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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Walker ends slump, UNM tops Nevada

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

sports@dailylobo.com
@ThomasRomeroS

Until Saturday night, Demetrius Walker hadn’t been spotted on the hard court often.

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Junior guard Demetrius Walker sets up his opponent during the game against Nevada on Saturday at The Pit. The Lobos went on to win the contest 75-62, and Walker contributed 12 points in the victory.

By Juan Labreche / New Mexico Daily Lobo

The junior guard played a combined 21 minutes in the previous four games, accounting for two points. But on Saturday against Nevada, Walker, coming off the bench, saw 18 minutes of action, tallied 12 points and played suffocating defense to spark a 75-62 UNM victory at The Pit.

Head coach Steve Alford said Walker will see more playing time if he keeps up his defensive intensity.

“He has been practicing better. As I have tried to send as many subtle messages as I can. It comes to effort at the defensive end in this program, and he gave that to us tonight,” Alford said. “I think that opened him up to do a lot of other things, and he can be a key if he will play with this kind of energy at a concentrated level.”

Walker headed into the game on a 3-for-28 shooting slump. He broke out of it by hitting his first two shots, and finished the game 3-of-6 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.

“I was able to come in and hit shots, and I believe that coach believed I was going to come in and have a big impact tonight,” he said. “I’ve been playing really well in practice, and I believe he trusted me to go out there, and luckily, I was able to perform, and we were able to come out victorious.”

The Wolf Pack took its final lead of the game after junior forward Deonte Burton hit a 3-pointer right in front of senior guard Jamal Fenton for a 51-50 advantage with 11:17 remaining.

Senior forward Chad Adams then started a 10-2 Lobo run by hitting a 3-pointer, and capped it with another triple to give UNM a 60-53 lead.

Nevada cut the deficit to four with 5:46 left, but was unable to come any closer during the final minutes.

All of the 10 Lobos who touched the floor against the Wolf Pack scored, and Alford said the bench play has been a key asset this season.

“I just think that it is all of those teams that are hard to prepare for because you don’t know. You don’t know if it is going to be Tony (Snell) or Walk(er) or Chad (Adams),” Alford said. “Most of our guys have been consistent, and we can go deep into our bench. I think we are a hard team to prepare for.”

The Lobos (19-3, 6-1 MWC) had one of their better offensive games of the season against the Wolf pack (11-10, 2-5). As a team, UNM shot 56 percent from the floor and 52.4 percent from beyond the arc. Nevada hit 40.7 percent of its shots and made 38.5 percent from downtown. The Wolf Pack outrebounded the Lobos 33-29.

Senior guard Malik Story led the Wolf Pack with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting, and Burton was second with 13 points. Junior guard Jordan Burris finished third with 10.

UNM sophomore guard Hugh Greenwood scored a team-high 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while Adams hit 4-of-5 attempts for 10 points.