New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – At New Mexico State
Wednesday: New Mexico 79, New Mexico State 70
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
Maybe you shouldn’t call this 79-70 Lobo roll over the Aggies in Cruces easy. The New Mexico State Aggies will be stepping into The Pit on Dec. 17 with a bad taste in their mouths and probably fired up for revenge and redemption.
But this Lobo win in the Pan American Center was almost methodical. The Lobos were poised, confident, controlled and showed focused workmanship in cutting down the tall Aggies.
Or, to use a Coach Craig Neal word: “veteran.”
“That’s veteran guys making plays,” said Neal of his Lobos slapping down several Aggie rallies and quieting the Pan American Center down the stretch run.
The Lobos threw a solid zone at the Aggies, dared them to gun from the edge and came up with a winning one-two, inside-outside punch from Kendall Williams and Cameron Bairstow.
It was a much-needed punch because UNM’s 7-foot Alex Kirk played only six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and scored only nine points and pulled down only five boards.
“I thought Cam was outstanding. I thought he got tired in the first half, but all and all he played at a high level,” said Neal.
Williams hit 24 points going 12-of-17 from the free-throw line while Bairstow scored 20 points and added eight boards. Williams and Bairstow (6-of-6) combined to go 18-of-23 from the line and New Mexico hit 29-of-38 free throws in raising its record to 6-1 on the season.
New Mexico State dropped its second straight and fell to 7-3.
“We went into the zone because we got into foul trouble,” said Neal. “It’s been a pretty good defense for us in making teams make shots. We’re going to change up defenses throughout the year.”
The Aggies shot 38.7 percent in the game, but went 4-of-19 from long range with two of those 3-point bombs falling in the final minutes when UNM really had sealed the win away. UNM shot 43.1 percent on the night. The Lobos hit 6-of-12 from the 3-point line.
The Aggies went 18-of-20 from the free-throw line where UNM outscored NMSU by 11. The teams were dead even on the boards at 37. UNM had 13 assists to five for NMSU. The Lobos statistical edges came in outside shooting, better passing to open teammates, and getting to the free-throw line.
Aggie Coach Marvin Menzies said his New Mexico State team “was not playing their best basketball,” in their loss to the Lobos.
Menzies was right, but he also rightfully credited the Lobos for a lot of the Aggies’ woes. He also said he was mystified that his Aggies didn’t play with the passion that usually comes in a rivalry game between Lobos and Aggies.
The Aggies got 16 points from Daniel Mullings, who also had five turnovers. Renaldo Dixon had 15 points. UNM held 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar to five points. The big Aggie had 10 boards and three blocked shots.
The Aggie bench outscored UNM 26-to-12, but while the UNM subs didn’t score a lot of points, they were productive in floor play and defense.
“Really proud of our bench,” said Neal. “I thought they would be a little anxious because it was a great crowd. I was a little concerned about our (young) guys coming in here. It’s not an easy place to play. I was glad to see our young guys come in here and play with some composure.”
Said Menzies: “I was disappointed in our performance.”
Second Half: New Mexico State 41, New Mexico 40
The Lobos came out of the half up 39-29 and fought back several small Aggie runs. UNM pushed its lead back to 10 points – 56-46 -- on a dunk by Bairstow off a high-point feed from Kirk. The 6-9 Lobo ran down the lane at 8:06 to push UNM up 60-47. At the 6:58 media break, UNM was up 62-52. The Aggies need to start a charge or start thinking about pulling an upset in The Pit.
The Aggies cut into UNM’s lead at 62-56, but fouled Kirk. He hit one and missed, but Bairstow got the board and was fouled. He hit two: 65-56. At 4:54, UNM called time guarding a 67-56 (11) lead.
At 3:30, the Lobos’ lead was 67-58. UNM was shooting 35 percent in the half at that point and NMSU was at 44 percent. UNM had three more points at the line and 12 more point from 3-point range.
The Aggies missed a jumper coming out of their huddle and UNM went up 69-58 on a pretty backdoor pass from Greenwood to a cutting Williams. The dunk pushed the Lobos up by 11 with 2:35 to play.
The Aggies needed to play with that sense of desperation, but it wasn’t there. The Aggies put on a press at a point where it was really too late and turned the game a little sloppy, but UNM had no trouble rolling into the 79-70 final.
First Half: New Mexico 39, New Mexico State 29
The Lobos slowly but steadily pulled away in the first half and that was with Kirk playing only six minutes thanks to the big Lobo quickly picking up two fouls. Cleveland Thomas also only played six minutes in the half as Coach Neal worked his bench well to help produce the 10-point lead.
The Lobos played good defense out of a zone which the Aggies failed to solve shooting only 33.3 percent in the half. UNM shot a solid 46.7 percent. The Lobos got 10 points from Williams and 10 from Bairstow. UNM had ten assists for the Aggies, who preferred to go one-on-one through most of the half. The Aggies also had nine turnovers to four for the Lobos.
NMSU went 11-of-13 from the line and UNM went 7-of-11. The Lobos had the edge from long range hitting 4-of-7 from 3-point range. The Aggies went 0-of-5. NMSU had a 20-18 edge on the boards. UNM had 10 points off turnovers to three points for NMSU.
NOTE: The original box score credited Kendall Williams as 12-for-15 from the line and Cleveland Thomas as 5-for-7. Williams was 12-for-17 and Thomas was 5-for-6.