LAS VEGAS — Despite breaking off an 8-0 run with about 6:30 left in the game, No. 15 New Mexico didn't have enough to get past UNLV.
Alex Kirk had 17 points and snagged a career-high 16 rebounds, and Cameron Bairstow scored 13, but the Lobos couldn't get it done down the stretch in a 64-55 loss to the Runnin' Rebels on Saturday night.
The loss ended a three-game win streak for No. 15 New Mexico (20-4, 7-2 Mountain West), while UNLV (18-6, 5-4) avenged a 65-60 loss to the Lobos at the Pit on Jan. 9th.
With 6:30 left, Nick Banyard hit one of two free throws to bring the Lobos within 56-43 and kick off a 5-minute scoring run. Kirk hit two free throws to make it 56-45 with 5:19 left and Bairstow shot another free throw to close it to 56-46 with 4:22 left.
A Kirk tip-in with 3:34 left made it 56-48, but the rally ended with a layup by UNLV's Katin Reinhardt with 1:28 left. Seconds later, Kirk had a dunk and Demetrius Walker hit a 3-pointer to bring the Lobos to 60-53. Tony Snell had the last score in the game, with a jumper to make it 64-55 with 4 seconds left.
"We had our opportunities tonight but we didn't make the most of them," Lobos coach Steve Alford said. "They got us out of character in the first half. They played with greater poise in the first 10 minutes than we did. It was our lack of poise offensively and our inability to make shots. We had a breakdown defensively."
"We had a very bad shooting night," Alford said. "A lot of that had to do with shot selection ... I thought we did a good job getting back into it.
"We didn't shoot as well as we usually do. We didn't hit a lot of open shots and we took some tough ones as well," Kirk said.
Kirk had a 23-point, nine-rebound performance in the Lobos' home win in early January.
UNLV led 37-23 at the half.
Anthony Bennett had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead UNLV. The Rebels came in desperately needing a win after surprising losses to Boise State and at Fresno State. Though they shot just 37.1 percent (23 of 62) from the field, the Rebels were 9 of 22 (40.9 percent) from beyond the arc.
Bennett started the scoring with a 3-pointer less than a minute into the game, and the Rebels never relinquished the lead. Up 15-8 with 13:40 left in the first half, UNLV went on a 9-0 run while holding the Lobos scoreless for 5:31, until Kirk scored at the 8:09 mark.
New Mexico would tighten the gap to 24-16, but the Rebels closed the first half on a 13-7 run to take a 37-23 halftime lead.
Both teams came out playing at a frenetic pace, as they combined for 11 turnovers in the first 8 1/2 minutes, mostly because of hustle and simply trying to execute plays. Altogether both teams committed 24 turnovers (New Mexico 13, UNLV 11).
UNLV, which led by as many 16 in the second half, came into the game limiting foes to 38.5 percent shooting overall and 29.5 from long range. The Rebels stepped it up defensively to hold the Lobos to 33.9 percent shooting (21 of 62) and a meager 18.2 percent 4 of 22) from beyond the arc.
Bryce DeJean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt each scored 16 points for UNLV. Jones was 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and Reinhardt was 4 of 7. Anthony Marshall added 11 points for the Rebels.
Since the 3-point field goal was adopted by the NCAA in 1986-87, UNLV has converted at least one 3 in all 863 games played, a Division I record.
The Lobos, who had established themselves as the team to beat in the Mountain West during the first half of the season, came into Las Vegas sporting a gaudy 7-1 league mark, three games better than UNLV.
UNLV has now won 12 straight home games and 11 straight at the Thomas & Mack Center. In addition, the Rebels have won 31 of their last 32 regular-season games at the TMC and have won 13 straight regular-season home games against Mountain West foes.