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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Men's Basketball: UNM shoots past Nevada in second half

assistantsports@dailylobo.com
@JROppenheim

The No. 25 New Mexico men’s basketball team rallied to recover from a first-half deficit, this time on the road, to keep pace with San Diego State.

Forward Cameron Bairstow finished with a game-high 22 points and Kendall Williams became the Mountain West’s all-time assist leader Sunday to lead the Lobos to a 72-58 victory at Nevada.

The win maintains a first-place tie with No. 13 San Diego State, which passed Fresno State 82-67 on Saturday night.

Williams provided 10 assists in addition to 11 points, putting him at 591 assists for his career. He surpassed UNLV’s Oscar Bellfield, who had 582 from 2008-12, according to the Associated Press.

UNM trailed in the first half for the second-straight game but turned it on in the latter 20 minutes. Last Wednesday the Lobos fell behind by eight points midway through the second half before turning the tide and beating Utah State at home.

On Sunday against the Wolf Pack, UNM found itself down by 14 in the first half but took over. The Lobos outscored Nevada 55-27 after that deficit, ending the game 14 points up.

UNM surged forward with eight minutes to play, scoring 23 of the last 31 points. Much like he did against Utah State, UNM guard Cullen Neal sparked the run against Nevada with a 3-pointer and two free throws. Teammate Hugh Greenwood also hit a triple as part of a 7-0 run.

The Wolf Pack did not score consecutive points for the remainder of the game, and UNM netted another 10 points with triples from Greenwood and Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas. Bairstow sandwiched those 3-pointers with made jumpers.

Nevada controlled the middle 10 minutes in first half after an early deadlock. The Wolf Pack broke a 7-all tie to hold a 31-17 lead. On three separate occasions Nevada rattled off small spurts of five or six points.

Six turnovers stalled UNM’s offense until late in the half when two Bairstow free throws started a 10-0 run to close out the half. Williams, Deshawn Delaney, Alex Kirk and Bairstow netted the last eight points, all off field goals, before the break.

After Nevada scored the second half’s first bucket, the Lobos dropped the next six points with back-to-back Delaney baskets and a Bairstow field goal. That run forced a 33-all tie, the first since the 14:46 mark of the first half, and the teams bounced back and forth over the next eight minutes.

Center Alex Kirk also reached double-figure scoring, finishing with 10 points. As a team UNM shot 49.1 percent from the field (27 of 55), 30 percent from the 3-point line (6 of 20), and 85.7 percent from the free throw line (12 of 14).

Nevada placed three in double figures with guard Deonte Burton and forward Cole Huff scoring 15 points apiece. Forward AJ West added 10 points as the Wolf Pack was 34.9 percent on field goals (22 of 63), 30 percent on triples (6 of 20), and 57.1 percent on foul shots (8 of 14).