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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – UNLV coach Dave Rice saw some good things out of his No. 24 Rebels against No. 25 New Mexico.
He also saw things that made him cringe, especially in the waning moments when UNLV desperately tried to catch up to the Lobos before falling 65-60 on Wednesday night.
"There were some toughness plays that we needed to make down the stretch," Rice said. "And we just can't give up offensive rebounds like we did. New Mexico gave us a chance."
The Lobos (14-2, 1-0 Mountain West) missed five foul shots in the final 41.5 seconds, but twice they were able to come with the offensive rebounds to extend the possession.
Still, UNLV (13-3, 0-1) had a chance to tie it with 13 seconds left after New Mexico missed to foul shots to leave the Rebels trailing 63-60.
Katin Reinhardt had a good look at a 3-pointer, but his shot caromed off the front of the rim and New Mexico secured the rebound and finally put it away with two from the foul line.
"We got good shots that did not go in," Rice said.
The Rebels also struggled as their freshman star, Anthony Bennett, could not overcome foul woes. He picked up his fourth with 14:14 left in the second half and did not score again.
He finished with 12 points and six rebounds, but came into the game averaging 19.9 points with 9.1 rebounds.
"No other team has double-teamed him to the extent that this team did," Rice said. "He did a good job with it and was unselfish like he always is and kicked it out."
New Mexico's game plan coming in was to take it at Bennett, said Lobos coach Steve Alford.
"We wanted to make him guard," said Lobos coach Steve Alford. "He's a freshman He's as talented as anybody we've played. Inside and out, he's extremely skilled. When you play guys like that, you really have to try and make them guard."
And UNLV had his hands full with New Mexico post Alex Kirk, who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.
"The thing that makes Alex so difficult is that he can score on the block and can also score from a distance," Rice said. "He is an improved player and their guards are so good that they make you pick your poison, especially on the home floor."
After trailing 34-30 at halftime, UNLV surged ahead behind a Bennett-fueled 15-2 run early in the second half.
The Rebels' 45-39 lead was short-lived, however, as New Mexico responded with an 8-0 run to go up 47-45.
But with 3:25 left, Justin Hawkins hit an NBA-range 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 UNLV run that put the Rebels up 58-56.
New Mexico, however, closed the game with a 9-2 to gain the early advantage in the conference race.