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updated: 12/27/2012 10:36 PM

New Mexico upsets No. 8 Cincinnati 55-54

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  • Cincinnati forward Justin Jackson (5) and New Mexico center Alex Kirk (53) go for a rebound during the first half Thursday in Cincinnati.

      Cincinnati forward Justin Jackson (5) and New Mexico center Alex Kirk (53) go for a rebound during the first half Thursday in Cincinnati.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Alex Kirk scored 15 points and blocked Sean Kilpatrick's shot just before the buzzer Thursday night, preserving New Mexico's 55-54 win that handed No. 8 Cincinnati its first loss.

New Mexico (13-1) rallied in the second half behind its 7-foot center, who hit a 3-pointer, got a team-high seven rebounds and slapped away Kilpatrick's jumper off an inbounds play.

Cincinnati (12-1) moved up to No. 8 this week -- its highest ranking in nine years -- and was trying to go 13-0 for only sixth time in school history. The Bearcats couldn't salvage a tight game against a team known for knocking off top teams.

The Lobos have won six of their last seven games against ranked teams, leaving them 14-6 against the Top 25 during coach Steve Alford's six seasons. They beat Connecticut earlier this season.

Kirk scored nine of his 15 points in the second half and led a surge that gave the Lobos their first lead. Then, he saved it with his third block of the game.

Kilpatrick threw an inbounds pass from the baseline with 4.5 seconds left, got the ball back and shot from the right side, but Kirk was waiting to knock it away. Kilpatrick had 15 points, but was only 5 of 22 from the field.

The Lobos were coming off a 70-65 home loss to South Dakota State that ended their four-week stay in the Top 25.

Cincinnati's loss left Duke, Michigan, Arizona and Wyoming as the only unbeaten teams in Division I.

New Mexico has gotten off to its strong start by drawing fouls and making free throws. The Lobos get 29.6 percent of their points from the line -- most in the nation -- and average 21.5 points per game on free throws. They have made more free throws (281) than their opponents have attempted (211).

They made only 6 of 11 against the Bearcats, but it was enough.

Neither team led by more than six points in a game that included six ties and seven lead changes.

Cincinnati led 26-22 after a ragged first half. The Bearcats struggled to hit shots at the outset, a problem in their recent games. They made only four of their first 15 shots, all from behind the arc -- two apiece by Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright.

The Bearcats missed 11 consecutive shots and went nearly 6 minutes without scoring in the first half, but never trailed because their defense was so good again. They hold opponents to 34.6 percent from the field -- second in Division I -- and are sixth with 7.4 blocked shots per game.

Cincinnati's three-guard offense took a hit when Wright picked up his third foul at the 18:23 mark of the second half.

Kirk had a three-point play off a rebound, made one of two free throws, then made a layup for a 34-32 lead, New Mexico's first of the game.

Kirk later hit a 3-pointer -- his fourth of the season -- and another 3 by Williams made it 43-37 midway through the half.

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