ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- After missing the past two games with a shin injury, New Mexico post Alex Kirk showed little rust in scoring 13 points in 19 minutes Saturday against San Jose State .
His return helped the Lobos to a 72-47 win over the Spartans, their 10th straight loss."It was great to have Alex back with the team," said New Mexico coach Craig Neal. "He looked really, really, as I would say, spry for a 7-footer. But his leg is better. He has no issues."Kirk's leg had been bothering him for chunks of the season, but it finally got to the point where he needed to sit."I feel like I could have played the last three games, 30 minutes, but you have to look at the future of it," Kirk said. "Could I have been able to play 30 Wednesday? When would this finally catch up to me?"After using his time on the bench to root on the Lobos (17-4, 8-1 Mountain West) two to road victories, he was anxious to get back on the floor."You just kind of sit there and cheer on your teammates,' Kirk said. "I hoped that's the rowdiest our bench has been all year on those two road games. .When it's gone, it does feel good to come back. And when I came back, I just played my hardest like I normally do."With Kirk as a catalyst scoring seven quick points, the Lobos never trailed and used an early 13-0 run to take a 17-3 lead.In the game's first seven minutes, the Spartans (6-16, 0-10) went 1-for-9 from the field, with the only basket coming on a wild, off-balance, banked 3-pointer by Isaac Thornton as the shot clock expired.After San Jose State closed within 22-16, New Mexico's ensuing 11-2 run upped the lead to 33-18 and it remained in double digits the rest of the way.Cameron Bairstow scored 14 points with seven rebounds for New Mexico and Kendall Williams added 11 points and five assists.Rashad Muhammad scored 15 to lead San Jose State.The Lobos dominated all phases of the game with a 40-26 rebounding edge, including 11-2 on the offensive glass. New Mexico had 20 assists, with Hugh Greenwood dishing out seven, compared to a season-low three turnovers."Anytime you can have 20 assists and three turnovers, that's outstanding," Neal said.As for Kirk, Neal said he didn't even make a decision on whether to play him until the morning of the game."I was going into the game that he wasn't going to play because he hadn't practiced," he said. Friday "was his first practice. Then my decision was going to be made on how he felt (Saturday) morning. Did his leg ache? Did he have any pain? It was kind of a calculated thing that we're doing with him."Kirk said he felt fine after the game. His playing time going forward will be re-evaluated by the doctors and coaching staff, Neal said.