ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Alex Kirk scored 25 points as the New Mexico Lobos inched closer to the Mountain West regular-season title with a 70-60 win over visiting San Diego State on Wednesday night.
"Tremendous win, as big of a win as we've had all year," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "I couldn't be more proud of our guys."
The 7-foot Kirk was 3-for-3 from 3-point range, and his 3-pointer with about 1:30 remaining gave the No. 14-ranked Lobos an insurmountable 64-53 lead.
"It's been a while since I've hit some jump shots," Kirk said. "It's been a while since I've shot a 3. Definitely with how they were icing it we were in position to hit some easy, open 3s. It felt pretty good."
Both of the New Mexico big men came up big as Cameron Bairstow added 16 points before fouling out late in the game.
"I think he and Cam, they're like anybody: When you don't play well against somebody, you want to make up for that," Alford said. "They didn't have very good games in San Diego. I thought they really responded well in this game."
New Mexico (24-4, 11-2 Mountain West) remained two games ahead of Colorado State with three to play.
"We weren't picked to win (the conference); the team that was picked to win now is out of it," Alford said of the Aztecs. "Now there's only three of us; UNLV, Colorado State and ourselves are the only teams that can win the championship."
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher was impressed by Kirk and Bairstow.
"They both were very good," Fisher said. "Kirk was very good both inside and outside."
Jamal Franklin scored 16 points to pace the Aztecs (20-8, 8-6), though he was just 3-for-13 from the floor.
"They're a good defensive team; they guard high and they guard low," Fisher said. "We shot 3-for-13 for both Jamal and Xavier (Thames). We've got to make shots."
San Diego State trailed 50-35 with 11 minutes remaining when the Aztecs finally seemed to find a spark. With Kirk on the bench getting a rest, San Diego State went on an 11-2 run to pull within 52-46 with 7:01 remaining.
The game was played at the free-throw line for most of the next four minutes -- each team made only one shot from the floor -- but the Aztecs could not get any closer than five points.
"I know we missed a wide-open 3 in our corner down six with two, two-and-a-half minutes to go," Fisher said. "If we could have made that one -- if, if, if. They made theirs and we didn't."
Franklin made four straight free throws to keep San Diego State within six, but Kirk made two free throws and then hit his 3-point dagger to extend New Mexico's lead to 11 points.
"We're playing hard for each other; we're playing unselfish. That just gets everybody going," Kirk said. "You can't guard that. You can't guard an unselfish team."
The Lobos came out on fire to start the second half. Hugh Greenwood nailed a 3-pointer to get things started. After some back-and-forth, Kirk hit two free throws and then a 3-pointer to expand the lead to 38-30.
Layups by Kendall Williams and Bairstow pushed the advantage to 42-30. James Rahon tried to keep the Aztecs alive with a 3-pointer, but the Lobos rattled off three straight baskets for a 48-33 lead.
Franklin and Kirk traded shots, keeping New Mexico up by 15 after the under-12-minute media timeout.
The Lobos took a 28-26 lead after a back-and-forth first half that included 12 ties and lead changes.
Neither team shot particularly well in the first half. The Lobos shot 37.5 percent (9-for-24) while the Aztecs shot 40 percent (10-for-25). Both teams were woeful from 3-point range, with each making just one basket from beyond the arc.
NOTES: The Aztecs entered the game with five wins in their last seven appearances in The Pit. UNM still holds an overall 25-9 advantage in Albuquerque. ... The Lobos have been ranked in the Top 25 for 13 weeks this season, their most under Alford, topping the mark of 12 weeks in 2009-10. The only season the Lobos spent more time in the polls was 1998-99, when UNM spent all 18 weeks as a ranked team. ... Williams' 46-point outing against Colorado State on Saturday was the most points scored by a Lobo on the road. His 10 3-pointers set a UNM record and a Mountain West record for 3s in a conference game.