Cincinnati Bearcats have no answers for New Mexico front court in 63-54 loss

 

ALBURQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico coach Craig Neal watched his Lobos play exactly according to his game plan Saturday against Cincinnati.

And the result was a 63-54 New Mexico victory.

"I thought our guys did the game plan exactly the way we should," Neal said. "I thought we did a great job on just keep pushing forward with our tempo. Trying to take good shots. Don't turn the ball over against their press and play really good defense. And I thought our guys did that."

It certainly helped the Lobos' cause that Cincinnati had no answer for front-court players Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk.

Bairstow finished with a double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds and Kirk added 15 points for New Mexico (7-1).

"When you play an athletic team and a team that can really cause problems with length and I have Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk, I don't always have to run it up and down the floor," Neal said. "They couldn't get out in transition and we wanted to slow the thing down and get it into the post and pound them inside."

The Bearcats (7-1) didn't do enough to make Kirk and Cameron earn their points, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said.

"Kirk and Bairstow are both really good players," Cronin said. "I was disappointed in our defensive effort on the interior against them. Too many layups, too many free throws. We didn't make them make jump hooks."

New Mexico took control midway through the first quarter with a 13-2 run covering eight minutes to go up 24-10.

But the Bearcats scored the final eight points of the half to close the gap to 27-20.

Cincinnati, which shot 18-of-61 from the field, got as close as 35-33 early in the second half before the New Mexico big men came through.

Bairstow rolled in a bucket then he fed Kirk for a dunk before Kirk drove the baseline for a layup and a 41-33 Lobos lead with nearly 13 minutes left. Cincinnati would not get closer than five points the rest of the way.

Sean Kilpatrick scored 19 points to lead the Bearcats, but it took their leading scorer 18 shots to reach that mark as he was shadowed by New Mexico's Kendall Williams.

"Kendall doesn't have the stats he usually has but he had to guard Kilpatrick, who's a tough player, and he held to him to 5 of 18 and 1 of 7 (on 3-pointers)," Neal said. "He did an unbelievable job."

And the Bearcats failed to make adjustments on the court, Cronin said.

"You can't go on the road against a really good basketball team and play as bad as we played and don't pass the ball," he said. "Play one on one. Take terrible shots, get down by 15 and expect to come back and win. You can make a comeback but to think you're going to get over the hump against this team in this environment, in their arena with their fans fired up to play against Cincinnati, it's not going to happen. We just dug too big of a hole."

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