UNLV basketball:

Blog: Rebels hold off Lobos for huge road victory

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AP Photo/Eric Draper

New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow scores under the basket in front of UNLV’s Roscoe Smith in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Albuquerque.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 | 8:26 p.m.

UNLV 76, New Mexico 73

Game over

Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 23 points, including two emphatic dunks that helped UNLV hold off New Mexico for a huge win at the Pit. The Rebels won 76-73 and led the entire second half.

New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow led all scorers with 27 points but four Rebels finished in double digits. The others were Deville Smith (17 points), Kevin Olekaibe (14) and Khem Birch (11).

The Lobos trailed by one with 40 seconds left and got the ball to Bairstow on the baseline. His jumper came up short and Dejean-Jones put UNLV back up three with a couple of free throws. New Mexico's final attempts came close, including Cullen Neal's corner 3 at the buzzer, but the Lobos could just never get over the hump.

This is obviously a huge win for UNLV, which was coming off back-to-back home losses. The Rebels are now 11-6 overall and 2-2 in Mountain West play. This may not make Saturday's trip to No. 10 San Diego State any easier, but the Rebels will certainly be a more confident group. Plus as of this writing the Aztecs have their hands full at home with Fresno State.

UNLV shot 50 percent for the game and overcame a seven rebound deficit on the glass.

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

 

The Pit is not a friendly place. From Snake greeting opposing players off the bus to the fans who sometimes feel like they’re right on top of you, there’s a reason it’s considered one of the two or three best home venues in the Mountain West.

The Pit actually ranked ninth in the entire country in a recent Athlon poll of college basketball writers and commentators. So its status is well known.

However, the team currently playing there is more of an enigma. How good are the Lobos? Everyone has an opinion about it but no one really knows for certain. Tonight should get us a little closer to the answer and could set the Lobos off in one of two directions.

UNLV (10-6, 1-2) is looking to bounce back from consecutive losses at 6:15 p.m. Las Vegas time here in Albuquerque. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.

Standing in the Rebels’ way is a New Mexico team that’s been wobbling but hasn’t yet fallen over.

The Lobos (12-3, 3-0) haven’t done much since I saw them beat Marquette at the MGM Grand almost a month ago. While not particularly impressive, the Lobos also haven’t lost since then, defeating Grand Canyon and then opening league play 3-0.

While UNLV has to follow up this game with a trip to Viejas Arena, New Mexico doesn’t play San Diego State for another month. The new 11-team league schedule has created some oddities, and those teams not meeting until Feb. 22 is one of them.

That leaves New Mexico with a lot of time to build momentum and make a run at the league crown. It’s also a lot of time for things to go off the rails.

From UNLV’s perspective, this is a game the Rebels feel they need to win to help avoid a potential free-fall. For New Mexico, it’s a chance for a statement. A decisive win would go a long way in boosting confidence in the program and first-year coach Craig Neal.

Bern’s prediction: This feels like a really good spot for betting on the Rebels. They’re getting eight or nine points, depending on where you go, and if a week off to prepare didn’t help then they have only themselves to blame. Still, I think UNLV comes up a little short. New Mexico 74, UNLV 69

Season: ATS 11-5, O/U 10-5-1

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

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