New Mexico (6-1) plays host to the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats (7-0) Saturday afternoon at 2:05 p.m. MT. This the first road game for the Bearcats, and boy, what a way to begin. The Pit is "a mile hill and louder than..." Cincinnati lies roughly at 500ft above sea level. So altitude and atmosphere will have a huge impact.
Besides that, the Bearcats will have revenge on their mind. This only the second meeting between these two teams, but last year the Lobos marched into then-ranked #8 Cincinnati's home court and handed them their first loss, 55-54. Down by one point with 4.5 seconds left in the game, UC's Sean Kilpatrick attempted a three-pointer from the right wing that was blocked by New Mexico center Alex Kirk.
The Cats are lead by 6-4 guard Sean Kilpatrick, averaging 19.7 points per game, including 3.3 three pointers per game (he hit six in the Cat's last game). Kilpatrick and New Mexico's Alex Kirk were teammates this summer for USA Basketball at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
Ge'Lawn Guyn helps out Kilpatrick with a 7.3 ppg average. Guyn is averaging 11.0 points while shooting 58.8 percent from the field during the last three games, including a career high 15 points against USC Upstate. The 6-8 Justin Jackson (10.7 ppg & 6.7 rpg), the 6-7 Titus Rubles (11.1 ppg & 6.3 rpg) and the 6-7 Shaquille Thomas (6.9 ppg & 3.4 rpg) take care of business in the frontcourt.
Kendall Williams has been masterful thus far, scoring 20.4 points per game. He is shooting 50 percent from the field (35 of 70) and 48.1 percent from beyond the arc (13 of 27). He also averages 6.0 assists. Double-double machine Alex Kirk is next, with 19.1 points, 11 boards and 3.7 blocks per game. Forward Cameron Bairstow also averages 19.1 points and is second on the squad in rebounding at 6.3 per game. Williams, Kirk and Bairstow are averaging a combined 58.7 pts, 51.8% FG, 78.4% FT and more than 23 FTAs/game. That's more total points than three other D1 schools.
Cincinnati head coach, Mick Cronin, took his team to Albuquerque a day early to practice at altitude. When asked about the game, he says that tempo of the game is going to be the biggest factor. Cronin admitted Kirk and Baistow have a size advantage over his team, but feels that his bench depth can make the difference.
This is big game for both teams. Indeed, a top-25 spot could be on the line. Both teams are currently receiving votes and win either well would surely earn more votes. The Lobos would especially like to take this one, after all, it is at home. After this game the Lobos go on the road to play #6 Kansas (in Kansas City), Marquette (in Las Vegas) and then NMSU in Las Cruces. The Lobos spoiled Cincinnati's undefeated status last year, let's see if they can do it again this year.