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ALBUQUERQUE — Los Alamos’ former big man had a big showing in his first collegiate outing.
Former Hilltopper superstar Alex Kirk posted a double-double to start his college career, leading the University of New Mexico Lobos to a 63-54 victory over Detroit Saturday night.
UNM and Kirk were stellar in their 2010-11 season opener against Detroit, as they cruised to a wire-to-wire victory front of 15,145 fans at the Pit.
Kirk had 10 points and 10 rebounds in his debut. Kirk, who led Los Alamos to a berth in the Class AAAA quarterfinals last season, is a true freshman for the Lobos this year.
Along with Kirk’s big outing, Dairese Gary became the 28th Lobo in school history to record his 1,000th point to cap the evening.
Fittingly, it was Kirk who got UNM on the board first with a soft jumper in the lane 1:35 into the contest. The Lobos would never allow Detroit to get within two after that, and every time the Titans, who went 20-14 last year, tried to make a run, the Lobos had an answer.
After a seven point 15-8 lead was whittled to just two, Curtis Dennis drained one of his two threes on the way to a game-high 12 points. Later in the half Detroit got a pair of free throws to cut the lead back to 24-21, but UNM finished on a solid 8-0 run to close out the opening stanza.
First, Gary hit three free throws, and then he fed Kirk for an easy bucket. Emmanuel Negedu then made his presence felt with a monsterous follow-up jam to make it 30-21, and he threw down a second dunk less than a minute later to give the Lobos an 11-point halftime lead.
The second half opened with a three by Nick Minnerath, but that would be the final time the lead was in single-digits until 15.7 seconds remaining when Ray McCallum, son of Detroit coach Ray McCallum, hit a late bucket.
In between it was a whole lot of Lobo basketball. The crushing blow was a nine-point outburst over a 1:17 span that made it a 21-point game with 8:06 to go. Kendall Williams got fouled and made two shots before he stole a ball and hammered home his first career dunk.
Williams then fed Negedu for a pretty finger-roll in the lane before Jamal Fenton drilled a three from the corner for a 53-32 lead.
Detroit would close the game on a 22-10 run to get back in the ballgame, something that caught Lobo head coach Steve Alford’s attention.
“Openers are always tough,” Alford said. “You have a lot of questions with openers and I thought I guys did good. Other than the last eight minutes it was a solid effort. I think we had eight guys in the locker room who had never played our game plan and I think they executed it well.”
While Dennis led the Lobos with 12 points, he was one of six players who scored between 12 and seven points in a balanced scoring effort.