“I thought it got away from us kind of early there in the second half,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “We expended a lot of energy, capital, whatever you want to say, to get back.”
UNLV called a timeout and responded with buckets from Hardy and Mitrou-Long to put the Rebels ahead to stay.
“We wanted to get a timeout and just calm our guys,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “Just to relax everybody and to reinforce to them ‘Hey guys we can stick together and win this game.’ ”
New Mexico had its chances in the closing minutes, but it missed six foul shots in the final 5 minutes. In all, the Lobos were 23 for 34 from the foul line.
Martin’s 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left and a chance to tie was well off the mark. He went 1 for 7 from beyond the arc.
“We didn’t seem to play with a ton of energy to begin with,” Weir said. “Probably it’s the first time I felt they were just flat for awhile. And I thought there were times where we worked our way through it, but we just couldn’t get there consistently enough.”
Neither team had a lead larger than six points, but the Rebels kept battling, Otzelberger said.
“Our guys really stuck together. Our guys made some timely shots early and late, just enough to come out with the victory,” he said. “They played really hard for each other, shared the basketball. We had balance. I thought they were really competitive and stuck together in key moments to find a way.
UNLV: The Rebels had been in a deep slide after starting off conference play 6-1, having lost five of six. This win was an important one because it keeps UNLV ahead of New Mexico for sixth place and a chance to avoid the conference tournament play-in game that the sixth through 11th place teams must undergo.
“We had this opportunity today and it was big,” Otzelberger said. “We have another one on Tuesday. They all count as one win. We’re going to try and win each one one at a time on the way out and see where we end up.”
New Mexico: The Lobos have been the conference’s most inconsistent team, and now have lost at home for the just the second time in 16 games. It appears the Lobos are destined for a play-in game, although the play-in winner from the 6-11 and 7-10 games will end up in the opposite bracket from Mountain West behemoth No. 4 San Diego State.
Although UNLV had a slight 9-6 edge in offensive rebounds, the Rebels outscored New Mexico 8-0 on second-chance opportunities.