Posted at: 02/22/2014 10:06 PM
Updated at: 02/24/2014 11:16 AM
By: Shaun Griswold, KOB.com
Cameron Bairstow scored 26 points and grabbed 9 rebounds as New Mexico topped No. 6 San Diego State 58-44 Saturday night in Albuquerque.
San Diego State (23-3, 12-2) created a physical atmosphere on the court. Each time the Aztecs pushed New Mexico (21-5, 12-2) the Lobos fought back harder and now sit tied atop the Mountain West with San Diego State.
“I told my guys coming in at shoot around that you’re preparing for a 40 minute war,” New Mexico coach Craig Neal said.
The Lobos won the war with stout play from Bairstow and forcing the Aztecs into bad shots. He scored 10 points early to start the game, often against a two or three man defense.
Although the Aztecs threw everything short of the kitchen sink at the big Aussie, Bairstow still shot 11-18 from the field and 4 for 6 from the free throw line.
As Bairstow cemented his place among discussion as the Mountain West player of the year, San Diego State’s Xavier Thames showed the raucous Pit crowd one of his worst performances of the season.
The Aztec star had just 2 points in the first half. He finished with 7 points on 3 for 15 shooting.
New Mexico faced a full court press most of the game. Kendall Williams and Hugh Greenwood were ordered to slice through the press but the Aztecs still caused 13 turnovers.
Despite winning the turnover battle the Aztecs poor shooting, 32% from the field and 20% from long range, did them no favors.
Winston Shepard was the lone Aztec who scored in double digits. His 10 points came off a 5 for 13 shooting performance. He also grabbed 6 boards to lead San Diego State.
Alex Kirk grabbed 9 rebounds for New Mexico. Although he struggled offensively (6 points, 3-11 FG) his presence inside on the defensive end rattled the Aztecs.
Williams (10 points, 7 assists) missed his first two attempts from 3-point range to start the game. To open the second half, he made his first two from beyond the arch which propelled a 21-4 Lobo run that kicked the Aztecs to the dirt.
If both teams win out, the final game of the regular season between the Lobos and Aztecs will have a conference title on the line. That title bout will be in San Diego on March 8.