A shoddy second half was the University of New Mexico Lobos’ demise, as it fell to the visiting UNLV Rebels 80-69 at Dreamstyle Arena on Tuesday evening despite an initially promising first half.
It’s the first conference loss for the Lobos, who had won their first two Mountain West games against the likes of Air Force and then-sixth ranked Nevada.
Meanwhile, for UNLV (9-6), it’s the team’s first 3-0 start in conference play in 20 years and its first win over the Lobos since the 2016-17 season.
“I thought UNLV played terrific tonight,” UNM head coach Paul Weir said. “Unfortunately, we did not play anywhere near the level that we needed to play to win a game like this against a good team.”
New Mexico (8-7, 2-1 MW) opened up the game with the tip going in its favor. Shortly after, Makuach Maluach pulled up from beyond the arc to score the Lobos’ first points of the game. But UNLV didn’t budge, making a three-pointer of its own to tie the game up.
The Lobos turned the ball over early in the first half, but as time went on they adjusted accordingly. More than usual, UNM’s post presence gave its opponents some problems. At one point later in the frame, Carlton Bragg — the 6-10 redshirt junior transfer from Kansas—managed to score eight straight points for the Lobos, six of which came directly from the post.
By halftime, 22 of UNM’s 42 points came from the paint. More notably, New Mexico was able to shoot 56.7 percent from the field in the first half which helped them enter the locker room with a 42-35 lead over UNLV.
But in the second half, UNLV flipped the script on the Lobos. In every way possible, the Rebels dominated the Lobos in the final 20 minutes — they shot 57 percent compared to UNM’s 24 percent; they outrebounded UNM in the second half, 21-13; and they played UNM’s first half game plan to a tee, dominating the home team 40-30 overall in the paint en route to a victory.
Interestingly enough, Mathis played point guard the entire second half while Drue Drinnon and Keith Mcgee did not see action during that frame. Drinnon played in the first half, but McGee did not play at all.
For New Mexico, four different players scored in double digits. Of those players, Vance Jackson led the way with 14 points. Corey Manigault scored 13 points, and Bragg and Maluach both contributed 12 points apiece.
UNLV was led by Kris Clyburn, its primary scorer, who dropped a game-high 25 points, including a clutch three-pointer with under a minute that ultimately sealed the Rebels’ victory.
Overall, the Rebels shot 50 percent from the field and made six of its 13 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, the Lobos finished shooting 41.8 percent from the field and made just four of 18 shots from beyond the arc.
The Lobos will now head on the road to face Colorado State for a 2 p.m. matchup on Saturday, Jan. 12.
Colorado State is coming off a win over Air Force but dropped its first two conference games to the likes of UNLV and Fresno State. Both losses came on the road, with its win coming at home.
Asked what his message was to his team following the loss to UNLV, Weir kept it short.
“See you at 5 a.m.”
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s basketball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.