Just as I predicted, against a capable Detroit team, Alex Kirk inside was a force to be reckoned with as he posted his very first double-double in his very first season game as the New Mexico basketball team matched the New Mexico football team in posting 1 win (New Mexico 63 Detroit 54) The big kid from Los Alamos showed that his 1-inch shy of 7 feet tall aren't his only attributes. He has a soft touch and is a team player. Look for him to loosen up quite a bit. He will be something to see by the end of the season-especially with all the incredible athletes around him feeding him the ball and darting in an out of the half-court. Although the Lobos are missing All-American Darrington Hobson and Roman Martinez, this is big man is the answer to last year's weakness for the Lobos- size.
The three big men (Hardeman and transfer from Tennessee, Negedu) came up with 4 notable blocks and some nice play inside. Negedu seemed to accept the mantle as "the one who dunks" on the team as he threw down 2 monsters. Also notable was the performance of guards, Jamal Fenton, Curtis Dennis, and Kendall Williams. Each showed impressive (and sometimes stunning) quickness and ability to break whatever defense Detroit threw at them. 9 steals by the Lobos was certainly a good sign. (Although Detroit matched that number on the other side shows some ball-handling weaknesses)
Although few will see it this way, senior and team leader, Dairese Gary was off his game as he failed to put up a double double for the first time in 7 consecutive games, had 5 sloppy turnovers, and shot only 4 shots from the field going 0-3 from the 3-point line. He should write a book on "How I get to the line" though as he remains one of the most fouled players in the NCAA going 7-11 from the line.
All the good news is balanced by other not so good news. The Lobos shot a mediocre 39% for the game and only 3-20 from the 3-point line. (Chad Adams and Jamaal Fenton combined for just 3-12 from behind the line, but those were the only guys hitting the long ball) This is where they really miss Roman Martinez-last year's stand-out senior, Academic All-American, and 3-point shooter. Shooting 72% from the line wasn't bad (18-25). Detroit did outscore New Mexico in the second half and looked like they were mounting a respectable comeback in last 8 minutes of the game that resulted in throwing a blanket, of sorts, over the sixteen thousand plus rabid fans at "The Pit."
Lobos win, but they will need to eat their Wheaties (and shoot better from beyond the arc), to handle a capable Arizona State.