UNLV used a late 7-0 run to pull away from Air Force for an 81-73 win.
Up 70-67 with less than two minutes to play, Kris Clyburn snuck along the baseline for a backdoor layup to make it 72-67 in favor of the Rebels. After a pair of defensive stops, Jovan Mooring made a free throw and Jordan Johnson hit two to make it an eight-point margin with under a minute to play.
Jovan Mooring finished with a game-high 24 points, while Jordan Johnson had 16 points, six assists and six rebounds.
The Rebels didn't play their best game, but they did pick up their third straight win to improve to 19-7 on the season and 8-5 in Mountain West play.
UNLV will put its modest winning streak on the line on Saturday when the Rebels travel to San Diego State.
Rebels lead Air Force late, 67-66
If the Rebels want to keep their hot streak going, they're going to have to earn it tonight. With 2:40 to play, UNLV leads Air Force ,67-66.
Offense has been hard to come by for UNLV, as the Rebels have had trouble converting easy shots around the rim. On attempts categorized as layups, they are just 11-of-20.
Jovan Mooring has been the main producer in the second half, and he's up to 19 points on the night on 6-of-11 shooting. Jordan Johnson has 14 points and six assists.
UNLV will have possession after the timeout.
Air Force closing in on UNLV in second half
Air Force continues to chip away, and with 11:25 left to play, the Falcons trail UNLV by two points, 48-46.
AFA has scored the game's last five points on a Frank Toohey 3-pointer and a Jacob Van baseline drive, and the Rebels are now struggling to find their footing on both ends of the floor. UNLV has followed up its 12-turnover first half by giving the ball away five times already in the second half.
Brandon McCoy picked up his third foul early in the second half, so his minutes will be an issue the rest of the way. McCoy has five points and six rebounds.
UNLV leads Air Force at halftime, 31-25
UNLV got a little reckless after building a 13-2 lead in the opening minutes, and the Rebels' 12 turnovers have allowed Air Force to pull within 31-25 at the half.
The Rebels made 12-of-24 from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range, but carelessness with the ball cost them over the final 10 minutes of the half. Ryan Manning came alive for Air Force, scoring 11 points off the bench (3-of-4 3FGs) to close the gap.
Tervell Beck leads UNLV with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, Shakur Juiston and Jovan Mooring each collected three assists, but they also turned it over two times apiece.
UNLV opens early lead over Air Force
UNLV has opened with a huge run for the second straight game, and with 11;40 left in the first half, the Rebels lead Air Force, 16-5.
Against Wyoming on Saturday, UNLV jumped out to a 19-2 lead and eventually won, 85-70. Tonight it was a 13-2 start, fueled by good interior passing.
Shakur Juiston has two points and two nifty assists, and Kris Clyburn has six points on 2-of-2 shooting from 3-point range.
Air Force is just 2-of-9 from the floor, and UNLV has built an early 11-1 advantage in rebounding.
Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. Air Force
UNLV will be looking for its third straight victory (and fifth in six games) on Wednesday night when Air Force (10-13, 4-7 Mountain West) visits the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels (18-7, 7-5) claimed the first meeting between the two teams, 81-76, on Jan. 10, and another win in this contest would position the Rebels for a run at third place in the league standings as the regular season winds down.
What will UNLV need to do in order to complete the season sweep of Air Force? Three keys to watch:
Hammer the offensive glass
Air Force is small and not very athletic in the frontcourt, and it shows up in the rebounding column. For the season, AFA has grabbed just 71.9 percent of available defensive rebounds, which ranks 234th in the nation. On the flip side, UNLV has been one of the country's best when it comes to securing second-chance opportunities, ranking 20th nationally and first in the Mountain West in offensive rebounding rate (33.6 percent).
Give Brandon McCoy (12.4 percent offensive rebounding rate) and Shakur Juiston (11.2 percent) the green light to chase down missed shots, and the Rebels should rack up a bunch of put-backs and easy points.
Defending Air Force's halfcourt offense is, in a word, annoying. It's not especially effective — the Falcons average a pedestrian 0.88 points per possession in the halfcourt — but they use the entire shot clock, and all the cutting and screening and backdoor action forces the defense to pay attention for a full 30 seconds. It's a strain on the defense.
The Rebels' best counter would be to force the pace and drag Air Force into an up-tempo game. The shorter the possessions, the easier it will be for UNLV to defend. And AFA might be amenable to running — the Falcons went shot-for-shot with a fast New Mexico team on Saturday, and they came out on top, 100-92.
If UNLV can draw Air Force into another transition game, it will give the Rebels' athletes the best chance to use their size/speed/agility advantage.
UNLV got off to such a strong start in non-conference play, it papered over the fact that the Rebels are young and inexperienced in a lot of key spots. Marvin Menzies has spent much of the season testing out players in certain roles and trying to find the optimal rotation.
Now, with the final stretch approaching, Menzies appears to have unlocked the Rebels' best lineup, as the three-guard approach has yielded big results over the last few weeks. Jordan Johnson, Jovan Mooring and Amauri Hardy have seemingly learned how to play together, and they've helped the offense score at a ridiculous rate over the last six games.
Their playing time together has increased steadily, so look for the three-guard lineup to get 10-plus minutes against Air Force. If they continue to dominate, this could end up being the group Menzies goes to war with in the Mountain West tournament.