Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 | 9:19 p.m.
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New Mexico 65, UNLV 60
ALBUQUERQUE — UNLV opens Mountain West play 0-1 and falls to 13-3 overall after missing several chances down the stretch and losing 65-60 to New Mexico at The Pit.
The Lobos' Alex Kirk finished with a game-high 23 points and Kendall Williams hit several big shots down the stretch. However, UNLV had plenty of chances to get the lead, as UNM missed several free throws down the stretch and grabbed an offensive rebound after one of the misses.
UNLV's last two real offensive possessions both came with the score at 63-60. On the first one, Katin Reinhardt got a good look on a 3-pointer off a screen but missed. There was more than 20 seconds left and you could argue that was the time to drive in for a quick two. Instead, Hugh Greenwood missed two free throws and the Rebels came back down the court with the score still the same. Anthony Marshall drove straight into the lane, where three Lobos were waiting to steal the ball.
Tony Snell hit two late free throws to put the game away. Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch both finished with a team-high 12 points, while Marshall had seven points, seven rebounds, nine assists and five turnovers. The Rebels committed 17 turnovers, lost the rebounding battle 41-37 and shot 8-for-23 beyond the arc.
The Rebels also attempted only five free throws, while New Mexico was 15-for-29.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from this game.
New Mexico 52, UNLV 51
7:39 remaining in the second half
ALBUQUERQUE — When Anthony Bennett left with his fourth foul, UNLV led by four. New Mexico quickly took advantage of his absence and started attacking the front court of Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas, including Cameron Bairstow finishing a dunk that Lopez-Sosa mostly blocked.
This one is a great back-and-forth battle, and if UNLV is going to have enough counter punches it needs Bennett on the floor. And Khem Birch for that matter. Those two were playing really well, and while Bennett's absence was due to foul trouble I'm not sure why Birch has sat so much in the second half.
UNLV 45, New Mexico 39
15:12 remaining in the second half
ALBUQUERQUE — Anthony Bennett scored eight points in the first four minutes of the second half, putting the Rebels back on top while the Lobos have struggled against a zone defense.
Bennett also picked up his third foul, something UNLV will have to monitor the rest of the way, but if he produces like that the Rebels won't need a ton of minutes from him. Khem Birch also hit a nice jumper to grow UNLV's lead while they play solid defense at the other end.
UNM hasn't figured out what it wants to do yet in the second half, since UNLV is keying on Alex Kirk.
New Mexico 34, UNLV 30
ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico's Alex Kirk scored the Lobos' final seven points of the first half, finishing with 16 points. Khem Birch is leading the Rebels with eight points while UNM's defense is doing a good job against Anthony Bennett, holding him to four points and two rebounds.
Of course, Bennett playing only 13 minutes because of a pair of fouls has also helped out the Lobos' cause. The teams have exchanged a lot of runs, with New Mexico coming out strong, UNLV countering to take the lead and then UNM going on that Kirk-fueled run to close the half.
UNM leads rebounding 23-15, including seven offensive rebounds that led to nine second-chance points. Neither team is very good behind the three-point line, combining to shoot 7-for-22.
With the exception of a run from about the 16-minute mark to the 8-minute mark, UNLV has looked out of sorts on offense. During that stretch they were making the extra pass and finding open shooters. After that, when UNM used an occasional zone and Bennett was on the bench, the Rebels couldn't get much going.
UNLV's second-half adjustments have to start with containing Kirk, both in the pain and on the perimeter. Bennett could help with that by avoiding another quick foul and attacking Kirk, who also has two fouls.
Beyond that, the Rebels need to get back into the rhythm they found for a spell in the first half. Pass it inside, and if the double team comes then kick it back out and find the open man. If no one helps, then beat them one-on-one or hit the hole in the zone around the free-throw line.
UNLV 22, New Mexico 17
7:55 remaining in the first half
ALBUQUERQUE — A snapshot: Anthony Marshall makes entry pass to Anthony Bennett, who's immediately double-teamed, so Bennett passes back to Marshall, who swings it to Bryce Dejean-Jones, who then finds a wide-open Justin Hawkins in the corner for a 3-pointer.
It was the Rebels' best offensive possession of the night, a microcosm of what could make them so good this season, and it's also the best example of why they have a lead. UNLV is finding open shooters on the second or third passes out of the post or around the perimeter. It's good stuff, and it doesn't hurt that the Rebels currently have seven assists to one turnover, either.
New Mexico 9, UNLV 6
14:48 remaining in the first half
ALBUQUERQUE — Dave Rice took a timeout about one minute into the game, which you don't need me to tell you is not a good thing. That plus a quick foul on Anthony Bennett are cause for concern, though the Rebels have calmed down a bit after a shaky start.
Khem Birch has four points and a block. One dunk came in transition and the other was on a nice post-up move against Alex Kirk. The Rebels are looking inside early and often, and that's exactly what Rice wants to see, especially on the road in a hostile environment like this.
New Mexico is getting some good looks on offense but they're mostly 3s, and most of them aren't falling. It will be interesting to see if UNLV keeps giving them those shots should the Lobos hit a couple in a row.
ALBUQUERQUE — Whether you love him or hate him, and most non-Lobos fans would fall in the latter category, you can’t deny Steve Alford is a really good coach. Probably the best in the Mountain West.
While UNLV and San Diego State have pulled in most of the national headlines the past year and a half, New Mexico just sits back and wins, including three regular season league titles in the past five years. Once then-freshman Hugh Greenwood got healthy midway through conference play last year, the Lobos were clearly the best team in the league, handling both UNLV and SDSU in the conference tournament.
This year the Lobos have two sort-of ugly defeats — a bad loss at home to South Dakota State and a blowout at a good St. Louis team — but they also have some of the league’s best victories. UNM defeated UConn on a neutral court and went to Cincinnati and won by one. The Lobos have three victories against top 50 RPI teams, which is as many as UNLV, SDSU, Colorado State and Wyoming have combined.
All of this is to say the Lobos are very good, but what it doesn’t say is how they’re going to stop UNLV’s Anthony Bennett. Like every team before them, that has to be at the top of the Lobos' list of priorities.
With the tag team of Alex Kirk (7 feet) and Cameron Bairstow (6-9), the Lobos have the size to hold their own in the paint. They’ve also had plenty of time to work up a game plan, since the Lobos last played in 2012 — Dec. 31, to be exact. That’s a lot of time for Alford and Co. to figure out what they want to do in the post.
What they couldn’t do with certainty before Tuesday, though, was prepare for UNLV’s Mike Moser. The junior forward sat out the last two games after playing 12 minutes at North Carolina. Now he says he’s at 100 percent, a statement you can judge for yourself when the game tips off at 7 p.m. Las Vegas time on CBS Sports Network.
UNLV coach Dave Rice said Tuesday he didn’t know how much Moser would play, just that he wouldn’t start. I expect his role to be at least slightly more regular than the spot minutes he played at UNC, but it’s unlikely he’ll jump right into his old role, either.
THE OTHER SIDE
New Mexico projected lineup
G — Kendall Williams, 6-4, Jr, 14.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.6 rpg
G — Hugh Greenwood, 6-3, So, 7.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 apg
G — Tony Snell, 6-7, Jr, 11.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3 apg
F — Chad Adams, 6-6, Sr, 6 ppg, 4 rpg, 88.9 ft%
F — Alex Kirk, 7-0, So, 11.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 50.4 fg%
Sixth man — F, Cameron Bairstow, 6-9, Jr, 7.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg,
Best name: Merv Lindsay, 6-7, So, F
Extra storyline: New Mexico reserve guard Demetrius Walker is the protagonist in George Dohrmann’s 2010 book, “Play Their Hearts Out,” which also featured UNLV’s Justin Hawkins. The two won a national championship as AAU teammates.
Useless Wikipedia factoid: New Mexico won the Division I Skiing national title in 2004.
Kenpom line: UNM -2
Vegas line: UNM -3.5
Bern’s prediction: Home teams are likely going to have an amazing record in the Mountain West this year. That will start tonight at The Pit. New Mexico 78, UNLV 72