Stevens: Lobos Go Big For Big 76-58 Pit Win Over Mercer

Nov. 28, 2012

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New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit

Wednesday: New Mexico Lobos 76, Mercer 58
Saturday: Lobos at Indiana State

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

It was really worse - and easier - than the 76-58 score suggests. Maybe these undefeated 7-0 Steve Alford Lobos like being ranked.

Maybe they like playing "big," too.

"I really like the fight I'm seeing out of my two centers," said Alford after New Mexico's win over Mercer Wednesday night in The Pit.

"We are getting a lot of good production out of those two bigs. They just continue to get better. They (Mercer) tried going at us early (inside) and I thought our guys did a tremendous job."

The Lobos threw out a blue-collar first half to go up by nine and then looked a lot like a Top 25 team in smoothly pulling away for an 18-point win. However, UNM was up by 30 with 1:25 to play. Weber closed with a 15-3 run to gain a little respectability on the board.

"This game was arguably 25 or 30 (point win)," said Alford. Yeah, it was. The bottom of the Lobo bench did not play well - the 7-foot Alex Kirk and the 6-9 Cameron Bairstow did play well.

Those twin towers combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds. Kirk scored 16 and ruled the glass with 13 boards. Bairstow also pointed 16 and hauled down five.

"We basically feed off (the guards)," said Bairstow. "They make our jobs so easy."

Snell was the only perimeter Lobo to reach double figures with 13. He went 3-of-7 from 3-point range. The Lobos carried national ranking of 23 and 25 into the game and played up to those rankings, especially in the second half when they ran away from the Bears of Macon, Ga.

"It's great to be ranked," said Snell. "Everybody wasn't to be ranked. We just have to go out there and play hard and try to prove ourselves every game."

Said Bairstow: "We have a lot of areas to improve on, which is a good thing."

The Lobos had a few areas to improve on after the first half and did exactly that. They led by nine at the half and powered - and ran - into a 30-point lead.

UNM shot 45 percent for the game and 51.6 percent in the Lobos' dominating second half. UNM went 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) from long range and 17-of-26 from the line. Mercer got 16 points from Travis Smith and shot 37.9 percent. UNM won the board battle by 10, 43-33.

"I thought our guys did a lot of really good things today," said Alford. "I thought we took them out of a lot of things they wanted to do. I thought we did a really good job defensively and in the second half that got our offense going."

Kendall Williams scored only two points and did not make a free throw. He had six assists. Greenwood scored seven and had eight boards. Snell also had five assists.

"We have a deep team and we have a very deep guard team," said Alford. "You aren't going to have all of them playing at a high level every night. Kendall defended like crazy.

"I like our defense. We are making things difficult on opponents and taking away things that they want to do."

Second Half: New Mexico 45, Mercer 36

The Lobos come out of the locker room up by nine and at the first media break at 15:52 the score was 37-27 in UNM's favor. The Lobos had pushed forward by a point. Kirk swished an 18-footer to provide UNM with that 37-27 bulge. At the 13:51 break, the Lobos were up 37-29.

A Mercer trey cut UNM's lead to 41-34 before Bairstow found Kirk underneath for a bucket plus one: 44-34. At the 11:38 media break, UNM was up 44-36. Both teams had warmed up a bit in shooting. UNM was at 54.5 percent (6-11) and Mercer was 45.5 (5-11) percent. UNM had extended its board margin, 30-23.

Mercer pulled to 44-38 and had a chance to cut UNM's lead to four, but a turnover led to Walker scoring on an acrobatic drive and adding a free throw: 47-38. UNM got a stop and Nick Banyard hit an 18-footer: 49-38. The Lobos were up by 11.

Mercer came back to 49-41 before Kirk scored inside: 51-41; back to ten. Snell coast-to-coast: 53-41. UNM got another defensive stop which led to a transition bucket by Chad Adams. That cozy 55-41 Lobo lead convinced Mercer to burn a timeout At the 7:03 break, UNM was still up 55-41. The Lobos had bumped their shooting percentage to 52.4 percent while Mercer dipped to 31.6 percent. The Lobos - and The Pit - appeared to be wearing down these Bears from Georgia.

The Bears needed a second wind and a run or the Lobos were going to push them into an early hibernation. The Bears didn't get either. At 5:43, UNM went up 59-41 - 18 points to guard down the stretch. Kirk made it 61-41 with a nice post move gliding into a left-handed layup. He added a free throw: 62-41 - game pretty much over.

Mercer did throw out a 15-3 run in the final 1:25 to make their gap look better, but UNM basically cruised in for the comfortable win.

First Half: New Mexico 31, Mercer 22

The Lobos got a big game inside from 6-9 Bairstow who scored 10 points. His paint partner, 6-10 Kirk, hauled down six boards as UNM won the glass, 23-19. The Lobos shot 37.9 percent to 32.1 percent for Mercer. Travis Smith scored 10 for the Bears, but no other Bear scored more than four points.

UNM went 3-of-12 from the 3-point line and Mercer was 2-of-8 - both 25 percent marks. UNM again held an edge at the free-throw line going 6-of-10 to 2-of-7 for Mercer