New Mexico-Saint Louis Preview
By PAUL DIGIACOMO
(AP) -- After a week out of the rankings following a surprising home loss, New Mexico is back in the Top 25 thanks to an upset of its own.
The No. 20 Lobos may be hard-pressed to pull off back-to-back impressive victories when they visit a Saint Louis team trying to win seven straight for the first time in nearly 10 years Monday night.
New Mexico (13-1) fell 70-65 to South Dakota State on Dec. 22. The Lobos bounced back Thursday, winning 55-54 at then-No. 8 Cincinnati - which came in unbeaten.
Alex Kirk had 15 points and blocked a shot just before the buzzer while Kendall Williams scored 16 for New Mexico, which shot 38.9 percent but held the Bearcats to 31.3 from the field.
"To come in here and hold them to 54 points, that's pretty pleasing for a basketball coach," Steve 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."
The Lobos may need that fight again Monday. Saint Louis (9-3) has held opponents to an average of 48.8 points and 36.3 percent shooting in going undefeated this month.
The Billikens allowed a season low in points and opponent field-goal percentage (31.9) on Friday as they beat SIU-Edwardsville 68-41. Mike McCall Jr. led Saint Louis, which shot 50.0 percent, with a season-best 16 points.
Kwamain Mitchell made his season debut for Saint Louis, scoring four points in 19 minutes. The senior guard, who averaged 12.4 points and a team-high 3.7 assists last season, missed the first 11 games with an ankle injury.
"They return probably their best player and they have been playing very well without him," Alford told the Lobos' official website. "It's another good road test for us."
Saint Louis hasn't won seven in a row since an eight-game run Feb. 12-March 13, 2003.
New Mexico leads the all-time series 3-2, winning 64-60 last New Year's Eve at home.
Updated December 31, 2012