Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 | 10:21 p.m.
Say this for the 2018-19 Runnin’ Rebels — they have good timing.
UNLV struggled mightily with its 3-point shooting for the second straight game, but the Rebels picked the right two contests to lose their outside stroke. On Saturday they escaped lowly San Jose State despite going 9-of-37 from deep, and on Tuesday they slipped past almost-as-lowly Wyoming, 66-56, despite hitting on just 4-of-22 from beyond the arc.
Against virtually any other two opponents on the schedule, UNLV would have taken a pair of losses. Instead, the Rebels pocketed two road wins and now sit at 9-5 in the Mountain West (15-11 overall).
Senior point guard Noah Robotham said the Rebels won with defense on Tuesday, as they held Wyoming to 41.3-percent shooting on the night.
“Going into March, it shows that you can not shoot the ball well and still be in the game with your defensive effort,” Robotham said. “Granted, Wyoming plays slow, but they scored 56 points today, so our defense is kind of going in an upward direction.”
UNLV appeared to have a solid grip on this game, leading 55-45 with six minutes remaining, but Wyoming (6-20, 2-11 MWC) rallied behind senior guard Justin James (25 points). He drove to the rim for three buckets during an 8-0 Cowboys run that trimmed the deficit to 55-53 with 3:34 left.
Robotham then buried the dagger, ironically with a 3-point shot. His corner 3 with 1:14 to play extended the lead to 62-53 and slammed the door on Wyoming’s comeback hopes.
Kris Clyburn led the way for UNLV offensively, following up his 0-of-12 shooting performance at SJSU by scoring a team-high 17 points on 5-of-10 from the field. Ntambwe scored 15, and Robotham finished with 10. Mbacke Diong posted eight points, 11 rebounds and a blocked shot.
While the 3-point shot wasn’t falling, UNLV played just well enough in other areas to beat an inferior Wyoming team. The Rebels went a perfect 16-of-16 from the free-throw line, and they didn’t miss a single close-range shot, going 10-of-10 on attempts categorized as layups or dunks.
Menzies was proud of his players for finding a way to win.
“The 3-point shot for us is obviously something that, when it’s going down we can beat a lot of people,” Menzies said. “It wasn’t going down tonight, but they found a way. I think it’s character and the culture that we’re building.”
With the victory, UNLV guaranteed its best record in league play since Dave Rice guided the Rebels to a 10-8 finish in 2013-14.
UNLV has four games remaining in the regular season: vs. San Diego State (Saturday), at UNR (Feb. 27), vs. Boise State (March 2) and at Colorado State (March 9).