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Blog: Hot-shooting Rebels knock out New Mexico, 74-58

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Christopher DeVargas

UNLV’s Nick Blair (20) scores against New Mexico during their game at Thomas & Mack Center, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019 | 9:07 p.m.

UNLV continues to play efficient offense, and on Tuesday they used a strong shooting performance to down New Mexico, 74-58.

The Rebels made a ridiculous 14-of-25 from 3-point range, led by Nick Blair's four triples, and shot 43.9 percent for the game. On the other end, Noah Robotham spearheaded a defensive effort that held New Mexico to 35.5 percent from the field.

The win moves UNLV to 5-1 in Mountain West play and 11-7 overall, with a road test looming at San Diego State on Saturday.

UNLV leads New Mexico, 66-50

Noah Robotham just hit a long pull-up 3-pointer off the dribble, and with 3:55 to play the Rebels have extended their lead to 66-50.

Robotham's shot may have been the dagger, but UNLV has done a lot of good things over the last five minutes to seal the game. The Rebels have forced New Mexico into tough shots and rebounded well, and they are starting to make their free throws. Nick Blair is up to a career-high 19 points, while Kris Clyburn has 13. Robotham has 11 points.

New Mexico leading scorer Anthony Mathis has been held to eight points on 3-of-6 shooting.

UNLV pushes lead to 54-40 against New Mexico

Nick Blair just swished a 3 to give him a game-high 15 points, and with 10:33 remaining, UNLV has a 54-40 lead over New Mexico.

Blair is now 5-of-10 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Kris Clyburn is UNLV's second-leading scorer with 10 points.

New Mexico trimmed UNLV's lead to eight points early in the half, but the Rebels steadied the ship with buckets from Clyburn and Amauri Hardy. UNLV is just 8-of-17 from the free-throw line, but good long-range shooting has kept the offense afloat (10-of-19 3FGs).

New Mexico continues to pound the ball down low to try to take advantage of UNLV's lack of size, but Blair and Joel Ntambwe have done a credible job defending the paint. Ntambwe has a game-high 10 rebounds, while Blair has five boards.

Rebels use 21-4 run to build halftime lead over New Mexico

The first 10 minutes were choppy, but UNLV found its offensive rhythm late in the half, using a 21-4 run to catch New Mexico and take a 39-27 lead at the break.

Noah Robotham carried the Rebels through much of that run, and he finished the half with eight points and six assists. Robotham made 2-of-3 from 3-point range.

UNLV has also gotten another big contribution from reserve forward Nick Blair. The walk-on has a game-high 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting, including a monster dunk (off a Robotham assist) for the Rebels' final bucket of the half.

New Mexico tried to work the ball down low in the opening minutes, but the Lobos have settled for jump shots for much of the game. Reserve guard Keith McGee has a team-high nine points, but the Lobos are 2-of-10 from 3-point range.

UNLV leads New Mexico midway through first half

UNLV has picked up the pace offensively, and with 7:55 left in the half the Rebels have taken an 18-17 lead over New Mexico.

Walk-on junior Nick Blair has provided some punch off the bench, as he's got a team-high six points. Blair knocked down a pair of free throws on UNLV's last possession to give the Rebels their first lead of the game.

UNLV is 3-of-7 from the 3-point line, while New Mexico has made just 1-of-7 from deep so far.

Slow start for Rebels against New Mexico

UNLV has not been able to finish around the rim in the early going, and with 15:30 remaining in the first half New Mexico has a 7-2 lead.

Tervell Beck and Nick Blair are a combined 0-of-3 on close-range attempts, and UNLV's only points have come on a Noah Robotham steal-and-score after he picked Anthony Mathis's pocket.

New Mexico has emphasized post play on offense, and the Lobos' aggressive game plan has already resulted in two personal fouls on UNLV starting center Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.

Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. New Mexico

The last time UNLV faced New Mexico, the Rebels fought back in the second half to notch a statement win in Albuquerque two weeks ago. Today, UNM will visit the Thomas & Mack Center looking for payback (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Three keys to the game:

Keep firing

UNLV has played smaller lately (partly by necessity), and that has led to a shift in the way the Rebels have approached the offensive end of the court. They are shooting more 3-pointers, and with good results — over the last two games, they have connected on 29-of-59 from deep.

In the first meeting between these teams, New Mexico limited UNLV to 13 3-point attempts (6-of-13). If the Rebels can create more open looks and make them at a good rate, the offense will continue to click.

Interior defense

In two games without injured center Mbacke Diong, UNLV’s interior defense has been shredded by Air Force and not tested by a comically inferior San Jose State team. If the Rebels don’t figure out a way to protect the rim, New Mexico will have no problem throwing the ball into the post and exploiting that weakness. UNM forward Carlton Bragg scored effectively from the post in the first meeting, so UNLV will have to come up with a plan to contain him.

Defend Mathis

New Mexico guard Anthony Mathis is a dangerous player, as he’s averaging 15.9 points per game while making 44.1 percent of his 3-pointers. Defending him will be a top priority for UNLV. In the first meeting, the Rebels left it up to Noah Robotham to check him almost exclusively, and Robotham dominated the matchup, holding Mathis to nine points.

New Mexico will likely come into this game with a counter to that matchup, adding some wrinkles to the game plan in an attempt to get Mathis free from Robotham’s defensive clutches. How will UNLV respond?

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

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