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Lobos beat Aggies, continue rivalry domination

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New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow jams the basketball during Wednesday night’s game in the Pan American Center. Bairstow scored 20 points to help the Lobos win. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow jams the basketball during Wednesday night’s game in the Pan American Center. Bairstow scored 20 points to help the Lobos win. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

LAS CRUCES — New coach, same result for the New Mexico Lobos in the Rio Grande Rivalry.

In his first crack as head coach in the heated rivalry, Craig Neal on Wednesday led his Lobos to a rather composed, comfortable 79-70 win over the New Mexico State Aggies in front of a hostile 9,184 fans in the Pan American Center.

And the script was much the same as it’s been since he and his predecessor arrived in Albuquerque in 2007, the same season as Marvin Menzies and crew arrived in Las Cruces. The Lobos have monopolized the rivalry to the tune of 11 wins and two losses in the past 13 games.

“I think it’s always competitive just because it’s so heated and there is a rivalry between us,” said UNM senior forward Cameron Bairstow, who scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “But the difference so far has been we’ve really been able to execute our stuff and stay composed.”

NMSU (7-3), meanwhile, did not. Despite playing on their home court, the Aggies were the ones who seemed to get rattled throughout the night, often shooting themselves in the foot with untimely fouls or turnovers just when it would otherwise appear they were making a run at closing the gap on the Lobos (6-1).

“We’ve been able to execute and I think that’s been the difference in every game we’ve played,” UNM senior guard Kendall Williams said after his game-high 24 points, including hitting 12 free throws.

The Aggies took a 13-12 lead with 13:50 to go in the first half when Lobos junior center Alex Kirk picked up his second foul, sending the team’s leading scorer to the bench for the rest of the half.

But instead of capitalizing on Kirk’s absence, the Aggies’ usually stingy defense vanished. While NMSU focused on Bairstow, and with UNM 7-foot-1 freshman center Obij Aget holding his own against NMSU’s 7-5 Sim Bhullar and 6-10 Tshilidzi Nephawe, Lobo guards got hot from the outside.

Hugh Greenwood hit a 3-pointer with 12:20 left. Williams was fouled on a 3-pointer (and hit all three free throws) with 11:12 remaining. And freshman Cullen Neal, with chants of “Daddy’s Boy! Daddy’s Boy!” pouring down on him from the Aggie student section, hit a 3-pointer with 10:39 left, extending UNM’s lead to 24-16. The lead was 39-29 by halftime.

Kendall Williams reacts after dunking for two of his 24 points against New Mexico State on Wednesday night. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Kendall Williams reacts after dunking for two of his 24 points against New Mexico State on Wednesday night. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“I was a little concerned about our guys coming in here because it’s not an easy place to play,” Craig Neal said. “… I was really glad to see our bench and our young guys come in here and play with some composure.”

UNM’s bench, after scoring zero points in Saturday’s win over San Diego, scored 12 on Wednesday. More importantly, it allowed UNM to stay in its comfort zone on both ends of the court despite Kirk’s foul trouble.

The Lobos’ efficient first half saw 10 assists on 14 baskets and just four turnovers. NMSU, meanwhile, assisted on just two of nine baskets in the first half and had nine turnovers.

“We have to do a better job, especially taking care of the ball,” said NMSU junior guard Daniel Mullings, who scored a team-high 16 points but also had five turnovers.

Mullings scored eight of the Aggies’ first 10 points out of halftime to cut the Lobo lead to 43-39 with 16:48 remaining. But another Greenwood triple with 16:01 left ended that scoring run and put the Lobos up 46-39.

And so it went. With every Aggie run, the Lobos answered.

“There’s two good teams going at it and we’ve just been fortunate to be on the other side,” Craig Neal said. “… I’m just really proud of my guys tonight.”

UNM held NMSU to 38.7 percent shooting, including holding the Aggies to just 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) 3-point shooting. The Lobos shot 43.1 percent from field and 6-of-12 from 3-point range.

No other Lobo scored in double figures after Williams and Bairstow. All 10 Lobos who played had at least one rebound. (NMSU outrebounded UNM 37-36.)

NMSU got 16 points from Mullings and 15 off the bench from Renaldo Dixon. Bhullar had 10 rebounds but just five points.

LOBO LINKS: Geoff Grammer’s blog | Schedule/Results | Roster


NEW MEXICO 79, NEW MEXICO ST. 70
NEW MEXICO
FG    FT    Reb
Min    M-A    M-A    O-T    A    PF    PTS
Bairstow    36    7-19    6-6    3-8    1    1    20
Kirk    23    3-9    3-6    1-5    1    3    9
Thomas    20    1-1    5-7    1-3    1    1    8
Greenwood    32    2-3    0-0    2-5    4    3    6
K Williams    35    5-9    12-15    1-3    4    1    24
Edwards    12    1-3    0-0    1-2    0    2    2
Aget    8    0-1    0-0    0-3    1    3    0
Neal    16    1-3    3-3    0-1    1    1    6
Banyard    13    1-2    0-0    1-3    0    0    2
Delaney    5    1-1    0-0    0-1    0    0    2
Totals    200    22-51    29-37    12-36    13    15    79
Percentages: FG .431, FT .784.
3-Point Goals: 6-12, .500 (K. Williams 2-3, Greenwood 2-3, Thomas 1-1,  Neal 1-2, Kirk 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 6 (Bairstow 2, Kirk 2, Greenwood, Aget).
Turnovers: 13 (Bairstow 3, Edwards 2, K. Williams 2, Neal 2, Thomas 2,  Kirk, Greenwood).
Steals: 3 (Thomas 2, Edwards).
Technical Fouls: None.
NEW MEXICO ST.
FG    FT    Reb
Min    M-A    M-A    O-T    A    PF    PTS
S Bhullar    27    2-8    1-2    6-10    1    1    5
Nephawe    22    2-8    3-4    0-3    0    2    7
Eldridge    31    2-7    2-2    2-6    1    4    7
Ross-Miller    25    3-8    2-2    0-2    2    4    9
Mullings    35    7-13    2-2    2-6    1    5    16
Landry    13    2-2    0-0    0-3    0    1    5
Aronis    16    1-5    3-3    0-0    0    2    6
Buovac    2    0-0    0-0    0-0    0    0    0
Dixon    29    5-11    5-5    4-6    0    2    15
Totals    200    24-62    18-20    15-37    5    21    70
Percentages: FG .387, FT .900.
3-Point Goals: 4-19, .211 (Landry 1-1, Eldridge 1-3, Ross-Miller 1-5,  Aronis 1-5, Dixon 0-2, Mullings 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 1.
Blocked Shots: 3 (S. Bhullar 3).
Turnovers: 14 (Mullings 5, Nephawe 2, Ross-Miller 2, Dixon, Eldridge,  S. Bhullar, Aronis, Landry).
Steals: 2 (Mullings, Ross-Miller).
Technical Fouls: Bench.
New Mexico    39  40—79
New Mexico St.    29  41—70
A—9,184.

 

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