• Lobos open NCAA tourney on Friday
    ALBUQUERQUE — The past is the past, according to the University of New Mexico Lobos men's basketball team. And the Lobos are hoping their recent history at the NCAA tournament stays in the past. The Lobos will take on Stanford Friday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. UNM got the No. 7 seed for this year's tournament and will play the 10th-seeded Stanford Cardinal in the South Regional. The winner of Friday's game will meet, very likely, the second seed in the regional, the Kansas Jayhawks. For all UNM's success over the years, the Lobos haven't had much success in their history at the tournament. UNM has never escaped the second round since the tournament went to the current 64-team main bracket. While that's in the backs of many of the Lobos' minds, the team is trying to downplay both that fact and last year's upset loss.
  • Aztecs wary of Aggies, Bhullar
    SAN DIEGO (AP) — Steve Fisher cut down the final net in the NCAA tournament 25 years ago and reached two other national championship games, so he knows about playing deep into March. He’d like to think his fourth-seeded San Diego State Aztecs can advance beyond the opening weekend this year. To have that chance, the defensive-minded Aztecs first will have to get past an intriguing matchup Thursday night in Spokane against 13th-seeded New Mexico State and its big, big man, 7-foot-5, 355-pound center Sim Bhullar. Aztecs forward Winston Shepard recalls beating Bhullar in high school. “All I can really remember is we had a triple team on him and we still got dunked on,” Shepard said Monday. Have the Aztecs ever played against someone that big? “No, I don’t think anybody in America has,” said Fisher, who has the Aztecs in the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year and seventh time overall since taking over SDSU’s previously sad-sack program starting with the 1999-2000 season. “He’s a big, big man. Everything about him is so much better than it was a year ago. I believe he’s only a sophomore. He will be someone who will make it difficult on us like he has on everybody he’s played this year.”
  • Kirk makes it through challenging 2013-14 season
    ALBUQUERQUE — It’s been an interesting ride from the get-go. And, despite the ups and downs, Alex Kirk would scarcely have it any other way. Kirk, the 7-foot center for the University of New Mexico Lobos, will embark on his third appearance in the NCAA tournament starting Friday when the seventh-seeded Lobos meet the 10th-seeded Stanford Cardinal in the opening round. To say the least, it’s been an eventful 12 months for the Lobos, and for Kirk. Kirk was the standout center playing for Los Alamos High School, who graduated in 2010 and went on to play for UNM. Now, as a junior — in terms of athletic eligibility, at least, as he finished up his undergraduate student work already — Kirk has rode the wave of a big 2013-14 season at UNM. This season, which saw the Lobos go 27-6 and win their third consecutive Mountain West tournament championship, could’ve gone a number of different ways, and no one is more aware of that than the UNM big man. Last March, right before the NCAA tournament and right after he agreed to terms on a hefty, 10-year contract with the school, Steve Alford left UNM to take over UCLA. That move, along with the implosion that was the Lobos’ first round loss to Harvard after earning a No. 3 seed, could’ve sent the program into a tailspin.
  • Lobos, Aggies both heading to Big Dance
    The University of New Mexico Lobos knocked off the San Diego State Aztecs in the final round of the Mountain West tournament. San Diego State still managed to get into the NCAA tournament with an at-large big, but if the Aztecs thought they were done with the state of New Mexico for awhile, they were wrong. The Aztecs, the No. 4 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament, will face the 13th-seeded New Mexico State Aggies. The Aztecs and the Aggies will play Thursday evening, following the conclusion of the Oklahoma-North Dakota State game at 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time. San Diego State nipped UNM for the regular season Mountain West championship, but UNM topped San Diego State in the final round of the MW tournament Saturday in Las Vegas, Nev. Cameron Bairstow had 17 points and 9 rebounds, while former Hilltopper Alex Kirk finished with 8 points and 11 rebounds as UNM tripped up San Diego State 64-58. Despite two wins on the year in three chances against the Aztecs, who polled as high as No. 5 this season, as well as finishing with a 27-6 record, the Lobos were only awarded a No. 7 seed. They are matched up with 10th-seeded Stanford in the South Region and will play at 11:40 a.m. Friday.
  • Aggies survive WAC quarterfinal round
    LAS VEGAS, Nev. — New Mexico State University center Sim Bhullar posted his fourth straight double-double as the No. 2-seeded NMSU men’s basketball team defeated the seventh- seeded Seattle U Redhawks 70-68 in the Orleans Arena Thursday. Bhullar scored a season-high 24 points while pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds in one of the biggest performances of his career. Bhullar, a sophomore, added five blocked shots and three assists as the Aggies advanced to tonight’s Western Athletic Conference tournament semifinals. The Aggies pummeled the Redhawks’ defense in two regular season meetings, scoring nearly 100 points in both of those two games, but the Redhawks were up the challenge Thursday. “I am happy that we are still playing and I thought Seattle played really well and they gave it their all,” Aggie head coach Marvin Menzies said afterward. “You have to give credit to their team because they did a fantastic job and they were really prepared for us. Our guys showed heart in the second half and hitting free throws could be the difference of the game.” The Aggies advance to face No. 6 Bakersfield at 9:30 p.m. in tonight’s WAC semifinal round. The WAC championship game is Saturday.
  • Lobos one win away from MW finals
    LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A statement game was tossed out Thursday in the Thomas & Mack Center by the two teams that made statements throughout the season. The No. 2 seed University of New Mexico Lobos charged into the Mountain West Tournament semifinals with a 93-77 win over Fresno State, Thursday night. Also Thursday, San Diego State, the MW regular season champion, mauled Utah State 73-39. The Lobos advance to play Boise State, which beat Nevada 75-62. The Broncos are one of three teams to beat UNM in the regular season with their 71-70 win in Boise Feb. 12. The Aztecs, meawhile, will try to knock off the home team, UNLV, a 71-67 winner over Wyoming. The Thomas & Mack definitely will be rocking on Friday as the Rebels should draw a good crowd for their upset bid against the Aztecs. The venue was already was rocking Thursday night as Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk both scored 21 points to pace the quarterfinal win. “Our two big guys are hard to guard, hard to play,” said Lobo head coach Craig Neal.  “We made a concerted effort to go inside tonight. I really didn’t do anything different. I usually don’t wave a magic wand. We were fortunate that Cam and Alex had good nights. We can play a lot of different ways.  We really didn’t change much.”
  • Lobos will face Bulldogs
    The University of New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball team will open up the Mountain West tournament tonight when it takes on the Fresno State Bulldogs. UNM is the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, taking place at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. The Lobo-Bulldog game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Mountain Time. Fresno State (17-15) trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half Thursday against Air Force, but answered with a 14-6 run after Air Force went into stall mode on offense. The Bulldogs’ Tyler Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final two minutes to give his team a 61-59 victory to put the Bulldogs into the tournament quarterfinals. The Lobos (24-6) and the Bulldogs played just once this season, in Fresno, with the Lobos winning that contest 89-78 Jan. 18. Cameron Bairstow had 22 points and Alex Kirk finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds. Johnson, who finished with 19 points Wednesday night, had 16 points to lead Fresno State against UNM. UNM, along with the other top five teams in the tournament, had a bye into the quarterfinals. 
  • Bairstow, Neal pick up honors
    The University of New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball team picked up two big individual awards from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Lobo center Cameron Bairstow and head coach Craig Neal earned the District 8 Player and Coach of the Year, based on voting by the USBWA’s members. Bairstow was the leading scorer in Mountain West play this season, averaging 20.4 points per game. He was also the leader in field goal percentage, hitting on 56.5 percent of his attempts. Neal, meanwhile, was the only first-year head coach in the nation to receive the USBWA’s top district coaching honor. Neal tied the record for most wins in UNM history for a first-year head coach this season. Monday, the Mountain West named Bairstow as a first-team all-conference selection. The Player of the Year award went to Xavier Thames of San Diego State and Steve Fisher of San Diego State was named Coach of the Year.
  • Lobos win big on their Senior Night
    ALBUQUERQUE — For New Mexico senior Cameron Bairstow, Wednesday night’s game with Air Force was all he could have sought in the final home appearance of his career. Bairstow finished with 21 points and seven rebounds to lead the 21st-ranked Lobos to an 80-52 victory. A leading candidate for Mountain West Conference player of the year, Bairstow finished off his night with just the second 3-pointer of his career. He left to a standing ovation with 5:26 remaining and New Mexico leading 71-40. “In terms of how things went and getting a win, shoot that 3 and experience that sort of stuff and the crowd, that was all part of the dream,” he said. “I think that’s as good as it’s going to get.” The Lobos finish the regular season on Saturday at No. 10 San Diego State, the team they started the night tied for first place with in the conference. Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich knew his team was in for a rough night from the outset. “In this environment, on senior night, we knew it was going to be a buzz saw,” he said.
  • NMSU Aggies fall short in overtime
    The New Mexico State University Aggie men’s basketball team held a 7 point lead with about 2-1/2 minutes remaining, but couldn’t survive a comeback by the Utah Valley Wolverines. The Wolverines erased the deficit and forced overtime Thursday night in Orem. In the overtime period, Utah Valley outscored NMSU 13-8 to take a 66-61 victory in a critical Western Athletic Conference game. The win by Utah Valley (17-10, 11-3 in WAC) put it a game ahead of NMSU (21-9, 10-4) in the conference standings. NMSU has just two games remaining in the regular season. Utah Valley’s Ben Arid had 21 points to lead all scorers, while Keawe Enos sank to key free throws late to force overtime. For the Aggies, Daniel Mullings had 19 and Sim Bhullar finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds. The end of the game was marred by an on-court brawl after NMSU’s KC Ross-Miller hurled a ball at Utah Valley’s Holton Hunsaker after time expired.