Stevens: Kirk, Bairstow Power Lobos to 69-54 Win Over Portland

Nov. 25, 2012

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New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit

Sunday: New Mexico Lobos 69, Portland Pilots 54
Up Next: 7 p.m., Wednesday - Mercer at New Mexico Lobos
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

The game wasn't exactly pretty. The Lobos' 6-0 record is gorgeous.

"When you don't make shots, things don't get very pretty," said Lobo coach Steve Alford.

You can't exactly claim that the Lobos' outside touch showed up Sunday night in The Pit in New Mexico's 69-54 win over the Portland Pilots.

You can say that UNM's 7-foot Alex Kirk showed up and his inside presence was needed since Portland's strength came inside in Ryan Nicholas. Kirk also got some solid help off the bench from Cameron Bairstow, too.

"I thought we worked together pretty well," said Kirk of his 6-foot-9 teammate.

Compare the stat lines of the three key bigs:

Kirk: 14 points, 11 boards and 6-of-10 shooting.
Nicholas: eight points, nine boards, 2-of-10 shooting.
Bairstow: nine points, 11 boards, 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.

"(Portland) was a team that was pretty big and pretty physical," said Alford. "I really like what Cam and Alex did. If that position can give us 22, 23 (rebounds) every night, we're going to keep getting better.

"Those guys are really working hard inside."

The play of Kirk and Bairstow wasn't exactly the game, but it was a big part of it. Nicholas was frustrated most of the game and eventually went to the bench with five fouls.

The Lobos got 12 points from Jamal Fenton and 10 from Hugh Greenwood, but this was not a good shooting night for the UNM guards. UNM went 2-of-19 from behind the 3-point line.

"Boy, it wasn't pretty," said Alford. "When you don't make shots, things don't get very pretty. "I thought their mixing of defense got us out of sync."

Fenton, Greenwood, Tony Snell, Kendall Williams and Demetrius Walker combined to make 12 field goals and miss 36. Kirk was the only Lobo, who took more than two shots, to finish above 50 percent. Chad Adams went 1-of-2.

The Lobos ended up shooting 33.3 percent on the night and Portland shot 32.1 percent. Portland was 1-of-10 from afar. UNM shot 24.2 percent in the first half.

Again, UNM had a huge end at the free-throw line: 29-of-38 to 17-of-21 for Portland.

"You don't always make shots," said Alford. "What has to be consistent is our defense. I thought our half-court defense was really good tonight and we took a lot of things away.

"We made it hard on them. We did a good job on the backboard."

The Lobos went into the half up 30-27 despite shooting 24.2 percent in those 20 minutes. UNM came out and ran to a quick 40-27 lead at the 17:59 mark - a 10-0 run that Portland never really recovered from. UNM led 52-33 with 13:36 to play.

"They have been an inside team and a transition team," said Alford of Portland. "I thought in the second half we took away that transition game."

Fenton got the start over Williams on Sunday and Walker was pushed deeper down the UNM bench. Williams played 25 minutes and Walker played 15 minutes. Alford said the two Lobos were late to a team meeting.

Alford also said he spoke loudly to his team at halftime and that might have helped UNM to its 10-0 jump to start the second half.

"I probably need to raise my voice more and get crazy before the game," said Alford. "The second half, the guys really came out and established themselves. That's the trait of a good team. You have to do that."

Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 39, Portland Pilots 27

The Pilots got in trouble early. The Lobos came out with some energy, rolled to a 37-27 lead on a baseline trey by Snell - and The Pit woke up, too.

A Williams' breakaway layup - plus a foul - kept The Pit rowdy: 40-27. A lot of Portland's good work in the first half was going up in smoke in the first two minutes of the second half.

At 17:45, Portland turned over the ball and had to burn a timeout. The Pilots needed to shift momentum - and quiet The Pit - quickly.

"Things started to click," said Kirk. "We got the ball inside a little bit. They weren't able to hang with us and once you get the crowd into it, it was pretty tough for them."

The Pilots came out and forced a turnover and got an old-fashioned, 3-point play to cut UNM's lead to 40-30. Greenwood returned the favor on the other end with a backdoor layup, plus one: 43-30.

A Williams' dunk in traffic down the lane handed UNM a 45-31 lead at the 15:26 break. UNM, which shot 24.2 percent in the first half, was gunning at an 85.7 clip (6-7) and already had matched their first-half production at the 3-point line.

A Fenton drive and acrobatic layup, plus a foul, put UNM up 46-31. It also got The Pit going and convinced Portland to burn another timeout. Fenton came out of the Lobo huddle and made it 47-31 with his free shot. At the 11:30 break, UNM was still up by 16 -- 52-36. UNM was shooting 72.7 percent (8-11) and Portland was at 27.3 percent (3-11).

The Pilots cut UNM's lead to 55-44, but UNM drifted up 61-46 at the 7:17 mark and were never threatened down the stretch run and pulled in for the 15-point win.

First Half: New Mexico Lobos 30, Portland Pilots 27

The Lobos nailed only eight field goals in the first half, shot 24.2 percent from the floor, but still carried a three-point lead into the half. Portland made nine shots, but UNM had a four-point edge at the free-throw line.

It was not a good half for the long ball as UNM went 1-of-12 (8.3 percent) and Portland went 0-of-8 from behind the line. UNM won the board battle 25-19.

The Lobos were led by Fenton, who got the start ahead of Williams, and finished the half with eight points. Kirk had six points and six boards. Portland got 11 points from Kevin Bailey, who went 7-of-8 from the line. The Pilots had 12 fouls to six for the home team.

The Lobos jumped up 6-l, but Portland hung around, down 16-13 at the 11:51 break. At the 9:44 mark, Portland had 10 team fouls and UNM was shooting the double bonus. Bairstow made the first two to give UNM a 20-13 lead. At the 7:42 mark, UNM carried a 22-15 lead into the huddle off a Williams-to-Kirk dunk.

The Pilots scored four points quickly with a UNM turnover leading to a dunk and a 22-19 count. Coach Alford called time at the 7:22 mark. UNM came out of that huddle, passed up a few looks, and lost possession on a shot-clock violation. At the 3:42 break, a Walker jumper had the Lobos up 27-23. UNM was shooting 26.9 percent at that point; Portland 29.2 percent.

A Fenton trey pushed UNM to 30-25, but a Fenton turnover led to a Portland layup which held for the 30-27 halftime score.