This role fits Demetrius Walker much better.
Through the early stages of the year, the UNM men’s basketball team has tried to use a four-guard set. That meant Walker, a junior guard, started in different position: power forward. He had 11 turnovers in four games.
For Friday night’s game against Idaho, Lobo head coach Steve Alford put Walker in the role he had last year, coming off the bench as a guard. It made a difference.
In 23 minutes off the bench, Walker netted 19 points in UNM’s 73-58 victory over Idaho. He was a perfect 5 of 5 from 3-point range and hit 4 of 5 from the free-throw line. He missed just two shots from the floor.
Coming off the bench “actually felt more relaxing. It’s something I’m really comfortable win,” said Walker, who matched his career-high in scoring. “I spent all last season coming off the bench, so it’s something I pretty much got used to.”
Sophomore center Alex Kirk and junior guard Kendall Williams, both starters, joined Walker in double-figure scoring. Kirk had 11 points and Williams had 10.
Walker’s production led a 34-point effort from UNM’s bench. Clearly, it wasn’t all Walker. Junior forward Cameron Bairstow scored eight points and senior guard Jamal Fenton added six points. Both players played 16 minutes each.
“Both Jamal and Cam gave us a big lift off the bench. Obviously Demetrius did,” Alford said. “I really like what Jamal did in the form of leadership. His leadership was outstanding.”
UNM dealt with some lulls at times in the game. The Lobos held a 36-28 lead after a 9-0 run late in the first half, but Idaho closed out the half with eight straight points to tie the game. That run continued into the second half with six straight points coming out of the locker room.
Less than five minutes into the half, the Vandals held a 47-41 lead and the Lobos responded. UNM went on a 23-2 run over nine minutes to take a commanding 65-49 lead.
“That first home game is always going to be tough and we came out a little sluggish and they came out harder and more physical,” Kirk said. “Obviously, we had to adjust to that and I thought that we did. We came out harder in the second half after we came together as a team.”
UNM hit 24 of 47 field-goal attempts (51.1 percent) and 10 of 20 from 3-point range (50 percent). The Lobos were 15 of 22 on foul shots (68.2 percent).
Idaho was 24 of 56 from the field (41.1 percent), 8 of 24 from the arc (33.3 percent) and 4 of 8 from the foul line (50 percent). Sophomore guard Connor Hill scored 20 points for the Vandals, while senior center Kyle Barone had 16 points.
Friday’s game kicked off a three-game home stand for UNM. They return to action 6 p.m. Sunday against Portland and 7 p.m. Tuesday against Mercer.
The UNM women haven’t seen a start like this in a while.
With a 5-0 record, the Lobos are off to their best start since 1996-97 when they went 9-0. The hit win No. 5 of 2012-13 on Friday with an 81-59 win over North Texas 81-59 in the Thanksgiving Tournament.
The win puts UNM in today’s championship game against No. 9 Georgia. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at The Pit. The Andy Landers-led Bulldogs defeated St. Bonaventure 84-48 to reach the finals.
“Every year he comes up with good schemes,” UNM women’s head coach Yvonne Sanchez said. He’s a good coach, he’s had great players, and yes, (Georgia) is impressive. We’re just going to get out there, get a game plan together, and play our best.”
Junior forward Deeva Vaughn scored a game-high 23 points in the win, followed by freshman guard Bryce Owens with 17, junior guard Sara Halasz with 14 and freshman post Whitney Johnson with 10.
Senior forward Jourdan Erskine pulled down a game-high 18 rebounds, 12 more than any other player.
“She is an absolute monster,” Sanchez said. “She had the flu that she’s just getting over, an ankle injury, and I can go on and on. She’ll never make excuses, but that’s the kind of leadership Jourdan brings.”
After holding a 39-35 halftime lead, UNM dominated the second half. The Lobos outscored North Texas 42-24 in the latter 20 minutes. From the field, UNM shot 31 of 61 (50.8 percent), while North Texas was 23 of 63 (36.5 percent).
Freshman guard Loryn Goodwin paced North Texas’ scorers with 16 points, followed by sophomore guard BreAnna Dawkins with 11 and junior guard Laura McCoy with 10.