Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 | 2:03 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a look at just what went wrong in No. 23 UNLV's Wednesday night 76-66 home loss to No. 15 New Mexico. The Rebels were handled on the boards, but can they bounce back in time for Saturday's tough road trip to face San Diego State.
Darington Hobson couldn’t hear anything.
Hobson, a junior forward for the Lobos who grew up in Las Vegas going to Rebels' games, found his team clinging to a two-point lead late and couldn’t tell exactly what play New Mexico coach Steve Alford was calling for. Not that it mattered anyway.
“I was going to make something happen,” Hobson said. “These are the games and moments you live for. You want to step up. You can’t be afraid of failure.”
So Hobson took the ball from the corner and drove toward the basket. He missed a contested layup but fought for the rebound and made the shot on his second try to give the Lobos a 67-63 lead.
UNLV never got within one possession the rest of the game.
“It was the biggest make of the game,” New Mexico teammate Roman Martinez said. “I think he really willed us toward victory.”
Hobson had a game-high 16 points and had 13 rebounds. Although he downplayed the significance of returning to Las Vegas to play the team he grew up following before the game, Hobson was clearly wound up all night.
He hit a 3-point shot and threw down a dunk early and followed both with verbal outbursts. When Hobson dribbled the final seconds off the clock in the second half, he hopped up and down and from side to side like he was on a pogo stick.
After the win, he admitted that this night felt a little better than normal.
“I’m a Lobo until the day I die, but I will always be a Rebel fan and always have a respect for the Rebels because I grew up here,” Hobson said. “It was fun for me to play where I grew up loving the game.”
No fun for the Rebels, though. Whenever UNLV went on a run to make the game tight, Hobson ended it.
UNLV sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield made what appeared to be a potential game-changing four-point play with nine minutes left to cut New Mexico’s lead to 61-52.
But on the next New Mexico possession, Hobson slowed the offense down and drove to the basket for a layup in traffic.
“When you hit a big shot and the crowd gets quiet and shuts up, that’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Hobson said.
Hobson silenced the crowd all night long. That’s what particularly impressed Alford.
Although Alford said his team has been great on the road all year, this one was different.
“This was the best environment we’ve played in all season long,” Alford said.
With the win, New Mexico controls its own destiny in the Mountain West Conference. Win their last six games, which includes a road test against BYU, and the Lobos will be conference champions and have the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
“This is one the whole team wanted,” Hobson said. “It wasn’t about me coming home. It was about beating UNLV.”