Four days after one of its worst losses in the shot-clock era, the No. 20 New Mexico men’s basketball team bounced back behind the play of its two Aussies.
UNM’s two Australian players, junior forward Cameron Bairstow and sophomore point guard Hugh Greenwood, combined for 30 points, leading the Lobos to a 63-59 Wednesday night road victory at Wyoming.
The win follows a 55-34 loss at San Diego State on Jan. 26, where UNM made just 25 percent of its shots and finished with its lowest point total since 1976.
UNM head coach Steve Alford said the Lobos did a good job of forgetting the drubbing SDSU handed them Saturday.
“Our guys have short memories,” said Alford, whose Lobos still lead the Mountain West Conference standings at 5-1. They are 18-3 overall.
“We haven’t been on the losing end very often,” Alford continued. “I knew we were fine, and I thought we’d responded and got back to playing tough basketball.”
In his fifth start this year, Bairstow led the Lobo offense with 17 points, making five of his eight field goal attempts and seven of his 10 free throws. Greenwood scored 13 points, missing just one of his six shots from the field, and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Greenwood also hit the game-clinching shot with nine seconds left in the contest.
Bairstow started instead of senior forward Chad Adams. Alford said he saw an advantage he could take with Bairstow, paired with fellow big man Alex Kirk, against Wyoming forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Leonard Washington. Bairstow said his responsibility was to guard Washington.
“He’s the main key to that team,” Bairstow said of Washington. “That was really the main assignment: rebound and play within the offense.”
Junior guard Kendall Williams continues to climb UNM’s all-time scoring list. His 12 points against Wyoming brings Williams’ total to 1,096 career points, pushing him to 25th all-time past Ike Williams. Kendall Williams is ninth all-time in assists with 373 after providing four more on Wednesday.
Alex Kirk has come back into form after two lackluster games. The sophomore center scored 10 points, all on field goals, after scoring just 15 in the last three outings. He was 3 of 17 from the field in that stretch.
The Lobos controlled the paint, outscoring Wyoming 28-12 in the low post. They also pulled down 35 rebounds to the Cowboys’ 23. Like Kirk’s performance, it was another improvement from the last three games, when the Lobos were outrebounded by an average of 11.3.
UNM’s shooting also improved from Saturday. The Lobos shot 53.8 percent in the second half and 48.1 percent for the game. They made 11 of 14 free throws, including 7 of 7 in the last 20 minutes.
“We had a bitter taste in our mouth,” Bairstow said, referring to the SDSU game.
Wyoming (15-5, 2-5 MWC), has lost five of its last seven games after winning 13 straight.
Against UNM, the Cowboys shot 40.8 percent from the field, and 36 points came from behind the 3-point line. A team not known for hitting long-range shots, it hit 12 of 22 shots triples, a percentage of 54.5 percent. Even after Wednesday, the Cowboys rank seventh in that category at 32.8 percent.
Wyoming guard Derrious Gilmore scored a team-high 15 points, all 3-pointers. Forward Washington and Riley Grabau added 11 points apiece.
UNM returns to The Pit Saturday with a game against Nevada. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.
The Wolfpack (11-9, 2-4 MWC) is seventh in the league standings following a 66-54 loss Tuesday against in-state rival UNLV. Nevada scores 61.9 points a game on average and has surrendered an MWC-worst 69.8 on defense. Junior guard Deonte Burton leads the team’s offense with 16.5 points per game.
Men’s basketball vs. Nevada