Reno, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - The 25th-ranked New Mexico Lobos hit the road today, as they head to Reno to do battle with the Nevada Wolf Pack in Mountain West Conference action at the Lawlor Events Center.
The Lobos entered the weekend tied with San Diego State for the top spot in the MWC standings with a record of 13-2. New Mexico had been chasing the Aztecs all season long, but finally caught up with the help of a four-game win streak and victories in 10 of the last 11 outings overall. Earlier this week UNM slipped by Utah State at home in a 67-58 final.
As for the Wolf Pack, they are caught in the middle of the MWC with eight wins in 15 opportunities. To say that the team has been up and down would be an understatement, having recently dropped five in a row. Thankfully, the Pack managed to put an end to that slide last weekend with a 75-56 romp over Air Force on the road, lifting the program to 7-6 in true road dates in 2013-14.
The Lobos have won all three previous meetings in the series, including a 90-72 final last month in The Pit.
Against Utah State the Lobos looked a little shaky in the early going, trailing by as many as eight in the second half, but the team responded late in order to move out to an 11-point edge and eventually claim the nine-point victory. Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow both logged double-doubles, the former posting 13 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots, the latter 14 points and 11 boards as UNM produced a 46-30 advantage on the glass. Cullen Neal and Kendall Williams pitched in with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Before the season began it was Williams getting all the attention for the Lobos, but while he has generated 15.9 ppg and 70 assists over the course of 15 conference games, the bigger story has become the play of Bairstow in the paint. The big man checks in with 20.3 ppg and 7.5 rpg, shooting 56.4 percent from the floor. Drawing some attention of his own is Kirk with 12.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg and a team-best 38 blocked shots, helping to overshadow his woeful 2-of-16 effort behind the 3-point line.
The Pack took their time building a big lead against Air Force last weekend, but at no point were the visitors threatened after they scored the first points of the contest and never relinquished their advantage. Deonte Burton scored a game-high 21 points, leading four starters in double figures, while Jerry Evans Jr. responded with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Michael Perez posted another 12 points and Cole Huff 11, as he came within two boards of his own double-double.
As a starter in every single game he has ever appeared in for the Wolf Pack (126), Burton has shown that he has the ability to be a key scorer for Nevada, but at the same time there are games where he completely disappears. After 28 outings this season, Burton is good for 19.9 ppg and has spread his efforts across the board with 4.2 rpg and 4.1 apg. Evans checks in with 13.0 ppg and is one of the more aggressive players in the paint with 6.3 rpg.