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Live blog: Mooring, Rebels steal late win at Colorado State

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV’s forward Brandon McCoy (44) attempts to drive with a steal as Illinois forward Michael Finke (43) fouls from behind during their game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.

Updated Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018 | 4:09 p.m.

Jovan Mooring hit a pull-up 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play to give UNLV the lead, and the Rebels finished on a 14-0 run to steal a 79-74 win at Colorado State.

Mooring scored seven of the 14 points during that stretch and finished with 17 points.

Freshman big man Mbacke Diong forced a missed 3 on Colorado State's final possession, and Jordan Johnson nailed two free throws to seal the win.

The Rebels (14-5) are now 3-0 on the road in Mountain West play and 3-3 overall in the league.

UNLV trails late at Colorado State, 74-68

Jordan Johnson just hit a corner 3 to give UNLV a slight pulse, but with 3:10 to play, Colorado State leads, 74-68.

A CSU turnover just before the media timeout will give UNLV the ball again, so if the Rebels can capitalize with a bucket, this game could get interesting in the final minutes.

CSU guard Raquan Mitchell has been a tough cover for UNLV in the second half. He beat Johnson for a backdoor layup two possessions earlier and now has 17 points.

Shakur Juiston leads UNLV with 19 points, while Johnson has 12.

Colorado State leads UNLV, 57-53

With 11:05 remaining, Colorado State has pulled ahead, 57-53.

Rams' guard Raquan Mitchell just drove inside for a basket and a foul, so he'll be shooting a free throw after the timeout. Mitchell now has 14 points for the game on 5-of-13 shooting.

Jovan Mooring has heated up for UNLV in the last few minutes, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and a driving layup to keep the Rebels within striking distance. After a scoreless first half, Mooring now has eight points on 3-of-8 from the field.

Shakur Juiston made his first two shots of the half before coming up short on a mid-range jumper. He's got 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

Colorado State forward Che Bob (10 points, six rebounds) just picked up his third foul, so that is a situation to monitor as we move into the latter stage of the game.

UNLV, Colorado State tied at halftime/p>

Colorado State scored the last five points of the half, and we're tied 36-36 at the break.

A Brandon McCoy hook shot gave UNLV a 36-31 lead with 1:12 left, but J.D. Paige hit a 3-pointer, and Raquan Mitchell sank a pair of free throws in the final seconds to knot the score.

In some ways, the Rebels are fortunate to be even. They have been unable to force tempo, with just 36 possessions and zero fast break points in the first half, and the half-court offense hasn't been electric. Shakur Juiston played a tremendous first half, however, bailing the team out with 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting.

If the Rebels can shift this game into a higher gear in the second half, Colorado State might struggle to keep up. The Rams are playing with a thin roster, and senior forward Che Bob (seven points, five rebounds) picked up two personal fouls in the first half.

UNLV leads at Colorado State, 24-23

The Rebels may be struggling offensively as a team today, but Shakur Juiston definitely came to play.

The junior forward just scored back-to-back baskets, one on a mid-range jumper and one on a drive from the top of the key, and he's now leading all scorers with 12 points on perfect 12-of-12 shooting. Juiston's drive gave UNLV a 24-23 lead and prompted CSU coach Larry Eustachy to call timeout with 6:15 left in the half.

Colorado State is hanging tight with the Rebels despite shooting just 9-of-24 so far. Senior forward Che Bob has seven points for CSU.

Rebels start slow, trail early at CSU

Buckets have been hard to come by for UNLV in the early minutes, and with 11:33 left in the first half at Moby Arena, the Rebels trail Colorado State, 15-11.

Freshman guard Amauri Hardy has provided a spark off the bench, with five points in four minutes. But the rest of the Rebels have combined to shoot 2-of-10.

Colorado State is playing without lead guard Prentiss Nixon, and the Rams have also looked confused on offense. But senior forward Che Bob just hit a pull-up 3 to give his team a little life, and he's got a game-high seven points. CSU is 5-of-15 from the floor.

Three keys for UNLV basketball at Colorado State

The start of Mountain West play has not gone according to plan for UNLV. Three weeks ago, the Rebels had hopes of contending for a league title and an NCAA tournament berth, but through five games, the team is 0-3 at home and 2-3 overall against MWC opposition.

That makes Saturday's trip to Colorado State important. A loss would drop UNLV to 2-4 and leave them way behind in the regular-season standings — at a time when the program desperately needs to build fan excitement and bring people back to the Thomas & Mack Center. A win, however, would improve the Rebels to 3-0 on the road and keep them within hailing distance of the conference's top dogs.

Can UNLV stack up another road win? Three keys to watch:

Big-man defense

The Rebels are still learning how to defend the spread offenses that populate the Mountain West, and it's got Brandon McCoy's head spinning. The freshman big man is gifted in many ways — he's averaging 18.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game — but he's inexperienced when it comes to defending in space, and opponents are making UNLV pay.

Through five conference games, opponents are shooting 51.9 percent when McCoy is on the floor. When McCoy is off the floor, opposing shooting drops to 38.2 percent. That's a sizable difference, and while the sample size isn't huge, it matches what we've seen on the court, as Utah State, Air Force and New Mexico all attacked McCoy repeatedly.

Colorado State isn't a super-aggressive team when it comes to driving to the basket — only 32.2 percent of the Rams' shots come around the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com — so McCoy may not have such a target on his back. But if CSU starts forcing the issue and challenging him in the paint, McCoy has to block a few shots and send a message that he won't be kicked around by the weaklings of the Mountain West anymore.

No Nixon

Colorado State will be without its best player, as an ankle injury will sideline junior guard Prentiss Nixon (17.9 points, 1.5 steals per game). That may seem to make the Rebels' job easier, but it also means the coaching staff will have to devise a game plan for a Nixon-less team, which no one has seen yet this season.

Whether the Rams run their offense through senior forward Che Bob, junior guard J.D. Paige, junior forward Deion James or some combination of players, UNLV will have to diagnose it quickly and figure out a way to limit easy scoring chances.

Winning time

UNLV has been in position to win all five of its Mountain West games, but poor play down the stretch has doomed the Rebels to an underwhelming 2-3 start. Even victories at San Jose State and Air Force featured shaky play in the late minutes.

That's not what Marvin Menzies preaches. He wants his team to play mistake-free basketball in "winning time," but so far the Rebels have failed to grasp the concept, whether it's been turnovers, poor shot selection, defensive breakdowns or free throws causing the problems.

Can UNLV clean that up and play its best basketball in the final four minutes of a close game? We've yet to see it, but a good showing in clutch time at Colorado State could give the Rebels some much-needed confidence in that area going forward.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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