ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico coach Steve Alford has come to expect strong defense from his 17th-ranked Lobos. Still, their latest effort took him by surprise.
New Mexico blocked a season-high 11 shots and outrebounded taller New Mexico State by four in a 73-58 victory Saturday.
``Our guys love challenges,'' Alford said. ``I don't think we thought about having 11 blocks. I would just as soon have maybe six blocks and six charges but be that as it may, 11 blocks is a lot of blocks in a game. And it came from a lot of different people.''
The bulk of them came from Alex Kirk, who equaled his career high with five, and guard Hugh Greenwood, who had a career-best four.
That surprised Aggies coach Marvin Menzies, as well.
``We didn't expect that,'' he said. ``They were fantastically more aggressive than we had seen from that perspective. We didn't help ourselves any by driving into a 7-footer (Kirk) thinking that he has no lift. But he has natural height so we have to be a little more in tune with where we're going.''
New Mexico's work on the boards came against a team that had been outrebounding opponents by a comfortable margin.
``This was a team with a plus-10 rebound average,'' Alford said. ``And we beat them four on the glass, so we did a lot of good things.''
That was a big key, Menzies said.
``They threw the first punch tonight and it was clear that they were the aggressor,'' he said. ``A telling statistic is rebounding. Any time you're outrebounded, typically the team is a little more aggressive, usually a little tougher. And they just out-toughed us tonight on the glass, which is an area that we take a lot of pride in.''
Kirk scored 15 points, while Kendall Williams also had 15 points as well a career-high eight rebounds and seven assists for New Mexico (11-0). Chad Adams added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Seven of Kirk's points came during a decisive 11-2 run midway through the first half that turned a 17-14 lead into a 28-16 advantage.
Daniel Mullings scored 14 to lead New Mexico State (5-5) but he was the only Aggies player in double figures.
The Aggies shot just 32.8 percent from the field. New Mexico State went 8 for 30 in the second half and made four of 16 3-pointers.
The Lobos turned it over a season-low six times and shot 7 of 13 on 3-pointers while also going 26 for 35 from the foul line.
``I thought our energy was really good,'' Alford said. ``I thought our concentration was outstanding. And we did the things we've been doing. We outrebounded a very good team. We took care of the basketball and we got to the free throw line.''