PORTLAND, Ore. -- For a while it looked like the Portland Pilots might just pull off an upset against No. 21 UNLV.
The Pilots led by nine points in the second half while Runnin' Rebels struggled without junior forward Mike Moser, who was a star at Portland's Grant High School.
But UNLV took over with a 12-0 run, including a jumper and a pair of 3-pointers from Justin Hawkins, and the Rebels won 68-60 on Tuesday night.
Ryan Nicholas, who had 15 points and 19 rebounds for the Pilots (3-5) in the loss, said it wasn't for lack of trying.
"Coach preaches that the key is, if our effort is there, we can watch on film and find out technically what went wrong," Nicholas said. "It's hard to teach effort and coach effort. Really, we brought the effort, so we can tune up the other stuff."
Anthony Bennett had 18 points and Anthony Marshall added 16 for UNLV (6-1). Moser, the team's top rebounder and second-best scorer, watched from the bench with a hip injury.
The Pilots led 28-22 at halftime and extended the lead to nine early in the second half. But Hawkins' 3-pointer evened it a 42 and Quintrell Thomas' dunk gave the Rebels the lead with 13:45 left. David Carr answered with a 3-pointer for Portland.
UNLV took charge with a run that included a jumper, a free throw and consecutive 3-pointers from Hawkins for a 56-47 lead.
Portland pulled to 63-60 on Korey Thieleke's jumper with 3:58 left but it was as close as the Pilots would come.
The game was expected to be something of a homecoming for Moser, but he aggravated his hip injury in the Rebels' 77-63 victory over Hawaii on Saturday. He will have an MRI in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Moser is averaging 12.3 points and 9.2 rebounds. Shortly before the game he went to Twitter to announce he couldn't play, adding he "really wanted to show out in my city."
The Pilots (3-4) were coming off a 72-60 loss at Washington State on Saturday, but they hadn't dropped a home game.
Thomas van der Mars hit a jumper that put the Pilots up 9-5 early. They extended the lead to 15-7 on Nicholas' jumper, capping an 11-2 run.
Marshall left the game briefly after tumbling beneath UNLV's basket early in the first half, but his dunk with just under six minutes left narrowed it to 20-16 for the Rebels. The Pilots wouldn't let UNLV any closer and Nicholas' 3-pointer made it 25-18 with 4:10 left in the first half. Portland went on to take its six-point lead at the break.
The Rebels closed to 28-25 on Marshall's layup early in the second, but Carr had a 3-pointer on the other end for the Pilots.
Portland extended the lead to 37-28 on Oskars Reinfelds' layup, but UNLV answered with Hawkins' 3-pointer. The Pilots extended the margin again on Thieleke's jumper and free throw.
Marshall hit a 3-pointer that closed the Rebels to 40-37, then added a pair of free throws to cut the margin to a point with 4:47 left.
Portland hadn't hosted a ranked team since a 79-48 loss to then-No. 12 Kentucky in 2010. The Pilots have lost eight straight to ranked opponents, dating back to a 61-56 victory over then-No. 22 Minnesota in 2009.
The Rebels and the Pilots played a pair of back-to-back games in Portland back in 1967, with UNLV winning both.