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Thursday, November 27, 2014

New Mexico men stay unbeaten, beat in-state rival NMSU

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By Juan Labreche / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Junior guard Kendal Williams drives to the rack against New Mexico State’s Terrel de Rouen Saturday evening at The Pit. Williams led the team to a 73-58 win over the Aggies, posting 15 points eight rebounds and seven assists.

assistantsports@dailylobo.com
@JROppenheim

Sometimes blocks are an overlooked statistic on the score sheet, but it’s hard to ignore 11.

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By Juan Labreche / New Mexico Daily Lobo

The No. 17 New Mexico men’s basketball team made that many against 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar and a tall New Mexico State lineup. The Lobos contained their in-state foe to a 32.8 shooting percentage in their Rio Grande Rivalry game Saturday night, coming away with a 73-58 victory Saturday afternoon at The Pit.

Sophomore center Alex Kirk led the way with five blocks. Sophomore Hugh Greenwood had four blocks, an uncommon feat for a guard. Junior guard Tony Snell made one, and senior guard Chad Adams’s block came at Bhullar’s expense.

“Our guys love challenges,” said Alford, who won his ninth meeting out of 11 with NMSU. “I don’t think we thought about having 11 blocks. I just soon have maybe six blocks and six charges. Be that as it may, 11 blocks are lot of blocks in a game. And it came from a lot of people.”

With Butler’s stunning 88-86 overtime victory over No. 1 Indiana, 10 teams remain undefeated in college basketball. The Lobos are among them. UNM needs one more win to match its best start under head coach Steve Alford.

The Lobos’ record is the fourth best start in school history, and all three 12-0 or better starts resulted in conference championships and NCAA tournament bids. The 1967-68 team holds the school record with a 17-0 start.

College basketball’s other undefeated teams are Arizona, Cincinnati, Duke, Eastern Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Syracuse and Wyoming.

“As you go along, teams are looking to be that first notch off the belt,” UNM junior guard Kendall Williams said. “I think that’s good motivation for us to keep fighting. It always looks good to have that doughnut in the loss column.”

Senior forward Chad Adams said this is the happiest he’s seen Alford in a long time.

“Everything is going really well,” he said. “It’s really fun and team morale and camaraderie is great. We obviously can’t stay undefeated forever, but everyone is coming together to make it last as long as we can. It’s a task and everyone is coming together.”

Four Lobos reached double figures, led by Williams’ 15 points. He also had a team-high seven assists. Kirk shared the team lead with 15 points of his own.

Adams posted his second double-double in four games, the first two of his career, after scoring 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Junior guard Tony Snell chipped in 10 points.

UNM trailed just twice in the game early in the contest, leading by as many as 18 points. Twice, however, the Lobos let 12-point leads slip away as NMSU cut those advantages to six points. From the field, UNM shot 20 of 47 for 42.6 percent. The Lobos were 12 of 24 in the first half. NMSU, meanwhile, was 19 of 58 on its field goals.

Guard Daniel Mullings was NMSU’s only double-digit scorer with 14 points. Through the first 32 minutes, he was the only Aggie with more than five points. One NMSU starter, forward Bandja Sy, made two of his 14 field goals, while forward Tyrone Watson missed all five of his.

UNM out-rebounded NMSU 33-22. The Lobos made 26 of its 35 foul shots; NMSU was 16 of 19 from the line.

“I thought our energy was really good,” Alford said. “I thought our concentration was outstanding. And we did the things that we’ve been doing. We out-rebounded a really good team. We took care of the basketball and we got to the free-throw line. And that’s what’s we’ve been doing through this stretch.”

The two teams will resume their Rio Grande Rivalry on Wednesday when the Lobos travel to Las Cruces. UNM will play three of their next four home games on the road.