CHARLESTON, S.C. – After Sunday’s win over Davidson in the third place game of the Charleston Classic, New Mexico senior forward Cameron Bairstow was stopped in the hallway of TD Arena after a postgame media session.
Davidson coach Bob McKillop, who coached Team USA this past summer in the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, complimented Bairstow on his game against the Wildcats and told the 6-foot-9 Lobo should have played for the Australian team in the same tournament.
“I did,” Bairstow said, looking a bit perplexed. “I was there.”
The fact of the matter is McKillop remembers all too well and Sunday only brought back painful memories.
“I was just joking with him,” McKillop said. “Australia beat the U.S. and their team was sensational so I asked him how come he didn’t play for Australia. I was just joking with him.”
Bairstow helped lead Team Australia to a silver medal at the World University Games and in a win over Team USA, which finished ninth in the tournament, he scored 22 points to go along with nine rebounds and five steals. Sunday in a blowout win over Davidson, Bairstow scored a team-high 18 points thanks in large part to going 10-of-11 at the free throw line. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists.
That makes two times Bairstow bested McKillop. One major difference between the two, however, was Bairstow’s Lobo teammate Alex Kirk actually saw the floor this time.
In Russia, Kirk, who was on Team USA, didn’t see the floor in that game versus Australia despite Bairstow having his way in the paint.
Kirk has maintained he has no hard feelings toward McKillop, saying instead that Michigan coach John Beilein was in charge of the rotation patterns. On Sunday, McKillop may have wished Beilein was in Charleston working on the Lobos’ substitution pattern. Instead, Kirk had 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots, including setting the tone early by scoring nine of the first 13 Lobos points en route to a first half stat line of 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
It was clear McKillop was very high on both World University Games veterans.
“I think Craig has done a great job at using Cameron as sort of a tag team so that if you do beat Alex on a ball screen, then you’ve got to deal with Cameron inside,” said McKillop.
KING KIRK: Not only did Kirk earn a spot on the all-tournament team for the Charleston Classic, but on Monday he was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time in his career.
In the tournament he averaged 21.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots while logging 119 of a possible 130 minutes in UNM’s three games, including playing 44 in a double overtime win over Alabama-Birmingham.
His 32 points in UNM’s loss to Massachusetts was a career high.
POLL UPDATE: The loss to UMass was enough to have the Lobos dropped from both national polls released Monday. UNM was ranked No. 19 in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 and No. 20 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
UMass, meanwhile, broke into the AP poll at No. 24.
UNM appears in the “others receiving votes” category of both polls with 82 points in the AP poll, placing them one spot out of the rankings, and 56 points in the coaches poll, two spots from the Top 25.
Boise State is the only other MWC team receiving votes in either poll. New Mexico State cracked into the “others receiving votes” category of the coaches poll with seven points.
The Lobos appeared on 21 of the 65 AP ballots with a high ranking in that poll of No. 16 by John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald. Werner actually moved the Lobos up from No. 17 last week on his ballot. Werner covers the Baylor Bears, who last week narrowly escaped an upset loss to Charleston Southern, 69-64, just three days after the Lobos easily beat Charleston Southern 109-93.
CHARLESTON BLOCK PARTY: UNM had 26 blocked shots in three games last week at the Charleston Classic. The Lobos have 40 blocks through five games this season, an average of eight per game.
If they kept that pace, they would have 240 through their regular season finale March 8 at San Diego State, not counting any games played in the Mountain West tournament or any other postseason tournament. The school record for blocks in a season is 182 set in the 1976-77 season.