UNM called time at the 45.5 mark, down a single digit.
UNM needed a bucket and UNLV needed a stop.
Vegas got the stop and the rebound on a Bairstow miss on the baseline. UNM quickly fouled Dejean-Jones at 26.8. He made both: 76-73. UNM called time at 26.8. Vegas had only eight fouls so UNM was in the one-and-one.
UNM’s Greenwood drove and looped a long pass to Williams on the baseline. The Rebels’ defense was there. The ball came back to Greenwood who threw up a floating trey, missed, but Bairstow got the board. Delaney then missed an open look from the baseline, but the ball went out on a Rebel with .08 to play.
After two timeouts, UNM got the ball to Cullen Neal on the baseline. The freshman had to hurry a trey that touched the rim and fell away.
First Half: UNLV 46, New Mexico 42
It was a tale of two halves of a half. It was a Pit war; two heavyweights landing blows.
The Rebels threw out a brilliant 10 minutes of ball to push UNM into a deep 16-point hole (33-17). The Lobos played one of their best stretches of ball (18-to-4 run) to cut that hole to 37-35. The teams finally marched into the half with the Rebs up four.
“I thought it took us a while to get going,” said Coach Neal. “I don’t think our guys played very hard in the first eight minutes of the game. I really don’t.”
The Lobos shot 48.1 percent in the first half with Bairstow netting 13 points, Kirk 10 and Williams 10. UNLV was as high as 72.7 percent (up 21-12) but cooled to a still-hot 53.6 percent. The aggression and athleticism on the court had UNM 13-of-16 at the line and UNLV 12-of-14. The Rebs got 11 first-half points from both Dejean-Jones and Kevin Olekaibe, who went 3-of-3 from 3-point range. UNM was up on the glass, 16-14.
The Lobo “Big Three" (Bairstow, Kirk, Williams) had 33 points. The Lobos’ bench was 0-of-3 from the field. UNLV’s bench was 1-of-3.
The Lobos wanted to go inside early and often and going into the first media break at 15:45 UNM had four points from Kirk and four from Bairstow to help form an 8-8 tie. Both teams were shooting well with UNM at 57.1 percent and UNLV at 60 percent.
The Rebs turned an offensive board into a trey and the UNLV’s Birch went coast-to-coast, rebound-to-layup to push the Rebs up 16-9. The Rebs ran to a 21-12 lead when Dejean-Jones got a steal, a dunk and added a free throw. That nine-point bulge carried into the 11:55 break. The Rebs were shooting a blistering 72.7 percent from the floor at that mark.
“I think we are playing hard, but sometimes we don’t have the attacking mindset, especially on the defensive end,” said Bairstow.
The Rebs stayed hot. Neal missed a long trey and Vegas made the Lobos pay at the other end with a trey that made it 28-12. Coach Neal called for time at the 10:10 mark with his team down 16 points. The Rebs went up 33-17 off a trey. UNM needed a run. They got it.
Delaney hit a baseline trey and Williams got a trey off a UNM steal. Bairstow got a block on a driving Reb and Kirk powered one in from underneath: 33-25. The Lobos had gone nasty on defense and The Pit was getting into it, too. UNM was down 35-25 at the 7:03 media break but playing better at both ends. The Lobos had brought Bairstow off the bench with two fouls, but the Rebs weren’t going at him.
The Lobos continued to play well, cut the Rebs’ lead to 37-35 and went into the final break at 2:52 down 40-35 off a Vegas’ trey. Vegas got two free throws with three ticks to go to finalize the 46-42 halftime count.
“We fought back and had some chances to cut it to a tie” said Neal of UNM’s first-half rally.