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Live blog: Rebels fall at home to Fresno State

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Wade Vandervort

UNLV Rebels guard Noah Robotham (5) warms-up prior to a game against the Colorado State Rams at Thomas & Mack, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.

Updated Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 | 3:49 p.m.

Fresno State gave UNLV a taste of its own medicine, as the Bulldogs buried 15 3-pointers en route to an 83-65 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center. 

UNLV came into the game as the Mountain West's top 3-point shooting team, but Fresno played tight defense on the perimeter and limited the Rebels to 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. 

The Rebels trailed by 12 at the half and made several spirited runs over the final 20 minutes, twice cutting the deficit to five points. But every time it seemed like the game was tightening up, Fresno State guard Braxton Huggins was there to hit a 3 and snuff out the comeback. Huggins finished with a game-high 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting (6-of-9 from 3-point range). 

UNLV got 15 points from Kris Clyburn and 12 points from Mbacke Diong. 

With the loss, UNLV drops to 6-5 in Mountain West play and 12-11 overall. The Rebels will hose Air Force on Tuesday.  

Fresno State pulling away from UNLV late

Braxton Huggins just buried a 3-pointer from the left corner — his fifth triple of the game — and may have put a dagger in UNLV in the process, as FSU now leads 74-59 with 3:50 to play.

The Rebels have tried to make a couple runs over the course of the second half, but Huggins has been there to stomp out every comeback attempt. The senior guard now has 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting (5-of-8 3FGs).

UNLV has cut the deficit to five or six points on multiple occasions, but the Rebs haven't been able to get over the hump. The 3-ball simply has not fallen tonight, as UNLV is 3-of-14 from long distance. Fresno State came into the game with the Mountain West's best 3-point defense, and it looks like that will make the difference today.

Fresno State responds to UNLV run, still leads 63-52

The Rebels are showing some life in the second half, but Fresno State has answered every run. With 9:46 remaining, FSU still leads, 63-52.

UNLV trimmed the deficit to five points after back-to-back dunks by Mbacke Diong, but Fresno guards Braxton Huggins and Deshon Taylor responded by scoring the Bulldogs' next 10 points to push the lead back to double digits.

Diong now has 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting, and Kris Clyburn has a team-high 14.

The Rebels have played better defense in this half, but they'll have to keep it up for the next nine minutes to give themselves any chance at stealing this game. Huggins has 18 to lead Fresno State, while Taylor has 17.

Fresno State leads UNLV at half, 45-33

The Rebels left way too many shooters wide open in the first half, and Fresno made them pay by going 8-of-14 from the 3-point line. At the break, Fresno State leads, 45-33.

While Fresno State was hitting from deep (led by Braxton Huggins's 14 points on 3-of-3 3-point shooting), UNLV's outside touch disappeared for the first 20 minutes. The Rebels connected on just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.

Kris Clyburn played a strong half, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting (1-of-2 from 3-point range), and Joel Ntambwe and Amauri Hardy have chipped in seven points apiece.

UNLV will have to make shots to get back into this game, while at the same time closing the gaps on defense and limiting Fresno's wide-open looks. It sounds simple, but the Rebels have been unable to make it happen so far.

UNLV trails Fresno State, 29-21

UNLV hasn't been able to find the range from beyond the arc, and with 7:42 left in the first half Fresno State leads, 29-21.

After shooting the lights out at Boise State on Wednesday, UNLV is just 1-of-4 from deep so far today. Fresno State has made 5-of-8 from 3-point range, which accounts for the difference in the game.

Joel Ntambwe is leading the way for the Rebels with five points, while Noah Robotham has four points.

Fresno State hot early against UNLV

For the first time in a long time, UNLV has not started this game ice-cold, as the Rebels have made 5-of-10 from the field so far. Unfortunately for the Rebs, Fresno State is red hot. FSU has already hit three 3-pointers, and with 15:02 left in the first half, the Bulldogs are up, 15-11.

Fresno has made 6-of-9 overall and 3-of-4 from 3-point range, with Braxton Huggins knocking down both of his long-distance attempts. Kris Clyburn is 1-of-1 from deep for UNLV.

As this matchup pits the Mountain West's best 3-point shooting team (UNLV) against the best 3-point defense (Fresno State), keep an eye on the 3-point numbers as this game progresses.

Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. Fresno State

UNLV is riding high after notching a big road win at Boise State on Wednesday, but can the Rebels keep the momentum going? They’ll try to improve to 7-4 in the Mountain West on Saturday when Fresno State visits the Thomas & Mack Center (2 p.m., ESPN3).

Three keys to watch:

Make shots

This has become the biggest factor for the Rebels this season. The team defense has come and gone, but they’ve been able to make up for it with superb shot-making. Through 10 MWC games, UNLV ranks first in the conference in 3-point accuracy (41.2 percent). Conversely, Fresno State has been the best in the league at defending the arc, holding opponents to a league-best 29.6 percent from long distance.

Handle pressure

On defense, Fresno State will play tight on the perimeter and try to heat up UNLV’s ball-handlers. The Rebels need to set good screens, control their dribble and use quick, decisive passes in order to create space and generate open shots. Fresno State wants to create that one sequence of the game where the opponent buries itself in a flurry of turnovers — UNLV has to avoid that.

Challenge jump-shooters

Fresno State is a knockdown team. The Bulldogs make 45.6 percent of their uncontested jump shots and score 1.367 points per possession on unguarded shots, which ranks them 14th in the nation according to Synergy Sports data. Deshon Taylor (36.2 3FG%), Braxton Huggins (37.9 3FG%), New Williams (35.6 3FG%), Noah Blackwell (38.3 3FG%) and Sam Bittner (48.3 3FG%) are all capable of shooting a high volume from the outside and making at a high percentage. UNLV’s perimeter defense could decide the game.

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

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