Before leaving for Albuquerque, Sean Miller said Rawle Alkins was only 60 percent the player he can be.
What will he look like at 100 percent?
Making his first start of the season, Alkins shot 9-11 from the field and made all three of his 3-point attempts while corralling five boards.
He, Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton formed a big three that was too much for Lobos to handle.
Trier had 22 points and five assists on 6-9 shooting, while Ayton added his ninth double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The Wildcats shot 64 percent from the field and 9-13 (69 percent) from 3, handling the Lobos’ press defense well for most of the game.
Arizona led wire-to-wire and by as many as 18 points, but the Lobos used a barrage of 3s to cut UA’s lead to 76-69 with five minutes left.
But Alkins went coast-to-coast for a layup to make it 78-69, then Trier sliced his way for two and Ayton had a breakaway dunk to put Arizona up 82-71 with 2:53 left.
The Wildcats (8-3) have won five straight following their three-game losing streak in the Bahamas. New Mexico (3-8) has lost four straight.
Despite Parker Jackson-Cartwright picking up two early fouls (one was a technical) and Alex Barcello sidelined with an ankle injury, the Wildcats only committed 10 turnovers against a defense that was forcing 20 per game.
Jackson-Cartwright had eight points, five assists, and two steals with just one turnover.
New Mexico fired 34 3-pointers and made 12 of them, helping it make things interesting down the stretch.
Dane Kuiper, Barcello’s former high school teammate at Corona Del Sol, made six 3s and finished with 24 points. The Lobos also had success on the offensive glass, scoring 13 second-chance points.
New Mexico shot 39 percent from the field, and its bench outscored Arizona’s, 32-11. The Lobos only had seven turnovers.
Arizona led 49-33 at the half, shooting 71 percent in the period including a 6-7 mark from 3.
Alkins scored 10 points in the first eight minutes, making his first four shots, three of which were from behind the arc.
The Wildcats got a bit sloppier as the game progressed as seven of their 10 turnovers were committed in the second half. After a 3 by Chris McNeal made it 54-41, an inbounds pass from Jackson-Cartwright zipped through Trier’s hands for a turnover.
Joe Furstinger would hit a jumper on UNM’s ensuing possession to make it 54-43 with 16:11 left.
But Jackson-Cartwright silenced the whited-out crowd by drilling a 3 to push UA’s lead back to 57-43.
After a pair of free throws by Trier put Arizona up 70-54 with roughly 10 minutes left, the Lobos strung together a 12-4 run to make it 74-66 with 5:33 left. Alkins scored Arizona’s next four points, including two free throws, to keep it a 78-69 lead.
After struggling from the free-throw line against Alabama, Arizona shot 16-20 from the stripe against New Mexico. Trier was 8-9; Alkins was 5-5.
Ayton was 7-9 from the field, throwing down several dunks including a few alley-oops from Trier who New Mexico was unable to stop off the dribble.
Arizona mostly played eight players, though Keanu Pinder did make an appearance late in the game.
Dusan Ristic had eight points and nine rebounds and Brandon Randolph, who shifted to the bench in place of Alkins, had seven points and made two 3s.
Ira Lee had one point, but was solid defensively, and had a monstrous block at the rim in the first half.
Dylan Smith had three points, three rebounds, and two assists on 1-4 shooting, but fouled another 3-point shooter.
The Wildcats have a quick turnaround as they host North Dakota State on Monday at 7 p.m. MST.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire