New Mexico's two big men Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk have not alway been on the same page for each having a big game at the same time, but Saturday against the Nevada the pair put together an excellent showing. Bairstow had a double-double with 24 points and nine rebounds, while Kirk had 29 points, four blocks and five assists in the Lobos 90-72 win over Nevada.
The win for New Mexico puts them firmly in second place with a 10-2 league record and two games ahead of UNLV who is at 8-4; while Nevada dips to 7-6 and is in fifth place. The Wolf Pack are now in a tight race and are just 1.5 games out of third place and also the same distance from eighth place.
The big news of the game was the combined effort between Kirk and Bairstow, the duo completed 20 of 30 from the field and made all 12 of their free throw attempts.
"I thought my big men tonight were as dominant as I've ever seen them," Lobos head coach Craig Neal said after the game. "They're pretty dang good."
Yes, that pair is "pretty dang good," and they could make for a difficult opponent once they finally play San Diego State on Feb. 22, and any team they face in the NCAA tournament.
Nevada had no real answer for either big man Saturday afternoon, an they all knew it.
"Those guys are big down there," Nevada forward Cole Huff said. "They're definitely one of the toughest (offenses Nevada has face in the Mountain West this year). Hats off to them. They had mismatches down there and we couldn't stop it."
This new found success could help bring New Mexico to bigger and better things as the season progresses. Against Boise State, the duo was getting smothered and had a rough night on offensive end of the game. Nevada did not pressure, double or trap Bairstow and Kirk all that much on Saturday, allowing the duo to have a good game.
Nevada did not play all that poorly against New Mexico on offense as the Wolf Pack had three players in double figures with Michael Perez and Cole Huff each had 18, while Deonte Burton was held to just 12 points. The Wolf Pack shot particularly well from beyond the arc by making 11 of 21, but part of that was due to trailing in the second half. The area on offense Nevada struggled was not being aggressive enough to get to the foul line. San Diego State made 19 of 21 while Nevada was only 7 of 12.
Shooting inside the three-point line was an issue for Nevada, too. Take away their 11 of 21 from beyond the arc and inside the Wolf Pack made only 16 of 42 for 38 percent on shots inside the three-point line.
Poor shooting and poor inside defense for Nevada was a key reason they lost. Now if they want to avoid facing New Mexico or San Diego State early on in the Mountain West tournament they will need to move up a spot or two in the standings.
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