Craig Neal earned his first win as head coach as the Lobos trounced the Alabama A&M Bulldogs 88-52. "It was a big night for me," said Neal. The Lobos jumped out to an early 21-3 lead and never looked back. "I thought our veteran guys really led our younger guys in that was one of the best stars we've had here in a long time," said Neal. "We imposed our will on them. I'm really proud of our guys. Yeah, I was nervous. This one counted."
The Lobos had four players in double figures, led by Cameron Bairstow's ultra efficient 22 points on 9-10 shooting, 11 rebounds, and one block. Kendall Williams added 17 points, seven assists, one steal, and committed zero turnovers. New Mexico native Alex Kirk chipped in 16 points, two boards, and two blocks. Cullen Neal, Neal's son, had an impressive debut contributing 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists, but turned the ball over four times.
The Lobos played with more zest and speed than in years past. "I thought the guys played with a tempo that we wanted to see and I think we saw a team that plays together and sacrifices for each other and plays to a high level," Neal said.
The game might have been even faster if the game had been closer. "I think we could have made it a little faster," said Neal. "When you are up a certain number, well, we could have pressed a lot more in the second half. We pushed the tempo in the first half, but once we got to a certain number, I didn't see any reason to keep pushing it."
The Lobos shot 58.5 percent from the field and limited the Bulldogs to 26.8 percent. "I think we also played very good defense," he said. "That's one thing we're going to continue to do. And I thought everybody played really hard. Everybody that got in the game played really hard."
With a bit of a cushion, Neal substituted 14 Lobos with nine reaching double digit figures in minutes. The Lobo bench scored 26 points. "Those guys [subs] are going to play hard because minutes are up for grabs," said Neal. Nick Banyard scored four points and newcomers, Arthur Edwards and Deshawn Delaney, also scored four points.
Jeremy Crutcher paced the Bulldogs with 17 points, but no other teammate scored in double digits. "They're a good team," Bulldogs coach Willie Hayes said of New Mexico. "They have size. They shoot the ball." Although the Bulldogs didn't up much resistance, Hayes said it's a game that will be beneficial.
New Mexico starters Cleveland Thomas and Hugh Greenwood had a quiet game. Thomas had two points and Greenwood scored five points and dished out four assists. Expect these two players to have a more important role moving forward.
The Lobos have seven days to prepare for their next game against Charleston Southern (1-0) who put up 130 points in their first game. Charleston plays two more games before traveling to Albuquerque to face the Lobos on November 17 at 12:00 PM MT.