No. 25 New Mexico wins 1st game in Top 25, beats Mercer 76-58

Cameron Bairstow isn't usually known as instant offense when he comes off the bench. He provided just that when he entered Wednesday night's game early for No. 25 New Mexico.

Bairstow finished with a career-high 16 points, helping propel the Lobos (7-0) to a 76-58 win over Mercer.

"Cam came in and really gave us a burst early in this game," Lobos coach Steve Alford said.

The inside play of Bairstow and Alex Kirk, who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double, overwhelmed the Bears (3-4).

"I thought our bigs would be able to compete a little better," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said.

The 7-foot Kirk drew most of Hoffman's attention.

"He was fantastic," Hoffman said. "He had a couple of pops when the game was still in jeopardy. He pops out there and hits a 15-footer like it's candy and he just did it all night. So he was just really good."

Alford appreciated what Bairstow brought to the game, especially with Kirk struggling early.

"I thought (Kirk) started slow tonight. He didn't have a good first 5 minutes," Alford said. "We took him out early to try to get his second wind early."

Baistow came into the game 2:20 in and in the next 5 minutes, he scored 10 points with one block, one rebound and also drew a charge on a Mercer fast-break opportunity.

Most of that damage came during a 17-2 New Mexico run as he combined with Tony Snell to score 14 of those points, putting the Lobos up 19-5.

New Mexico later added an 8-minute, 24-2 run that began midway through the second half, turning a 49-41 lead into a 73-43 bugle.

"Their team in general, they fit really good together," Hoffman said.

"I think they've got great pieces and I'm sure if you're a fan just watching them, they're fun to watch. If you're an opposing coach, it's not a whole lot of fun to watch."

Travis Smith scored 16 points to lead the Bears, but Alford was satisfied with the New Mexico defensive effort.

"I think defensively we've seen a lot of progress," he said. "We're not fouling. We're making things really difficult on opponents. We're taking away what we want to take away."

Hoffman came away impressed with what he saw.

"They're a great team, well-coached and they're playing their tails off," he said. "If they keep continuing to work as hard as they do on their cuts and their execution, they're a handful because they have so many guys that can make shots."