Slow Start, Cold Shooting Dooms Lobos in Vegas

Feb. 9, 2013

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By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Defense is not enough on the road in the Mountain West.

The University of New Mexico men's basketball team had little success from 15 feet and beyond, and UNLV led from start to finish for a 64-55 victory at the Thomas and Mack Center on Saturday night.

The Lobos (20-4, 7-2 Mountain West) held the Rebels to 37.1 percent shooting (23-of-62) but was even worse themselves. UNM shot 21-of-62 from the floor (33.9 percent), 4 of 22 from 3-point range (18.2 percent) and 9-of-18 from the free-throw line (50 percent) in watching its three-game winning streak come to an end.

UNLV (18-6, 5-4) led by as many as 16 and never led by fewer than seven points after the half. The Rebels were effective from distance, hitting 9-of-22 from the 3-point stripe.

"I thought our guys gave great effort," Lobo coach Steve Alford said. "(We held them to) 37 percent shooting and we tied them on the backboard (44 rebounds apiece). We didn't turn the ball over that much (13 times). I really like what the guys did defensively.

"But you shoot 50 (percent) from the line and you shoot 33 (percent) from the field and 18 (percent) from 3 - that's hard to win on the road when you have those kinds of shooting numbers."

UNM trailed by 14 at the half and made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to big men Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow in the second half.

That helped the Lobos make small dents into the Rebels' second-half lead, but their lack of outside shooting touch never let them get closer than 60-53 on a 3-point bank shot by Demetrius Walker with 43 seconds left in the game.

UNM had a few opportunities to make the game interesting in the final minutes after a Kirk put-back closed the gap to 56-48 with 3:34 remaining. The Lobos, however, missed their next four shots. UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett's block of a Kendall Williams layup attempt with 1:34 left in the game led to a Katin Reinhardt fast-break layup for a 58-48 lead that effectively sealed the game.

Kirk led the Lobos with 17 points - 10 in the second half - and a career-high 16 rebounds. Bairstow scored nine of his 13 points in the second half and added six boards.

But UNM's leading scorers, Kendall Williams and Tony Snell, combined to make just 4-of-19 from the floor and combined for just 11 points.

"Our plan was not to shoot as many 3s as UNLV," Alford said. "I thought that was the difference in the game. We needed to go inside more. We wanted to go inside more. I thought our bigs were terrific."

Bennett led the Rebels with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but the Rebels created a comfortable margin from the game's outset thanks to their 3-point shooting. Reinhardt hit four 3s, and Bryce DeJean-Jones added three. Each scored 16 points.

DeJean-Jones added nine rebounds, and Anthony Marshall added 11 points and six assists.

The Lobos had two five-point runs and two six-point runs in the second half against UNLV but their ice-cold long-range shooting kept short-circuiting those comeback attempts. The visitors at one point missed nine consecutive 3-pointers. Walker was the only Lobo to hit from long-range in the second half, netting a pair of 3s.

The story's arc in the first half was the difference in the shooting behind 3-point line. Dejean-Jones was hot for UNLV early, Reinhardt late, and the home team built a 37-23 halftime lead. The 14-point bulge matched the home team's biggest lead of the half.

DeJean-Jones hit three early 3-pointers and scored all 13 of his first half points in the first 12 minutes as the Rebels built a 24-10 lead.

"I just thought the first 10 to 14 minutes of the game, we were just a little out of character," Alford said. "We didn't play with poise."

Reinhardt hit all three of his 3s in the final four minutes and two in the last two minutes of the half after the Lobos had scratched their way back to a 31-23 deficit.

UNLV shot 7-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half and was 40 percent from the field overall. The Lobos were a chilly 9-of-30 from the floor (30 percent) and just 2-of-12 from 3-point range (16.7 percent).

Kirk kept his team within shouting distance in the first 20 minutes, scoring seven points and pulling down nine rebounds.

The error-prone Lobos committed 10 first-half turnovers, while UNLV committed six and had a 13-3 advantage in points off turnovers in the first half.

Starting point guard Hugh Greenwood twisted an ankle during a practice on Friday and was a game-time decision whether he would play.

"You travel here and he's not 100 percent," Alford said. "He's our floor leader and I think that affected us to start the game because it was really a trial and error to see if he could (play). He was not 100 percent."

The Rebels, who were coming off two straight losses, got going quickly on Saturday night, hitting six of their first nine shots in the first five minutes of the game and led 15-6. The Lobos started off 2-of-9 in that same span.

UNM will look to regroup Wednesday night when it travels to Fresno State at 8 p.m. MT. The game will not be televised but will be broadcast on the Lobo Radio Network (KKOB-AM 770 in Albuquerque). The Lobos then will play host to Boise State in the Pit next Saturday at 7 p.m. Root Sports and My 50 TV will broadcast that game.

"We got that split this week," Alford said. "We talked to our guys already about next week. If you want to win a championship and put yourself in that position, next week have to be a sweep week. And that's not going to be easy."