Albuquerque, N. M. — Almost 40 years to the day after their first meeting, The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels(8-9, 1-3) paid a visit to Albuquerque to meet up with Mountain West foe – the New Mexico Lobos(9-7, 2-2) on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.
Both teams are typically ranked but this year, they are in a rebuilding phase. However, rebuilding has nothing to do with continuing the rivalry. This contest was a tale of two halves as these team’s swapped leads five times and tied four. In the end UNLV upset the home favorite Lobos 71-66.
The Lobos have played incredible first-half basketball this year but too often let their opponent come back and make a game too close or lose the contest; the Lobos can’t seem to close. This was extremely evident last Saturday after blowing a 25-point lead with 10 minutes to go, even failing to hit 6 free throws in the final minute. Tuesday night’s matchup wasn’t as brutal, but the result was a loss, again.
The Lobos came out hot in the first half led by sophomore Dane Kuiper’s sharpshooting nailing 5-5 from the field including 3-3 from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, senior Obij Aget rejected 7 would be Rebel shots, giving him 106 career blocks moving him into 6th all time for UNM. Tyrel Green of the Rebels helped to keep the game close in the first half, going 3-4 from the field helping a 9-2 first half run to cut the Lobo lead from 11 to 2 in the first half. The Lobos shot 55.6% in the first half while UNLV only shot 31.4%. By those numbers you might think that the Lobos carried more than a 6 point lead going into the half, but they didn’t. The Rebels dominated the offensive boards 8-2, which was the key for the Rebels to keep this game close at the half.
The Rebels started the second half shooting “lights out,” going on an immediate nine-point run to start the second half compelling the Lobo coach, Craig Neal to call a time out. The Lobo offense struggled in the first eight minutes of the second half scoring less than ten points. Meanwhile, UNLV was racking up 22 points shooting over seventy percent from the field.
Scratching their way back into the contest, theLobo’s, Jalen Harris’ three-point field goal helped push the Lobos ahead by one point with less than four minutes to play. However, the UNLV tenacity was too much with the Rebels closing out the game on a 10-4 run to take the victory.
Although the Lobos outshot The Rebels 48%-38.3%, the Rebels dominated the offensive boards 12-4 causing ten second chance points to just two for the struggling Lobos. In addition, the Rebels shot 42.9% from three-point range for a total of 27 points to UNM’s less than mediocre 4-15 from beyond the arc.
First Year UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies is no rookie when it comes to playing the Lobos in “the Pit.” He coached UNM’s interstate rival New Mexico State for the previous nine years. Menzies made some shrewd half time changes that helped turn the tide for the Rebels. UNLV came out with a smaller, quicker lineup which neutralized Aget, causing him to be charged with two quick second half fouls sending him to the bench for most of the second half. In the same breath defended Kuiper on the perimeter and held him to just 1-4 from the field in the second half, after 13 first half points. Switching to the smaller zone defense also kept the Lobos from the charity stripe holding the two best scorers Tim Williams, and Elijah Brown to just 7 total free throw attempts for the contest.
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Matthew Barela – HMG staff January 10, 2017