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Demetrius Walker’s rise bodes well for New Mexico

Mountain West Basketball Tournament - Air Force v New Mexico

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 08: Demetrius Walker #40 of the New Mexico Lobos jokes with a teammate as they take on the Air Force Falcons during a quarterfinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center March 8, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. New Mexico won 79-64. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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With New Mexico advancing to the Mountain West title game due to their 72-67 win over UNLV in Las Vegas, the immediate impulse is to talk about the performances of Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams. And rightfully so as those two, along with Tony Snell, have led the way for much of the season.

But another player has stepped up for Steve Alford’s team this week, and if he can continue to do so the Lobos will be even more of a threat in the NCAA tournament.

Gordon put up 19 points and 13 rebounds and Snell added 15, but the 12 points scored by Demetrius Walker off the bench were critical as well.

In fact, the Arizona State transfer has gotten the job done in both games in Las Vegas, scoring 19 points and grabbing four boards in New Mexico’s win over Air Force on Thursday night.

Averaging just 7.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for the season, Walker put together back-to-back double figure scoring outings for just the second time this season.

And it’s safe to say that doing so against the Falcons and Runnin’ Rebels at this point in the season surpasses doing so against Houston Baptist and North Dakota. And with his athleticism Walker can also be a good perimeter defender for the Lobos, something that wasn’t happening earlier in the season.

“I think Demetrius is playing at a very high level,” said Alford. “We’ve seen it coming. He’s doing a lot of good things, not just at the offensive end.

“I think his trials that he went through early in the season with the defensive end, now that he understands if you’re going to play at New Mexico, you have to play at that end, too, he gets more minutes. He’s learned to play at both ends now.”

With Walker playing as well as he has, New Mexico is more than capable of making some serious noise in the Big Dance. First step: beating San Diego State in the title game on Saturday night.