ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Embarrassed.
That was the word Craig Neal used more than once in talking with media after his No. 22 New Mexico Lobos beat up on visiting Charleston Southern 109-93 on Sunday afternoon in front of 14,146 fans in the Pit.
No, he wasn’t upset about his team’s offense. How could he be? UNM scored 109 points thanks to three players going off for 20 or more points, including a career-high 29 from forward Cameron Bairstow in just 28 minutes.
And Neal wasn’t upset with the final outcome as his team improved to 2-0. But he was upset.
“I’ll start off with a win’s a win,” an obviously agitated Neal said after addressing his team in the locker room. “I’m not real happy. As a matter of fact I’m a little bit embarrassed with the way we guarded in the second half.”
Instead of keeping the foot on the gas to close the game, the Lobos relaxed. They held a 52-36 lead at halftime and then used a 16-0 run capped by a Hugh Greenwood layup with 12:49 remaining in the game to push the lead to 82-51.
Charleston Southern (2-2), led by 5-foot-8 point guard Saah Nimley, kept coming, whittling away at the lead by charging right at UNM defenders and draining 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
The Buccaneers hit 15-of-34 3-pointers (44.1 percent) and 22-of-24 free throws (91.7 percent). And while they never really threatened to regain the lead, they did enough to get under the skin of the Lobos.
After a series of back and forth turnovers and fouls called between UNM’s Cullen Neal and Nimley, Craig Neal pulled his freshman son as a cascade of boos aimed at the officials poured down on the court.
“In the second half, I thought our guys got really lackadaisical and then they just kept putting the little guy on the line,” the coach said.
Nimley scored 16 of his team-high 24 in the second half and made a living at the free throw line with 15-of-17 shooting. Sheldon Strickland and Paul Gombwer had 17 apiece and combined for eight 3-pointers.
“It’s a lack of focus,” Bairstow said. “When you’re up 30 on a team, it is hard to keep that killer mindset. … It was definitely on us to stay in tune with the game.”
But make no mistake, the Lobos were in complete control throughout and Bairstow was a big reason why. By halftime the 6-9 power forward had 21 points and his 29 at game’s end marked the second-straight week he set a new career scoring mark (he scored 22 on Nov. 9 against Alabama A&M).
“My teammates were finding me in good places today and I took those shots and I was able to make them today,” Bairstow said.
His teammate in the post Alex Kirk, the 7-footer from Los Alamos, had his second-straight double-double with 24 points, 13 rebounds and he added five blocked shots.
Kendall Williams added the team’s second double-double with 20 points and 10 assists, doing his scoring primarily from the free throw line. Williams was just 3-of-4 from the field but sank his first 13 free throws to pile on the points.
Cullen Neal (11 points) and Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas (10) made it five Lobos to score in double figures. UNM had 25 assists on 34 made baskets.
UNM shot 59.6 percent (34-of-57) from the field and 74.4 percent (32-of-43) from the foul line. The Lobos also out-rebounded the Buccaneers 38-22.
INJURY UPDATE: Freshman forward Tim Myles, who played four minutes in last week’s opener against Alabama A&M, did not suit up on Sunday due to a shoulder injury sustained in Saturday’s Lobo practice.
“He’s got a bad shoulder,” Craig Neal said. “He probably says he could play, but there’s no use to suiting him up if he’s not 100 percent.”
The injury shouldn’t prevent Myles from playing in this week’s Charleston Classic tournament in Charleston, S.C.
CENTURY MARK: The last 100 point game for UNM was a 102-62 win over Cal. State Bakersfield on Jan. 5, 2011, the only 100 point game in the past four seasons.
Charleston Southern at New Mexico
Charleston Southern - 93
109 - New Mexico
4:04 PM, November 17, 2013
Where: The Pit/Bob King Court
Officials: David Hall, Mark Whitehead, Rick Randall
|BERNARD, Malcolm, F||9||0-2||0-2||0-0||0||1||0||1||0||0||4||0|
|STRICKLAND, Sheldon, G||24||5-10||5-9||2-2||0||1||2||0||0||2||1||17|
|KENNEDY, Matt, G||29||4-9||2-4||1-1||0||1||2||0||0||0||2||11|
|GOMBWER, Paul, F||28||6-8||3-4||2-2||0||5||0||0||1||2||3||17|
|FULLAH, Alhaji, F||16||2-2||0-0||0-0||0||1||0||0||0||0||2||4|
|47%||44%||91%||REB: 22||TF: 0|
|THOMAS, Cleveland, G||16||4-6||2-2||0-0||1||3||1||0||0||0||0||10|
|GREENWOOD, Hugh, G||19||3-5||1-3||0-0||1||2||2||1||0||0||2||7|
|WILLIAMS, Kendall, G||31||3-4||1-2||13-14||0||2||10||3||1||2||3||20|
|BAIRSTOW, Cameron, F||28||9-13||0-1||11-16||3||2||2||1||0||2||2||29|
|KIRK, Alex, C||29||9-13||1-2||5-7||4||9||1||1||5||1||2||24|
|59%||50%||74%||REB: 38||TF: 0|