Rebels basketball:

Blog: UNLV never trails in key home victory against New Mexico

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett celebrates a dunk against New Mexico during their game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Updated Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 | 8:04 p.m.

UNLV vs. New Mexico - Feb. 9, 2013

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett celebrates a dunk against New Mexico during their game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

UNLV 64, New Mexico 55

Game over

For a nearly sold out crowd, UNLV had to make it interesting. Leading by as much as 16 in the second half, the Rebels' lead went down to seven before they pulled out a key 64-55 victory against New Mexico at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The fans would have preferred the Rebels run away and hide in the second half, but considering what they saw in the last two road games this was a much better than what they've seen lately. Anthony Bennett led UNLV with 17 points, Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 16 and Katin Reinhardt also chipped in 16 points.

The Rebels move to 18-6 overall and 5-4 in the Mountain West while the Lobos drop to 20-4 overall and 7-2 in league play. UNLV hits the road again this week on Wednesday with a game at Air Force, which blew a late lead and lost at UNR earlier Saturday.

UNLV's first 10 minutes of this game rival the best it has played at any point this season, especially considering the circumstances. The Rebels came into this game reeling from back-to-back losses and really needed a solid performance against New Mexico, which is now has a half-game lead ahead of Colorado State at the top of the league standings.

The Rebels didn't dominate rebounding or shoot a lot better than the Lobos. They won because they moved the ball at the pace they wanted to and capitalized on enough of those chances to lead the entire way.

Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.

UNLV 56, New Mexico 42

6:33 remaining in the second half

This has been a breakout game of sorts for UNLV backups Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Daquan Cook, who are both on pace to play close to season highs in minutes for league games, and their making the most of it.

Lopez-Sosa, especially, has been very solid for UNLV down in the paint. He has two points, five rebounds and two assists in nine minutes. Cook has been a steady presence leading the offense while Anthony Marshall has been resting. Marshall appeared to hurt his hip a bit in the first half after falling while going for a loose ball.

The most impressive thing the Rebels are doing tonight is coming up with answers for every potential Lobos run. UNLV went into halftime up 14, and that's exactly where it still stands. You could say you'd like so see that lead increase, but that's unlikely against a team this good. In fact, I'd say keeping that lead against New Mexico is the same as building it against a lesser opponent.

UNLV 44, New Mexico 34

14:06 remaining in the second half

The punch, counter punch portion of the second half has come and gone with UNLV briefly extending its lead and then seeing it shrink to 10.

The Lobos came out quickly in the second half with five points that brought a timeout from UNLV coach Dave Rice. After that the Rebels responded with a 7-0 run of their own to keep the Lobos more than an arm's length away. The runs have gone both ways since then with New Mexico handling the quick pace of the game much better than it did in the first half.

Both teams would benefit from some better decision making, especially on passes in the middle of the court. There have been a lot of run outs thwarted by trying to put the ball into passing lanes that are far too cluttered.

UNLV 37, New Mexico 23

Halftime

Bryce Dejean-Jones has 13 points, Katin Reinhardt and Anthony Bennett each have nine and UNLV goes into halftime with a 14-point lead at home against first-place New Mexico.

Everyone knew we'd see a different Rebels team than the one that dropped back-to-back games on the road, but this is about as good as any fans could have hoped for. UNLV has been forcing turnovers and, more importantly, converting them into transition opportunities. The Rebels have 13 points off turnovers and five on fast breaks.

The Rebels' shooting has leveled off a little bit in the final five minutes of the first half but that was to be expected because of how well they shot to start the game. Dejean-Jones missed his last four shots after hitting five of the first seven.

UNLV is even on the boards and so far there have been a combined eight free throws, which was a big factor the first time these teams played in Albuquerque. That should play more of a role in the second half, though that's also somewhat dependent on New Mexico making the game closer.

UNLV 24, New Mexico 12

7:38 remaining in the first half

This UNLV lead is possible because the defense is creating turnovers and transition opportunities. It seems obvious, and it is, but that's the very thing the Rebels struggle with away from home.

When New Mexico gets comfortable in its half-court set and looks inside, it's finding success with Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. When UNLV keeps harassing the entry passers and doesn't give them good looks, the Lobos are having a hard time getting anything going and that's what's leading to the turnovers.

On offense, the Rebels are riding the hot hand that belongs to Bryce Dejean-Jones. He's playing with an attitude tonight and already has 13 points. Anthony Bennett has scored seven.

UNLV 12, New Mexico 5

15:14 remaining in the first half

Pace, energy, toughness; UNLV is leading New Mexico in all three categories so far, which is exactly why it has a seven-point lead.

The most important thing of those for the long term is probably the pace, because if the Rebels play this quickly the whole game it's going to be very hard for the Lobos to keep up. Of course, that's been an issue for UNLV all year, so it's not like New Mexico's not going to make some adjustments. The Rebels' goal just has to be to stay a step ahead.

UNLV coach Dave Rice speaks about desperation, especially on the defensive end, but until you see it, it’s hard to take that as more than words. It’s a nice idea, one that every coach would like to instill into his players, but that only matters if they actually take that idea and put it to use.

Tonight, with first-place New Mexico (20-3, 7-1) coming to the Thomas & Mack Center at 6 on NBC Sports Network to face a reeling UNLV (17-6, 4-4) squad, we’ll see the closest thing the Rebels have had to a back-against-the-wall situation. The Rebels aren’t yet on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but with three more challenging games lined up right after this, things could head that way if UNLV isn’t careful.

That’s where the desperation comes in. UNLV plays differently at home versus the road anyway, though that should look even more drastic today after back-to-back disappointing performances at Boise State and Fresno State. This is the time for the Rebels to turn things around, to change not only perception about their future but the confidence within the team, which could be wavering after the team’s 4-4 start to league play.

Of course, a change in mentality isn’t simply going to lead to a victory. Not against the Lobos, who have arguably the most balanced team in the league.

Perhaps the most important thing New Mexico has going for it is the matchup problem it can create with 7-footer Alex Kirk, who can draw Khem Birch away from the basket. The Rebels have to respect Kirk’s shooting — he was 2-for-4 on 3s and scored 23 points in the teams’ last meeting — but they don’t want to move Birch’s shot blocking away from the basket.

Could that mean some zone looks from UNLV’s defense? Maybe. Whatever the Rebels do, Rice is hoping they do it with the desperation of a team that wants this victory more than its opponent does.

THE OTHER SIDE

New Mexico projected lineup

G — Kendall Williams, 6-4, Jr, 13.6 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.8 rpg

G — Hugh Greenwood, 6-3, So, 8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.5 apg

G — Tony Snell, 6-7, Jr, 11.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 82.4 ft%

F — Cameron Bairstow, 6-9, Jr, 8.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 44 fg%

F — Alex Kirk, 7-0, So, 11.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 49.5 fg%

Sixth man — F, Chad Adams, 6-6, Sr, 5.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 83.8 ft%

Extra storyline: UNLV target Dwayne Morgan, a 2014 four-star forward from Baltimore, is attending the game today.

Last meeting: With the help of 24 more free-throw attempts and 11 more makes, New Mexico survived at home with a 65-60 victory against UNLV on Jan. 9 in Albuquerque.

Kenpom line: UNLV -4

Vegas line: UNLV -5

Bern’s prediction: The Lobos could do the league a favor by burying the Rebels in the standings. At Thomas & Mack, I don’t see it happening. UNLV 73, New Mexico 69

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. I'm not expecting to see hoosierboy on here tonight.

  2. Only 1 bad play so far tonight, and great defense.

    I guess no one likes to post on games we are winning cause, they don't have things to troll about....

    Our worst loss, was our best loss. I think Fresno State helped our team mentally, by showing how far they fell. A few practices later... this =)

    Go Rebels..

  3. I just don't understand how UNLV is such a remarkably different team at home then they are on the road. I know playing on the road is tough but UNLV is consistently bad on the road. It's not like Fresno St had an intimidating crowd. There 15,000 seat stadium was only half full and somehow UNLV was taken out of their game. Similar to last season's loss at TCU. TCU had maybe 2,000 at their arena last year but you would have sworn UNLV was playing in Allen Field House or Cameron Indoor. Rice needs to figure out a way to get this team to respond and play like they did tonight when they go on the road. While it is great to see UNLV to play so great and with so much confidence at the Mack it is disturbing to see just how bad they play on the road. UNLV does not have the comfort of playing all their games at home and even though the MWC tournament is at the Mack half of the crowd will be opposing fans. I hope Rice figures it out. Nevertheless, good win by the Rebs tonight, lets hope this was a confidence booster for them that can carry them through the rest of the season.

  4. One good thing going forward, UNLV has the toughest teams in the MWC all at the Mack the rest of the way out. I hope the Fresno St loss woke them up and they don't have a let down on the road against AF, Wyoming, or UNR. Need to come out strong against AF on Wed and put them away early.

  5. Big win! If only we could always play at the TM

  6. Great job boys.

    5 things I take from this game.

    1) UNLV is a lot better at Home then on the road.

    2) UNLV can play defense, and win against good teams.

    3) Bennett is one of the better all around players that UNLV has had in a while

    4) UNLV can now try to squeeze into 1st or 2nd place if it can win the tough games.. They play both San Diego and Colorado State at home.

    5) UNLV is a young team that is almost to the point of gelling... no matter how good the players are in talent, they can not win games unless they are all on the same page.

    I just hope the UNLV bandwagon fans who come here to cheer when we are up and not a word when we are down.... I hope they see that UNLV can improve.

    Asking to Fire Rice is like UNR fans that wanted Chris Ault to be fired.... never going to happen.... lol

  7. Man I hate it when I'm wrong, as sloppy as they played and still won, oh well the crowd is what made em win. The lobos couln't handle the noise level and it affected thier game.

  8. Very nicely done. This has to be the best game UNLV has played since their victory over San Diego State. Everyone did a great job. I'll admit I was pulling for the Lobos, since one of my degrees is from the University of New Mexico. But UNLV looked good. Bravo Bravo...

  9. Would have like to see them win both halves, just won't happen with this inexperienced bunch. Lopez contributed quality minutes and played with passion, inspirational to the rest of the club. Nice to see Reinhardt display some passing skills, still a little careless at times. Play of the night, easily, the Birch send back of Bairstow rolling to the rim, beautiful. Watching Birch play defense when he is on is worth the price of admission

  10. Great win tonight by the Rebels! I love how Rice gave up on Moser after him playing for only three minutes. Lopez-Sosa is a much better option at this point than Moser.

    Also, Reinhardt and Dejean-Jones showed the potential they have. When they figure it out, watch out.

  11. Pure delusion they have the same issue as the other games just masked by a W. they where lucky unm where off. Sets in half court suck no rebounding too many threes and turnovers.