No. 25 New Mexico 76, Mercer 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.”