Kirk leads No. 25 New Mexico over No. 24 UNLV
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) NBA scouts lined press row Wednesday to watch UNLV's fabulous freshman Anthony Bennett.
They got an eyeful of New Mexico's 7-foot Alex Kirk instead.
Kirk had 23 points and nine rebounds to lead the No. 25 Lobos past No. 24 UNLV 65-60.
"We just kind of went at him," said Kirk, a redshirt sophomore. "He's young. He's a good player but he's young. We went at him and we got some calls."
The New Mexico (14-2, 1-0) game plan coming in was to take it right at Bennett, who was averaging 19.9 points and 9.1 rebounds.
"We wanted to make him guard," said Lobos coach Steve Alford. "He's a freshman He's as talented as anybody we've played. Inside and out, he's extremely skilled. When you play guys like that, you really have to try and make them guard."
Bennett was frustrated in the first half, scoring just four points with two rebounds and also picked up two fouls.
Although he broke out early in the second half with eight points to fuel a 15-2 Rebels' run that put them up 45-39, Bennett picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with 14:14 left in the second half.
"It was difficult to play without him for that extended period of time," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "But I thought out guys stepped up and did a good job in his absence."
And UNLV (13-3, 0-1) had no answer for Kirk, who hit two 3-pointers in a 16-point first half.
"He was outstanding tonight," Alford said.
In addition to his range, Kirk displayed deft moves around the basket.
"The thing that makes Alex so difficult is that he can score on the block and can also score from a distance," Rice said. "He is an improved player and their guards are so good that they make you pick your poison, especially on the home floor."
Bennett finished with 12 points and six rebounds, but New Mexico's Chad Adams did the job defensively, Alford said.
"I thought Chad's effort was unbelievable," he said. "That's what you've got to have with these seniors. You have to be able to do that. Chad has been doing that for us ever since we put him in the starting lineup. He's been doing that all along. This was a huge task to guard a guy like Bennett. I thought he did a really good job."
Tony Snell, who sealed the game with two foul shots with seven seconds left, finished with 13 points for the Lobos, and Kendall Williams, who them ahead to stay with a 3-pointer at the 2:09 left, finished with 11.
Khem Birch also scored 12 for UNLV.
"We won it because of the effort that we had," Alford said. "I thought we got the 50-50 balls. I thought we did a great job on the glass and we kept them off the free throw line."
Updated January 10, 2013
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