Stanford (21-12) vs. New Mexico (27-6)

03/21/2014 7:44 AM

03/21/2014 7:52 AM

GAME NOTES: The 10th-seeded Stanford Cardinal will tangle with the seventh- seeded New Mexico Lobos at the Scottrade Center on Friday afternoon in the South Region second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The winner will move on to Sunday's third round to play either Eastern Kentucky or Kansas.

Stanford last fell in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament semifinals to eventual champion UCLA, 84-59, but it still enjoyed an impressive season in a strong league, going 21-12 overall and 10-8 in the Pac-12 with signature wins over UConn, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State (twice). The Cardinal have not been in the NCAA Tournament field since 2008, when it advanced to the Sweet 16.

New Mexico (27-6) played second-fiddle to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference all season long but got the best of the Aztecs in the MWC Tournament title match with a 64-58 victory to become the first three-peat champions in league history. In addition to beating SDSU twice this season, the Lobos also downed Cincinnati (63-54) early in the campaign to bolster their resume. The squad earned a No. 3 seed last March but was upset by 14th- seeded Harvard in the second round, 68-62.

Stanford has won two of three all-time meetings versus New Mexico, most recently taking down an 81-66 decision in November of 2001.

The Cardinal were outmatched by UCLA from the opening tip in their most recent bout, as they fell behind by 15 at the half en route to the 25-point defeat, ultimately getting outshot from the field, 65.2 percent to 39.2 percent. Dwight Powell was one of the few bright spots with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor, while Chasson Randle netted 11 points.

On the season, Stanford has performed admirably on both ends of the court, shooting 46.4 percent from the floor for 73.5 ppg, while allowing just 68.6 ppg on 42.3 percent shooting, and the squad lives in the green with both its rebounding (+1.9) and turnover (+0.2) margins. Randle puts up 18.7 ppg with strong percentages from the field (.485), 3-point range (.397) and the foul line (.765) and was a First Team All-Pac-12 selection. Powell brings 14.2 ppg and 6.9 rpg to the table, Anthony Brown scores 12.7 ppg and Josh Huestis is a mainstay in the paint with 11.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 1.8 bpg.

In a game that consisted of 10 ties and 12 lead changes, New Mexico pieced together a late surge to pull out the MWC championship, outscoring SDSU over the final 1:15, 8-1. It shot only 40.9 percent from the field but had a stellar night from the free-throw line (22-of-27) and held the Aztecs to only 35.7 percent shooting. Cameron Bairstow was the spark plug with 17 points (on 11-of-14 at the foul line) and nine rebounds. Kendall Williams poured in 16 points, Hugh Greenwood posted 12 points and five assists and Alex Kirk ripped down 11 rebounds.

The Lobos possess a large disparity between their field goal percentage (.461) and what they allow to opponents (.389) and boast impressive margins in terms of scoring (+8.3) and rebounding (+5.4). They have also been active and effective at the charity stripe, knocking down 18.6 free throws per game at a 72.7 percent clip. Bairstow has been outstanding all season long, as he not only scores 20.3 ppg on 55.6 percent field-goal shooting, but adds 7.4 rpg and 1.5 bpg. Williams patrols the perimeter with 16.4 ppg, 4.9 apg and 1.6 spg, while Kirk is a force in the frontcourt with 13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 2.7 bpg.

These teams are similarly constructed with tough interior play and experienced playmakers at guard, but the Cardinal lack explosion outside of Randle, while the Lobos have a dynamic duo of Bairstow and Williams to rely on, which should be enough to lift New Mexico to victory.

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