New Mexico-Indiana St. Preview

The Associated Press

With New Mexico's three starting guards returning, the backcourt was expected to lead the way this season. A pair of frontcourt players, though, are beginning to contribute as well.

After helping keep the No. 25 Lobos unbeaten, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow will try to get them past host Indiana State in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge on Saturday.

Kendall Williams and Tony Snell were New Mexico's top returning scorers this season and joined Hugh Greenwood to form a solid guard trio for the Lobos. One of the big questions for the team, though, was who would replace graduated leading scorer and rebounder Drew Gordon.

New Mexico has gotten some help lately from the 7-foot Kirk, who has scored in double figures in four straight games and has double-doubles in his last two. He had 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in a 76-58 rout of Mercer on Wednesday, and Bairstow contributed a career-best 16 points off the bench.

"I really like the fight I'm seeing out of my two centers," coach Steve Alford told the school's website. "We are getting a lot of good production out of those two bigs. They just continue to get better."

With that duo's help, the Lobos (7-0) are more than halfway toward matching their 12-0 start of 2009-10. They'll try to move a step closer in their first game on an opponent's floor this season, though they did earn three wins at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands before their recent three-game homestand.

"We just have to go out there and play hard and try to prove ourselves every game," Snell said.

The Lobos will face an Indiana State team that's won four straight but was blown out in its only other matchup with a ranked team.

The Sycamores (4-1) have faced largely lackluster competition since that 86-59 road loss to then-No. 13 UCLA on Nov. 9. They defeated High Point 76-62 at home in their most recent outing Sunday.

Junior guard Lucas Eitel made all nine of his shots - seven from 3-point range - for a career-high 25 points, four more than the total from his first four games. Khristian Smith had 18 points off the bench after scoring 24 in his first four career contests.

Leading scorer Jake Odum finished with seven points - 6.2 below his average - but contributed eight rebounds and six assists.

Indiana State has lost three in a row to ranked teams since knocking off then-No. 25 Vanderbilt 61-55 on Dec. 17. The Sycamores have also dropped their last three home games to Top 25 foes.

New Mexico and Indiana State are meeting for the first time.