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Live blog: UNLV season ends with late loss to UNR

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Steve Marcus

UNLV players warm up before a game against UNR in the 2018 Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship at the Thomas & Mack Center Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Updated Thursday, March 8, 2018 | 2:10 p.m.

Jovan Mooring had a chance to tie the game with a long 3-pointer in the final seconds, but the senior guard missed, and UNR has escaped with a 79-74 victory.

UNLV led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but UNR's hot 3-point shooting (8-of-13 in the second half) made the difference. UNLV made just 1-of-10 from deep over the final 20 minutes.

The Rebels' season is now over with a 20-13 record, and the immediate offseason questions will include the status of freshman Brandon McCoy, who is likely to declare for the NBA draft.

UNR leads UNLV late in second half

Caleb Martin just hit a big 3-pointer from the top of the key to extend UNR's lead to 71-63 with 3:32 remaining.

Jordan Johnson will shoot a 1-and-1 after the timeout, but the Rebels are going to have to start scoring in bunches if they want to extend their season. UNR is shooting 69.6 percent in the second half, including 7-of-11 from 3-point range, while UNLV has missed all five of its 3-point attempts.

UNR leads UNLV, 62-57

Just when it looked like UNR was getting ready to pull away, UNLV went on a 6-0 run to get back into the game and trim UNR's lead to 62-57 with 7:32 to play.

Jovan Mooring and Jordan Johnson are both playing with four fouls, and UNLV has yet to hit a 3-pointer in the second half, but the Rebels are sticking around thanks to an offensive putback by Shakur Juiston (10 points) and a driving layup by Kris Clyburn (11 points).

UNR continues to dominate from beyond the arc in the second half, as the Wolf Pack is 6-of-8 from deep. UNLV has missed all four of its 3-point attempts after going 6-of-13 in the first half.

UNLV is also out of timeouts, as Marvin Menzies called the Rebels' final TO to stop a UNR run around the 9-minute mark.

UNR surges to 55-51 lead over UNLV

UNR has come out of the locker room red hot from 3-point range (5-of-5), and the Wolf Pack have surged to a 55-51 lead with 11:47 to play.

Jordan Caroline and Kendall Stephens are both 2-of-2 from long distance in the second half, and UNR is currently on a 10-2 run.

UNLV is floundering, and both of its starting guards have four fouls. Jovan Mooring (team-high 13 points) went to the bench after collecting his fourth personal around the 15-minute mark, while Johnson picked up his fourth shortly after halftime. Marvin Menzies will have to navigate the final 12 minutes of this game carefully, or UNR could end up pulling away.

UNLV leads UNR at half, 39-31

UNLV leads UNR 39-31 at halftime, and with the way the Rebels played in the first half, there's a real chance they could hold on and score the upset.

After eschewing the 3-point shot for most of the season, UNLV made 6-of-13 from beyond the arc in the first half, led by senior guard Jovan Mooring's 3-of-5 performance. Mooring has a team-high 13 points, while Brandon McCoy has six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

As surprising as the Rebels' offensive strategy has been their defensive game plan. After defending UNR with man-to-man defenses through most of the first two regular-season games, Marvin Menzies opened this one in a 2-3 zone and stayed in it for almost the entire first half. While zone can be dangerous against a team with as many shooters as UNR, it has worked so far, as the Wolf Pack made just 4-of-12 from long distance over the first 20 minutes.

Caleb Martin has 11 points for UNR, but he has not been his efficient self, making just 3-of-11 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3-point range.

Can UNLV keep up this level of play for another half and score an memorable upset over their in-state rival?

Rebels lead UNR, 33-28, late in first half

Is there an upset percolating in the Mountain West quarterfinals? With 3:29 left in the first half, No. 8 seed UNLV has a 33-28 lead over top-seeded UNR.

Jovan Mooring has heated up in the last few minutes. The streaky senior guard scored eight points in a 6-second span, including a pair of pull-up 3-pointers, and freshman center Brandon McCoy followed with a 3 of his own. The Rebels are now 4-of-10 from long distance for the game, while UNR is 3-of-10.

Foul trouble could be an issue for both teams going forward. UNLV starters Jordan Johnson, Tervell Beck and Shakur Juiston each have two fouls, while UNR starters Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline both have two personals.

UNLV has early lead over UNR in Mountain West tourney

Kris Clyburn just hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner, and with 11:13 left in the first half, UNLV has a 13-12 lead over UNR.

The big news early on has been UNLV's employment of a zone defense. The Rebels opened the game in a straight 2-3 zone, a complete departure from their normal game plan against UNR in two earlier meetings this season. UNR has mostly tried to shoot over the zone, but the Wolf Pack is just 2-of-6 from deep so far.

Offensively, UNLV has struggled to create good looks, but strong offensive rebounding has led to five second-chance points. Tervell Beck and Brandon McCoy have combined for seven early points inside.

Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. UNR

The renewed rivalry between UNLV and UNR is about to add a new chapter, as the heated enemies are set to match up today in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament (noon, CBS Sports Network).

UNR is the deserved favorite, as the top-seeded Wolf Pack went 26-6 this season and racked up a 15-3 record in conference play. UNLV, on the other hand, finished eighth in the standings and needed overtime to beat Air Force in the play-in round on Wednesday. And the last time these teams met, UNR delivered a knockout blow with a 101-75 win at the Thomas & Mack Center on Feb. 28.

Then again, UNLV did score a win at Reno earlier in the season, so perhaps the Rebels (20-12, 8-10 MWC) will be able to put up more of a fight now that their season is on the line.

Three keys to watch:

Limit 3's

UNR has killer shooters at every position, which is why the Pack finished 15th in the nation in 3-point percentage this season (40.1 percent). They are tall, rangy and comfortable shooting off the dribble or off the catch, and if that sounds impossible to defend, that's because it is.

UNLV can't hope to shut down UNR's outside shooters (heck, Air Force hit 13-of-27 against UNLV yesterday), so Marvin Menzies will have to do the next best thing: Game-plan to take away the easiest, wide-open 3's, and hope the Wolf Pack miss more than usual on the rest of their long-distance looks.

If Caleb Martin (43.1 percent from 3-point range), Kendall Stephens (44.7 percent), Hallice Cooke (47.5 percent) and Jordan Caroline (29.3 percent) are hot and replicate UNR's 13-of-24 performance in the last meeting, UNLV doesn't stand a chance. With a little luck, the Pack's aim will regress to the mean and give UNLV a chance to hang around.

Defend the rim

The Rebels haven't played good interior defense this season, but at the most important times Wednesday, Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston came through with four clutch blocks against Air Force.

Nevada doesn't get to the rim a ton, but the Wolf Pack is efficient when the opportunity presents itself (65.2 percent on shots around the rim, 53rd in the nation). McCoy and Juiston will have to deter some of those close-range attempts. Until Wednesday, that would have been a losing proposition for the Rebels, but McCoy and Juiston did just enough to help UNLV sneak past Air Force, so perhaps they've got another handful of rejections up their sleeves.

Asking a player like McCoy to defend the 3-point line while also challenging shots around the rim is risky, but options are few and far between. Aside from playing defensive specialist Mbacke Diong more, Menzies' only real choice will be relying on McCoy to play the defensive game of his life.

Score a lot of points

As much as UNLV wants to focus on defending the arc and protecting the rim, UNR is going to score. The Wolf Pack has been assembled to make shots, so the Rebels have to expect that and not lose heart when UNR goes on runs.

UNLV will need players to step up and score to get momentum back. At Reno, it was Jovan Mooring who played the role of "cooler," hitting big shot after big shot to silence the crowd. Whether it's Mooring again, or Jordan Johnson or Amauri Hardy or one of the big men, someone will have to create a handful of buckets out of thin air in order to keep UNLV close.

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

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