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New Mexico vs Cincinnati

Lobos rally in second half to hand No. 8 Cincinnati first loss

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CINCINNATI -- Sean Kilpatrick had two options: Take the quick shot if it's there, drive to the basket if it's not. He caught the pass and thought he had just enough room to get the shot off.

He never saw Alex Kirk's hand coming.

Kirk scored 15 points and blocked Kilpatrick's shot just before the buzzer Thursday night, preserving New Mexico's 55-54 win that handed No. 8 Cincinnati its first loss.

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New Mexico (13-1) rallied in the second half behind its 7-foot center, who hit a 3-pointer, got a team-high seven rebounds and slapped away Kilpatrick's jumper in the final seconds. Kilpatrick passed it in from the baseline to center Cheikh Mbodj with 4.5 seconds left, then got the ball right back with the two options.

"I thought I had him," Kilpatrick said. "I could have drove, but I didn't."

Kirk figured that Cincinnati's top scorer was going to let it fly and managed to get there just as the ball left his hands.

"I knew if I went out, it would be pretty difficult for him to get a shot over me and Tony Snell," Kirk said. "I went out with my hands up and he was forced to take a tough shot. Luckily, I got my hand on it."

That's how Cincinnati's perfect record went away.

Cincinnati (12-1) moved up to No. 8 this week -- its highest ranking in nine years -- and was trying to go 13-0 for only sixth time in school history. The Bearcats couldn't salvage a tight game against a team known for knocking off top teams.

The Lobos have won six of their last seven games against ranked teams, leaving them 14-6 against the Top 25 during coach Steve Alford's six seasons. They beat Connecticut earlier this season.

Cincinnati's loss left Duke, Michigan, Arizona and Wyoming as the only unbeaten teams in Division I.

The Bearcats missed 21 shots inside the paint and shot 31.3 percent from the field. Kilpatrick had a team-high 15 points, but was only 5 of 22 from the field.

"Things have been too easy for us," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. "We were going to get taught a lesson sooner or later. It manifests itself in many ways. Our inside finishing is beyond soft. You hold a team to 55 points, you should be able to win the game."

Kirk scored nine points in the second half and led a surge that gave the Lobos their first lead. Then, he saved it with his third block of the game.

The Lobos were coming off a 70-65 home loss to South Dakota State that ended their four-week stay in the Top 25. Alford liked how they responded.

"To come in here and hold them to 54 points, that's pretty pleasing for a basketball coach," Alford said. "Our kids are tough and play hard and fight. We're sitting here 13-1 and it's not because we're lighting things up. We came on the road and shot 38 percent and won.

"So it's been our defense, it's been our fight, and I think we had it tonight. If you play Cincinnati, you'd better come with that."

New Mexico has gotten off to its strong start by drawing fouls and making free throws. The Lobos get 29.6 percent of their points from the line -- most in the nation -- and average 21.5 points per game on free throws. They have made more free throws (281) than their opponents have attempted (211).

They made only 6 of 11 against the Bearcats, but it was enough to pull out a game that was close throughout. Neither team led by more than six points. There were six ties and seven lead changes.

Cincinnati led 26-22 after a ragged first half. The Bearcats struggled to hit shots at the outset, a problem in their recent games. They made only four of their first 15 shots, all from behind the arc -- two apiece by Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright.

The Bearcats missed 11 consecutive shots and went nearly 6 minutes without scoring in the first half, but never trailed because their defense was so good again. They hold opponents to 34.6 percent from the field -- second in Division I -- and are sixth with 7.4 blocked shots per game.

Cincinnati's three-guard offense took a hit when Wright picked up his third foul at the 18:23 mark of the second half.

Kirk had a three-point play off a rebound, made one of two free throws, then made a layup for a 34-32 lead, New Mexico's first of the game. Kirk later hit a 3-pointer -- his fourth of the season -- and another 3 by Williams made it 43-37 midway through the half, turning it into a back-and-forth game.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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New Mexico's Alex Kirk (53) scores 15 with a crucial block late in the Lobos' win at Cincinnati. (US Presswire)
New Mexico's Alex Kirk (53) scores 15 with a crucial block late in the Lobos' win at Cincinnati. (US Presswire)
Scoreboard
New Mexico (13-1) «223355
Cincinnati #8 (12-1)262854
NMEX:K. Williams 16 Pts
NMEX:A. Kirk 7 Reb
NMEX:H. Greenwood 8 Ast
CINCY:S. Kilpatrick 15 Pts
CINCY:C. Mbodj 10 Reb
CINCY:C. Wright 4 Ast

Related Video

 
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
New MexicoCincinnati
NMEX
Alex Kirk
CINCY
JaQuon Parker
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
15701562
New Mexico Lobos
K. Williams, G375-112-231116
C. Adams, G-F301-30-04012
A. Kirk, F-C296-82-570115
T. Snell, G274-151-131110
H. Greenwood, G270-30-03820
D. Walker, G172-50-12125
C. Bairstow, F143-71-26037
J. Fenton, G110-10-01400
N. Banyard, F40-10-00010
C. Thomas, G40-00-00000
C. Perez, GDid Not Play
M. Lindsay, GDid Not Play
K. Alford, GDid Not Play
D. Williams, G-FDid Not Play
Totals 21-546-1129151255
 38.9%54.5% 
Cincinnati Bearcats
J. Parker, G365-141-162314
S. Kilpatrick, G-F345-221-242115
C. Mbodj, C312-30-010134
C. Wright, G274-61-134312
J. Jackson, F210-60-08100
S. Thomas, F182-50-01005
T. Rubles, F151-60-02102
D. Nyarsuk, C91-10-00012
J. Sanders, F50-10-01020
G. Guyn, G40-00-00000
A. Eppensteiner, GDid Not Play
K. Gaines, CDid Not Play
J. Davis III, GDid Not Play
Totals 20-643-435111354
 31.3%75.0% 
Mountain West
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Colorado St.0-013-019
Wyoming0-011-2138
Boise St.0-010-340
San Diego St0-010-327
UNLV0-09-346
New Mexico0-08-4166
Air Force0-07-4197
Utah St.0-07-5175
Fresno St.0-04-8294
Nevada0-04-8316
San Jose St.0-02-10327

American Athletic
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Tulane0-09-3137
Cincinnati0-08-375
SMU0-08-350
Temple0-09-435
Houston0-07-4207
Memphis0-07-4139
UCF0-07-4239
Connecticut0-06-470
Tulsa0-07-572
E. Carolina0-07-6298
So. Florida0-06-7228