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Rebels win shootout at Boise State, 83-72

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Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman via AP

UNLV guard Noah Robotham pulls up for a 3-pointer while defended by Boise State’s RJ Williams during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Boise, Idaho.

The Rebel Room

Next year, again

Ray Brewer, Mike Grimala and Case Keefer discuss how much UNLV should be pointing its eyes to the future after losing three straight games by exactly 17 points. Will anything change if the Rebels' struggles continue this week against Boise State and Fresno State?

With less than five minutes remaining in UNLV’s game at Boise State on Wednesday, Noah Robotham found himself open for a potential go-ahead 3-pointer.

The score was tied, 68-68, and Amauri Hardy’s dribble penetration had pulled the defense away from Robotham on the right wing. Hardy swung the ball back to Robotham, who was 4-of-5 from long distance to that point in the game. Robotham caught it, set his feet, lined up the shot …  and passed the ball.

As Boise State guard Alex Hobbs lunged toward him in an attempt to challenge the shot, Robotham swung it to teammate Kris Clyburn, who was parked in the right corner (and even more wide open). Clyburn, who was 0-of-4 from 3-point range at the time, calmly swished the shot to give UNLV a 71-68 lead.

The Rebels never gave up the lead again, closing the game on a 12-4 run to pick up a key road win, 83-72.

After the victory, which snapped an ugly three-game losing streak for UNLV, Robotham said ball movement has been an emphasis point for the Rebels of late. And with the game on the line, he was more than willing to make a pass and set up a teammate.

“I had a good shot,” Robotham said, “but I thought Kris had a great shot. In that scenario, I think Hobbs had to play two. Amauri threw a good skip pass, I caught it and kind of swung it to Kris. I had a good shot, I thought Kris had a great shot and that’s why I gave the ball to him.”

Robotham finished with a team-high 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting (5-of-6 from 3-point range), but he really set the tone for UNLV’s buzzsaw offensive performance by dishing out 10 assists while recording zero turnovers.

Stops were hard to come by at Taco Bell Arena, as Boise State used an array of ball screens and pick-and-rolls to shoot 52.7 percent from the field. But UNLV was up to the task, making 28-of-52 from the field (53.8 percent). The Rebels were especially hot from 3-point range, knocking down 14-of-26 (53.8 percent).

Six different Rebels made at least one 3-pointer, led by Robotham’s five makes. Junior forward Nick Blair made 3-of-5, Hardy made 2-of-4 and freshman Bryce Hamilton made 2-of-5.

UNLV is now the best long-range shooting team in the Mountain West, having connected on 108-of-262 through 10 conference games (41.2 percent).

The Rebels racked up 16 assists on their 28 made baskets against Boise, and Robotham credited the team-wide willingness to pass as the reason for so many easy looks at the rim.

“I think the biggest key with us is we’ve just got to move the ball,” he said. “[The coaches] dialed up some stats and I think last game when we had more than five passes we shot something absurd like 68 percent from the field. So we knew if we moved the ball we’d put ourselves in good position.”

Boise State opened the game on an 8-0 run, continuing a trend of slow starts for UNLV. But the Rebels found their stride and eventually pulled within 43-39 at the half.

Though four Broncos finished in double figures, led by Derrick Alston’s 17 points, Boise State slowed down over the final 20 minutes. After shooting 61.5 percent in the first half, BSU made just 13-of-29 in the second (44.8 percent).

That opened the door for UNLV, and with Robotham leading the way the Rebels rallied to pick up a very important win. Clyburn finished with 17 points, Hardy scored 15 and Blair tallied 14.

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

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