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Live blog: Rebels outlast Wyoming, 66-56

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Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

UNLV Rebels guard Noah Robotham (5) shoots over Valparaiso Crusaders center Derrik Smits (21) during their game Wednesday, November 28, 2018, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 | 10:04 p.m.

It got a little close for comfort down the stretch, but for the second straight game UNLV was able to survive a horrible shooting performance and come away with a win, this time outlasting Wyoming, 66-56.

Wyoming trimmed UNLV's lead to 55-53 with three minutes remaining, but the Rebels got a pair of free throws from Amauri Hardy and an inside basket from Joel Ntambwe to push it back to 59-53 with 1:55 to play. After Wyoming leading scorer Justin James missed a runner in the lane, UNLV ran down the shot clock before Noah Robotham stuck a dagger 3 from the corner to make it 62-53 with 1:09 to play. 

Despite Robotham's big shot, the Rebels did not fare well from long distance. After making just 9-of-37 at San Jose on Saturday, they hit on only 4-of-22 tonight. Somehow — probably because neither SJSU nor Wyoming are any good — UNLV was able to win both games anyway. 

Kris Clyburn finished as UNLV's leading scorer with 17 points. Joel Ntambwe scored 15, and Mbacke Diong posted eight points, 11 rebounds and a blocked shot. James finished with 25 points for Wyoming. 

UNLV is now 9-5 in Mountain West play and 15-11 overall. 

UNLV up 10 late in second half at Wyoming

The Rebels haven't exactly been able to pull away, but with 6:26 remaining, they've got a pretty solid 55-45 lead over Wyoming.

Some unforced turnovers have kept UNLV from really clicking offensively, and Wyoming has made just enough shots to stay within striking distance, led by Justin James's 19 points.

Wyoming had pulled within 49-45 a few possessions ago, but UNLV scored on three straight trips to push the lead back to double digits. Mbacke Diong made a jump hook, then Kris Clyburn converted a pair of layups to account for the 6-0 mini-run.

UNLV pushes lead to 41-31 at Wyoming

Marvin Menzies threw a wrinkle at Wyoming to open the second half, and it worked perfectly.

After sitting back on defense for the entire first half, the Rebels came out aggressively to open the second. Menzies implemented a full-court press and also had his defenders play tight on ball-handlers; the new look rattled Wyoming, forcing a pair of turnovers that powered a 7-0 run for UNLV. With 15:45 remaining, the Rebels have a 41-31 lead.

Wyoming star Justin James returned to start the second half, so it looks like his injury toward the end of the first half was not too serious.

Joel Ntambwe is leading UNLV with 11 points, while James has a game-high 15 for Wyoming.

Late surge gives UNLV 30-23 lead over Wyoming at half

UNLV closed the half with a surge, and at the break the Rebels have a 30-23 lead over Wyoming.

The game was tied, 23-23, with three minutes left. Nick Blair made a pair of free throws to put UNLV ahead, and Mbacke Diong tipped in a Blair miss on the next possession to make it 27-23. Blair then found Noah Robotham alone for a 3-pointer with 1:27 left, which capped the scoring in the half.

Wyoming has hung around this long, but the Cowboys will be in trouble if Justin James is out. The star guard scored nine points in the first half, including a poster dunk over Kris Clyburn, but left the court late in the half with an apparent head injury.

UNLV made just 2-of-11 from 3-point range in the half but made up for it by converting all seven of their layup/dunk attempts.

UNLV leads at Wyoming, 19-18

It hasn't been action-packed, but with 6:54 left in the first half, UNLV has a 19-18 lead at Wyoming.

The Rebels actually led, 19-11, before Wyoming used a 7-0 run to close the gap. A 3-pointer from Justin James brought the Cowboys within a point and forced Marvin Menzies to call timeout. It also got the modest crowd on its feet for the first time.

Joel Ntambwe got off to a scorching start, scoring seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, but two fouls sent him to the bench after seven minutes of game time.

One situation to monitor will be UNLV's 3-point shooting. After making just 9-of-37 at San Jose State on Saturday, the Rebels have started this game 1-of-8 from deep. Snapping out of that cold spell would make winning this game a lot easier.

Rebels off to quick start at Wyoming

UNLV is off to a fast start for a change, as Joel Ntambwe and Kris Clyburn each have a pair of buckets and the Rebels have an 8-2 lead less than four minutes into the game.

Ntambwe got UNLV on the board with a baseline jumper, then popped in a short jumper from the mid-paint area. Clyburn then scored on a driving reverse layup and a breakaway layup after a steal at midcourt.

The Rebels have had serious trouble getting off to good starts this season, so it will be interesting to see if they can carry this momentum through the first half.

Three keys for UNLV basketball at Wyoming

There was much hand-wringing after (and during) UNLV’s harder-than-expected 71-64 win at San Jose State on Saturday, but when the buzzer sounded the Rebels had improved to 8-5 in the Mountain West (14-11 overall).

Up next is another road game against another weak opponent, as UNLV travels to take on Wyoming today (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network). It figures to be an important one for UNLV as the season enters the final stretch and teams jostle for seeding in the conference tournament.

Can the Rebels add another road win? Three keys to watch:

Ball pressure

Wyoming point guard A.J. Banks is a weak ball-handler. In pick-and-roll situations, he has a turnover rate of 43.6 percent, which means that his handle is loose and that he can be forced into errant passes. That could make him easy pickings for UNLV guard Noah Robotham, who has excelled this season when given the green light to smother opposing guards. When UNLV’s energy was sagging at San Jose State on Saturday, one of Marvin Menzies’s adjustments was to use Roboham as a harasser, and it worked. He could have similar success against Wyoming.

Keep shooting

UNLV suffered through one of its worst shooting games of the season at San Jose State, connecting on just 9-of-37 from 3-point range. The worst thing the Rebels could do, however, would be to overreact and curb their long-distance attempts. This is a 3-point shooting team, for better or worse; the Rebels are at their best when they are moving the ball to open shooters and letting it fly. Their season-long numbers are still good (38.0 percent in league play, third in the Mountain West), and it’s a make-or-miss game. Missing a lot on Saturday isn’t going to carry over to Tuesday. Shoot another 30-plus from long range at Wyoming and the results will likely improve.

Complete the sweep

The Rebels have already swept two league opponents this season, going a combined 4-0 against New Mexico and San Jose State. Can they add Wyoming to the list? The Cowboys are not a good team, as their KenPom.com rating puts them in the bottom 50 nationally. UNLV struggled to a 68-56 win in the first meeting, but that was on Jan. 6, and it was the second game of the MWC season. The Rebels hadn’t developed their offensive identity at that time. If UNLV plays a solid game on Tuesday, they should be able to break out the brooms.

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

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