Stevens: Lobos' 60-50 Win Over Boise Sets Up Huge Clash With CSU

Feb. 16, 2013

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New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball -Mountain West - In The Pit

Saturday: New Mexico 60, Boise State 50

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

As the majority of the Mountain West fades away, the clash in Fort Collins now crashes to the forefront.

Colorado State held serve - at Air Force - with an 89-86 road win and the New Mexico Lobos answered with a 60-50 gut-check win Saturday night in The Pit over Boise State.

The stakes for New Mexico's visit next Saturday have been cast. Well, almost. The Rams still have a tough trip to UNLV on Wednesday while the Lobos rest up for Saturday's journey to Moby Arena.

Regardless of what happens in Vegas, the Lobos will be looking to create additional space between them and the Mountain West pack. Regardless of what happens in Vegas, the Rams will be trying to climb into first place.

If the Rams beat Vegas, they need a win over UNM to claim first place alone. If they lose to the Rebels, they need a win over UNM to climb back into a tie with UNM. The nitty-gritty is here.

"We are down to a five-game schedule and Colorado State is down to a six-game schedule," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford.

The Rams and the Lobos have isolated themselves on the Mountain with two loses. UNM is 9-2 and CSU is 8-2, already having a Wednesday off. UNLV beat San Diego State on Saturday to pull the Aztecs down a game. Every MW team except UNM and CSU has five losses.

It kind of looks like a two-horse race.

Tony Snell -- 12 pts, 6 rebs.

"That really does separate us and Colorado State," said UNM's Cameron Bairstow of UNLV's 72-70 win over SDSU. "Obviously a win up there (CSU) will be huge. We have to come ready to play every game. It's just something we have to do."

The Lobos looked ready to play against Boise State - especially on defense in holding the high-scoring Broncos to 50 points.

"(Boise) is one of the best shooting teams in the entire league," said Bairstow.

Said Alford: "It was a gut-check performance."

The Lobos went up by nine points in the second half (38-29), but the Broncos cut that gap to 47-46 with 5:23 to play. The Lobos then slowly pulled away: 50-46, 53-46 (Kirk dunk) and 55-46 with 1:30 to play. Boise State never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

"A huge win for us," said Alford. "I knew this was going to be a difficult game for us. For us to do this defensively, meant a great deal to the success of this game. Obviously, it wasn't a good shooting night for us. I can't thank the crowd (15,411) enough."

New Mexico shot only 27.3 percent in the second half and ended the game gunning at a 34.7 clip. However, UNM went 3-of-5 from long range in the second half, all coming from Fenton. The Broncos shot 37 percent in both halves and 37 percent for the game.

The Lobos established a solid inside-outside touch that Boise State could not match. UNM got a team-high 16 points from Bairstow, who was the only Lobo to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor. Bairstow and 7-foot Alex Kirk combined for 19 boards with Kirk hauling down 12.

The UNM perimeter had three guards in double figures with Snell hitting 12 points, Kendall Williams10 and Jamal Fenton 11, including three consecutive treys in the second half.

"He (Fenton) did a lot of good things for us and I though he really gave us a boost in the second half when we weren't making shots," said Alford.

Kirk, Hugh Greenwood, Williams and Snell combined to shoot 9-of-32 from the field. The Lobos big edge again came from the free-throw line where they went 19-of-25 and again made more free throws than the opponent shot. Boise State was 5-of-10 from the line - a 14-point edge for the home team.

The Broncos got 19 points from Derrick Marks, but no other Bronco reached double digits. UNM also won the glass war, 37-33. Boise's Ryan Watkins, who had 12 points and 10 boards in game one in Boise, was limited to no points and two boards in The Pit.

"We made them make difficult shots," said Alford. "They had only one guy in double figures. I thought that was a really good defensive effort by our guys."

UNM went with its big-big lineup (6-9 Bairstow/7-0 Kirk), but that forced Bairstow to guard a smaller man.

"It's kind of scary when you look out there and Cam is guarding a guy who is 6-2," said Alford. "That's a luxury to have a big man that big, who has the footwork that Cam has. We have kind of settled into a big-big lineup."

Said Bairstow: "Obviously, it's a little different than what I'm used to."

First Half: New Mexico 29, Boise State 23

The Lobos used a trio of players to form their six-point halftime gap. Snell scored 10, Bairstow scored nine and Williams added eight points. That's 27 of 29. UNM shot 40.7 percent in the half and held Boise to 37 percent. UNM went 4-of-12 from long range and Boise State went 2-of-11 from behind the long line.