THURSDAY, July 11 — The battle of Lobo big men never happened.
University of New Mexico power forward Cameron Bairstow scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds while leading Team Australia to a 93-84 win over Team USA on Thursday in the World University Games taking place in Kazan, Russia.
Bairstow, the 6-9 UNM senior, also had five assists in the game and shot 11 of 18 from the field.
Bairstow’s Lobo teammate, 7-foot center Alex Kirk who goes up against Bairstow daily in practice at UNM, did not play for Team USA.
It didn’t stop him from enjoying seeing his friend have such an explosive game.
“It’s obviously definitely a rivalry from practice,” Kirk said of his relationship with Bairstow. “We both know exactly what each other can do and watching him play, it was cool to see that he’s having success at these levels. Hopefully how we pushed each other back home helped him improve. …
“He had a great game. They played great.”
Kirk also said the experience playing for his country and the trip in Russia has been an invaluable experience.
Australia closed out the game outscoring Team USA 34-20 in the fourth quarter.
They out-rebounded Team USA and outscored them in the paint, making the decision not to play the 7-foot center from Los Alamos all the more perplexing since he leads Team USA in both rebounds per minutes played and blocks per minutes played so far in the tournament.
After the game, Team USA assistant coach and South Carolina head coach Frank Martin was asked about Kirk. He said his size is a big asset to the team, but did not comment on the Australia game specifically.
“He’s been great,” Martin said of Kirk. “He gives us some size on the front. He gives us some body weight. Something that’s very important. We’ve got some long, lean athletes, so when we play certain kinds of teams, Alex gives us more of a big strong body to give us a better match up against some other teams.”
Kirk took to Twitter after the game to congratulate Bairstow and to tell Lobos fans he is not injured. Lobos fans on Twitter, meanwhile, were upset with his lack of playing time and many took to using the hashtage “#FreeKirk” along with many of their angry tweets.
Bairstow’s 22-point game isn’t the first time a current Lobo has had an offensive outburst in international play versus Team USA. In the 2011 FIBA Under 19 World Championship, Lobo junior Hugh Greenwood scored 26 points against Team USA.
Doug McDermott, meanwhile, led Team USA with 22 points.
In other Group C action, New Mexico State University rising junior guard had 15 points in Canada’s 87-56 win Thursday over the Czech Republic.
Heading into Friday’s final day of Group C play, Canada is 4-0 and USA and Australia is 3-1. Just the top two teams will advance from Group C, meaning if Team USA beats Canada, and Australia knocks of winless United Arab Emirates, the three teams with players holding New Mexico university connections will be tied at 4-1.
If that happens, the first tie breaker is point differential among the tied teams. Austrialia lost to Canada by 9 and beat USA by 9 so they are locked in at a scoring margin of zero. Canada enters Friday at plus-9 and USA at minus-9, meaning Team USA not only has to win, but do so by at least 10 points to advance