ALEX KIRK'S biggest play may have been the one that kept an opponent from scoring.

Kirk scored 15 points, but it was his block of Sean Kilpatrick's shot just before the buzzer Thursday night that preserved visiting New Mexico's 55-54 win and handed No. 8 Cincinnati its first loss.

New Mexico (13-1) rallied in the second half behind its 7-foot center, who hit a three-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 9 years - and was trying to go 13-0 for only sixth time in school history.

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.

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

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.

Noteworthy * 

Creighton's Josh Jones said it is not worth risking his life to keep playing basketball, after experiencing heart trouble earlier this month. Doctors advised Jones, 23, to stop playing after he had a procedure Dec. 18 to locate and correct an atrial flutter. He faces more procedures to treat the heart condition that caused him to faint before a game 3 weeks ago.

* Nebraska's Deverell Biggs, who is sitting out this season as a redshirt junior, was cited on suspicion of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident in Omaha last weekend after allegedly backing his Chevrolet Suburban into another vehicle about 1:35 a.m. Sunday.

* Louisville junior center Gorgui Dieng will return to the lineup for the No. 4 Cardinals Saturday against Kentucky, coach Rick Pitino told Dieng has been out since Nov. 23 with a broken left wrist. Pitino said Dieng practiced Wednesday.