ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – UNM head coach Steve Alford has decided to put 7-foot sophomore center Alex Kirk in the starting lineup over Cameron Bairstow for his team’s Sunday night game against George Mason in the Paradise Jam tournament.
Kirk was key down the stretch of the Lobos’ 66-59 win over Illinois-Chicago on Friday, scoring seven points and grabbing four rebounds, including two offensive boards, in the final 2:58 of the game.
“We’re doing this not as a negative to Cam,” Alford said. “He’s playing real well. But we need to find the combinations at the starts of games to prevent slow starts. And Alex is a guy who was in the (starting) lineup before his injury and now we feel he’s getting back to that level and we’ll start off with him.”
Bairstow, the 6-9 junior forward who started the first two games, had fouled out with 5:21 left in the game. Bairstow finished Friday’s game with three points, no rebounds, five fouls and two turnovers.
After a tremendous Lobo Howl and pair of exhibition games, Bairstow has seen his production come back to earth in UNM’s two regular season games, where he’s averaging just six points and two rebounds.
Kirk, who missed last season after back surgery, is averaging 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this season.