Albuquerque, NM – Alex Kirk had 23 points and nine rebounds as No. 25 New Mexico took a hard-fought 65-60 win over No. 24 UNLV in Mountain West Conference action.
Tony Snell scored 13 points while Kendall Williams added 11 points and four boards for the Lobos (14-2, 1-0 MWC), who played for the first time since a New Year's Eve loss to Saint Louis.
"Obviously this is a huge win for us," New Mexico coach Steve Alford remarked. "That was about as difficult as conference openers can be other than maybe playing on the road at UNLV."
Khem Birch and Anthony Bennett each scored 12 points for the Rebels (13-3, 0-1), who had won their previous two coming in.
With New Mexico trailing by two, Kirk hit one free throw and missed the other with Anthony Marshall grabbing rebound, but Marshall turned the ball over and Williams buried a 3-pointer for a 60-58 lead with just over two minutes to play.
Bennett then lost the ball and Williams missed a 3-point attempt, but Hugh Greenwood grabbed the offensive board and Williams was fouled with 41.5 left.
He missed his second shot, but another offensive board resulted in Williams getting fouled again and he made one more for a 62-58 lead with 35.6 left.
Marshall followed that with a layup to make it a two-point game and Snell hit one of his two from the stripe with 25.4 showing and it was a 63-60 contest.
After Katin Reinhardt missed a 3-pointer, Greenwood was fouled, but he missed both his shots. Marshall, though, turned the ball over yet again and Snell sealed the win with two more free throws with seven seconds to play.
"It was a physical game and we didn't do a very good job of overcoming the foul trouble that we were in," UNLV coach David Rice said. "There were some toughness plays that we needed to make down the stretch, and we just can't give up offensive rebounds like we did."
A 10-1 run from UNLV in the first half gave the team a 19-12 lead after Bryce Dejean-Jones capped the run on a jumper halfway through the first half.
New Mexico, countered with a 7-0 run later in the half and used another 5-0 run for a 34-30 lead at the break.
A 15-2 run from the Rebels put the team back on top as Birch capped the run with a jumper for a 45-39 advantage just over four minutes in, but the Lobos answered with the next eight points and the game stayed close the rest of the way.
New Mexico hosts Fresno State on Saturday ... UNLV hosts Air Force ... Despite the loss, UNLV still leads the series, 28-18 ... UNLV shot 40.6 percent in the game, but just 15-of-29 from the line, while New Mexico made 38.6 percent of its shots ... The Lobos grabbed 41 rebounds to 37 for the Rebels.