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SYDNEY, Australia – In the first game of its Australian tour, the University of New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball team rallied from 11 points back to win at Bankstown Basketball Stadium.
UNM trailed the Sydney Kings by a double-digit margin in the second half, but pulled off a big 87-85 win.
Both teams shot the ball well, and both teams pulled out the stops for a win.
Down eight at the break, the Lobos came roaring back.
UNM’s rally started with a Kendall Williams 3-point play, the first of 12 fouls called on Sydney in the third quarter, which worked to UNM’s advantage.
In international rules – which were used in this game – after the fifth foul in the quarter, all fouls are two shot fouls. UNM which was just 19-for-33 from the stripe, nonetheless came back to tie the game at 70-70 on two Williams free throws with 24 seconds to go.
The Kings’ Jason Harvey eventually pushed Sydney back on top with his fourth 3-pointer of the evening making it 81-76 with 4:27 left, but UNM answered with a 9-0 run to take an 85-81 lead.
It started when Cameron Bairstow found Alex Kirk for a dunk, which became a 3-point play.
Bairstow, who played for the Australian collegiate team against Kirk during the World University Games last month, then tied it up with an 18-foot jumper.
After a Sydney timeout, Cleveland Thomas stole the inbounds pass for an uncontested layup and an 83-81 Lobo lead.
Kendall hit two free throws to make it 85-81 before four Sydney foul shots tied things up at 85 with 43.4 seconds left.
That set up UNM’s late-game heroics. Kirk was fouled with 23.7 left and made the second of two free throws for an 86-85 lead. Sydney worked the ball around to set up a final shot, but Greenwood anticipated and stole a pass intended for Harvey with 3.7 seconds left.
He hit the second of two for an 87-85 lead, and then Harvey’s pass for Jarrod Weeks was picked off by Williams, sealing the win.
“I was happy…great effort,” said head coach Craig Neal, who was actually interviewed postgame by Williams and Kirk. “We didn’t play great defense in the first half, we gave up 48 points. I thought (the) guys really came together in the second half.”
UNM gave up a lead at the end of the first quarter when Sydney’s Kevin White was fouled on a desperation heave at the buzzer.
White hit all three for a 26-24 quarter advantage for the Kings. They would keep that lead until the fourth quarter.
Williams led UNM with 24 points, going 9-for-11 night from the line with three 3-pointers and dished out six assists.
Bairstow rewarded the Aussie faithful with a brilliant night in his home country, scoring 22 on 8-of-10 shooting and six rebounds. Alex Kirk had 19 points and and five boards, while Greenwood added 13.
For Sydney, Harvey led all scorers with 27, while AJ Ogilvy had 22. Brad Hill and Kevin White each had 12.
The Lobos shot 52 percent from the field (31 of 60) while Sydney shot 45 percent (25 of 55).
The Lobos now head to Melbourne for the second of three games in Australia, taking on the SEABL All-Stars.
NOTES: Bairstow will miss the game in Melbourne as he is heading to the Boomers camp for tryouts for the top Boomer squad and AJ Ogilvy of the Kings will also be at the 15-man camp as Australia looks to pare that number down to 12 … UNM was outrebounded 34-26 Tuesday … The Lobos had just nine turnovers … There were 11 lead changes and 11 ties, but UNM only led for 7:36 of the game, compared to 31:28 for the Kings.