Led by senior guards Noah Robotham and Kris Clyburn, the Rebels stormed back in the second half to earn a gritty, 80-69 win at New Mexico.
Robotham finished with 14 points and eight assists while holding UNM leading scorer Anthony Mathis to 3-of-13 shooting. Clyburn scored a team-high 25 points, including a dagger 3 from the corner to push the Rebels' lead to 74-67 with 56 seconds to play.
After New Mexico made 56 percent of its shots in the first half, UNLV clamped down defensively and limited the Lobos to 6-of-25 shooting in the second half.
UNLV is now 3-0 in Mountain West play and 9-6 overall.
UNLV leads New Mexico late, 68-65
With 3:43 remaining, UNLV has a chance to steal this game, leading 68-65 at The Pit.
Kris Clyburn banked in a short basket from the left block to give UNLV a 68-65 lead, and after New Mexico came up empty on their ensuing possession, Amauri Hardy drew a foul while driving to the basket. The foul was non-shooting, but a New Mexico player was called for a technical for arguing. UNLV will shoot two free throws and retain possession after the timeout.
UNLV leads New Mexico in second half, 64-59
The Rebels have outscored New Mexico, 10-4, over the last four minutes, and with 7:32 remaining UNLV has a 64-59 lead at The Pit.
Freshman wing Bryce Hamilton just made two "Wow" plays on back-to-back possessions, first leaping high in the air to block a Dane Kuiper fadeaway, then going even higher on the offensive end for a highlight tip-in. Hamilton now has nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. Kris Clyburn has a team-high 16 points on 6-of-9 from the field.
UNLV is playing with a short rotation due to Mbacke Diong's injury. Walk-on swingman Nick Blair has played the last four minutes and given the Rebels some energy with his defense and rebounding.
UNLV, New Mexico going back and forth in second half
Amauri Hardy has come alive, and the Rebels have ridden his hot hand right back into this game. With 11:51 remaining, New Mexico's lead is down to 55-54.
Hardy has scored nine points in the half already, giving him 11 for the game. The Rebels actually took a 50-49 lead with 14 minutes left on a Kris Clyburn jumper, and the two teams traded the lead back and forth over the next three possessions.
The UNLV defense has settled down in the second half, holding New Mexico to 3-of-12 from the field so far.
Mbacke Diong is on the bench but has yet to check in this half. He appeared to injure his leg on the final play of the first period.
Hot-shooting New Mexico leads UNLV at half
The Rebels appeared to be in good position midway through the first half, but New Mexico closed the period on a 19-9 run to take a 42-35 lead into the locker room.
New Mexico shot 56.7 percent in the half, making 17-of-30 from the field and 3-of-8 from 3-point range. UNLV struggled to defend the Lobos' myriad weapons, to the point that Marvin Menzies inserted little-used sophomore forward Ben Coupet for defensive support. Nothing seemed to work, however, and the situation might be getting worse — sophomore center Mbacke Diong appeared to suffer a leg injury on the final play of the half and had to be helped off the court. If he is unable to return, the Rebels will be short-handed in the frontcourt.
Joel Ntambwe led the way on offense with 10 points, while Noah Robotham chipped in five points and four assists. UNLV made 12-of-28 shots from the field (42.9 percent).
New Mexico leads UNLV late in first half
The Rebels suffered through a mini-scoring drought that allowed New Mexico to seize a 36-31 lead with 3:43 remaining before halftime.
UNLV was up, 25-23, but went nearly three minutes without scoring. UNM went on a 6-0 run to take the lead, powered by eight straight points from forward Carlton Bragg.
Though the Rebels are scoring efficiently, they haven't been able to slow down New Mexico on the other end. The Lobos have made 15-of-26 from the field and 3-of-8 from 3-point range.
UNLV takes early lead at New Mexico
Freshman Bryce Hamilton just converted a layup through contact, and with 10:23 remaining in the first half, UNLV has a 23-21 lead at New Mexico.
UNLV has had some issues advancing the ball against New Mexico's pressure defense, but when the Rebels have broken the press they've managed to get good looks, making 9-of-15 from the field. Joel Ntambwe, Noah Robotham and Hamilton each have five points, with Hamilton set to shoot his and-1 free throw after the timeout.
For the second game in a row, walk-on freshman Marvin Coleman has received first-half playing time. He has been on the court for the last four minutes, playing alongside Robotham in the backcourt.
Three keys for UNLV basketball at New Mexico
UNLV can move to 3-0 in Mountain West play for the first time since 2006 with a win at New Mexico on Tuesday night (8 p.m., ESPN2), but it won't be easy. New Mexico is coming off a blowout win over No. 10 UNR and will also be looking to improve to 3-0 in the league.
Three keys for the Rebels:
Be ready for the press — or the zone
New Mexico was an all-out press team last year, and coach Paul Weir tried to play a similar style this season, calling for a full-court press on roughly 40 percent of the Lobos' defensive possessions. But when that clearly wasn't working, Weir scrapped his man-to-man scheme and installed a 2-3 zone that has helped UNM win its first two Mountain West games in impressive fashion. UNLV hasn't been good against zones this season (0.891 points per possession, No. 216 in the nation), so Weir may opt to zone for 40 minutes. Or, Weir could look at UNLV's struggles against full-court pressure (the Rebels have a 23.1-percent turnover rate against press defenses) and fire up the backcourt traps. UNLV coach Marvin Menzies has to have his squad prepared for both, and the Rebels' primary ball-handlers — Noah Robotham, Amauri Hardy and Joel Ntambwe — have to be ready for whatever Weir throws at them.
The Lobos attempt 27.1 3-pointers per game, and they are top 100 nationally in attempts and makes. UNLV has trouble keeping up when opponents are able to make double-digit 3-pointers, so closing out on shooters will be key. Senior guard Anthony Mathis and sophomore wing Vance Jackson are particularly dangerous, as they combine for 13.4 3-point attempts per game while knocking down 43.3 percent of them. The Rebels have to stick to perimeter shooters, even at the risk of opening up driving lanes.
Attack the basket
New Mexico does not have a rim protector to deter shots in the paint. According to Synergy Sports data, UNM opponents are shooting 57.4 percent and scoring 1.173 points per possession on shots near the rim (excluding post-ups), ranking the lobos in the bottom 100 nationally. UNLV has struggled mightily to finish close-range shots this season, but penetrators like Hardy and Ntambwe should be able to take advantage of New Mexico’s hole in the middle, as can big men Mbacke Diong and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.