Albuquerque, NM (SportsNetwork.com) - The 22nd-ranked New Mexico Lobos will try to earn new head coach Craig Neal his second win in as many chances today, as the team welcomes the Buccaneers of Charleston Southern to The Pit.
Neal, who took over for the highly successful Steve Alford who moved over to the Pac-12 and UCLA at the conclusion of last season, guided his crew to a lopsided 88-52 victory over Alabama A&M in the season opener eight days ago. After this outing, UNM heads to Charleston, South Carolina ironically enough to take part in the Charleston Classic.
As for the Buccaneers, they are already on to their fourth game of the new season, having posted a pair of wins against a single setback. The program began with victories over Johnson (Tennessee) and Delaware, before bowing to UNC Wilmington earlier this week in overtime, 80-78.
After this contest the road doesn't get any easier for CSU as it travels to Waco, Texas to face another ranked foe in the Baylor Bears on Wednesday night.
The Lobos won both previous meetings in the series with CSU, the latest being a 76-69 final back in 2006.
The epitome of a back-and-forth battle, CSU's meeting with the Seahawks on Wednesday night featured 10 ties and 14 lead changes and, unfortunately, when it came to a rest in overtime the Bucs were two points behind. Matt Kennedy was responsible for 19 points, Will Saunders 18 and seven boards off the bench, followed by Arlon Harper with 13 points and six rebounds as a reserve before he fouled out. Saah Nimley chipped in 10 points and a team-best eight assists, but he shot only 3-of-12 from the floor.
After three games the Buccaneers have a total of six players scoring in double figures, spreading the wealth in order to stretch defenses. Nimley heads the list with his 15.7 ppg, adding 21 assists while shooting 41.2 percent behind the 3-point line. Kennedy checks in with 15.3 ppg and he too has shown the ability to attack out on the perimeter where he has hit on 54.5 percent of his tries. As a team, CSU has converted 43.2 percent beyond the arc, en route to a staggering 101.0 ppg.
New Mexico scored the first points of the game against Alabama A&M and never looked back, shooting 51.7 percent from the field in the first half and an impressive 66.7 percent after the break, even as the Lobos converted just 1- of-5 behind the 3-point line in the period. Needless to say, the visitors never posed a true threat as they shot only 26.8 percent from the field and were crushed on the glass, 48-27, not to mention being outscored in the paint by a 40-12 margin.
Leading the way for the Lobos in the first game of the season was Cameron Bairstow with his 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Alex Kirk added a double- double of his own with 16 points and a game-high 12 boards. Shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor and handing out seven assists without suffering a single turnovers, Kendall Williams tacked on 17 points and backup Cullen Neal contributed 12 points as the team actually shot better from the floor (.585) than it did at the free-throw line (.564).