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6-0 Lobos enter AP, Coaches polls

The New Mexico Lobos entered the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls for the first time this season after claiming the Paradise Jam championship and winning a pair of games at home over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Demetrius Walker of the New Mexico Lobos
Demetrius Walker of the New Mexico Lobos
Jonathan Ferrey

The New Mexico Lobos continued to find ways to win over the Thanksgiving weekend running their record up to 6-0 with a 73-58 win over the visiting Idaho Vandals Friday night and a 69-54 win over the Portland Pilots Sunday night in The Pit.

Monday morning UNM was rewarded for its winning ways as well as its resilient performance at the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands with rankings in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.

The 6-0 Lobos moved into the Top 25 of both polls for the first season, earning a 25th place in the AP poll with 141 votes and 23rd in the Coaches poll.

New Mexico moving back into the Top 25 gives the Mountain West Conference three teams in the Top 25 as the San Diego State Aztecs and UNLV Runnin' Rebels remained in both Top 25 lists.

The Aztecs (4-1) moved up to 21st and 23rd respectively in the AP and Coaches polls, up from 25th in both polls. UNLV (3-1) fell to 20th in the Coaches poll and 24th in the AP poll after losing to Oregon Friday night. The Rebels were ranked 18th in both polls last week.

The MWC’s Colorado State Rams (3-1) picked up 1 vote in both the AP and Coaches poll. The Connecticut Huskies (4-1), who UNM beat for the Paradise Jam championship were ranked 28th in the Coaches poll and 29th in the AP poll unofficially.

Future New Mexico opponent the Cincinnati Bearcats (6-0) moved up to 16th in the Coaches poll and 17th in the AP poll.

New Mexico plays the Mercer Bears (3-3) Wednesday night in The Pit then travels to play Indiana State Sycamores (4-1) as part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge.

NEW MEXICO 73, IDAHO 58: Junior guard Demetrius Walker scored eight straight points to help the Lobos take the lead as UNM turned away the Vandals, who challenged throughout the first half and actually led 42-36 before Walker helped lead the Lobos to victory.

Walker was 5 of 5 on three pointers in scoring a team high19 points. Alex Kirk added 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. UNM was down 49-46 with 14:14 left in the game when UNM engineered a 19-0 run that saw the Vandals go on nearly a nine minute scoring drought that saw Idaho miss 12 shots and commit six turnovers.

Connor Hill scored a game-high 20 points and Kyle Barone added 16 points for Idaho (1-3). Junior Kendall Williams added 10 points and seven assists and senior Chad Adams added nine points and five rebounds in his first start of the season.

UNM shot a smoking 12 of 21 (57.1%) in the second half, finishing 24 of 47 (51.1%) for the game. The Lobos also shot 50% from behind the arc, going 10 of 20 but shot a season-low 22 free throws, hitting 15 (68.2%). Idaho edged out UNM on rebounds 30-29. New Mexico committed just eight personal fouls, a record low in the Steve Alford era.

NEW MEXICO 69, PORTLAND 54: Sophomore post Alex Kirk recorded a double-double as UNM pulled away from the Pilots in the second half to claim its fifth win in a row.

Kirk scored 14 points and pulled in 11 rebounds while senior guard Jamal Fenton use his first start of the season to score 12 points. New Mexico led 30-27 at halftime but used a 10-0 run to start the second half and extended the lead out to 40-27 before Portland (2-3) found any kind of rhythm.

Kevin Bailey and Korey Thieleke each scored 11 points to pace the Pilots. Bailey fouled out with 11 minutes left in the contest as UNM again scored a large portion of its points from the free throw line, finishing 29 of 38 from the line.

Sophomore Hugh Greenwood added 10 points and six rebounds while juniors Kendall Williams and Cameron Bairstow both added nine points. Bairstowjust missed a double-double, grabbing 11 rebounds.

The two teams combined to shoot just 3 of 29 on three pointers. The Lobos outrebounded Portland 44 to 35. UNM shot 19 of 57 (33.3%) for the game while the Pilots shot 18 of 56 (32.1%)