In a game filled with fouls, it was a non-call during a frantic finish in the final seconds that left the UNLV Rebels in a foul mood, and the New Mexico Lobos dancing in the locker room after escaping with a 91-90 victory.
The win on Sunday afternoon at Dreamstyle Arena The Pit propelled the Lobos into a third-place tie temporarily with Fresno State at 10-6 in Mountain West play, and put them at 15-14 overall. UNLV fell to 8-8 and seventh in the conference, 19-10 overall. The top five teams earn a coveted first-round bye in the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas.
The tight contest featured six ties and 11 lead changes, although the Lobos controlled most of the second half before a late comeback by the Rebels made for a dramatic finish.
The key sequence came in the final minute. Lobos freshman Makuach Maluach tied the contest at 88-88 with a driving layup with 44 seconds to go. On the ensuing possession, UNLV’s Jovan Mooring was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left and made two of the three free throws to give the Rebels a 90-88 lead. That led to more heroics for Maluach, who sank a contested 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of the UNLV defender off an assist from Antino Jackson with 16 seconds left for the eventual game-winner. UNLV called time out with 10 second left and then UNLV’s Kris Clyburn missed on an open 3-pointer, and two put-back attempts by the Rebels failed as time expired, the ball dangling seemingly forever on the rim as bodies collided in the paint before it fell out giving the Lobos the win.
UNLV Coach Marvin Menzies lobbied the refs for a foul call on the final play to no avail. Sam Logwood tossed the ball high into the air in celebration of the season sweep of their Mountain West rivals. Twitter videos showed the Lobos celebrating with fans and later doing a victory dance afterwards in the locker room.
“The Pit was on fire,” Logwood tweeted shortly after the game. The announced crowd for the game was 12,080.
Logwood, a senior, is heating up as he winds down his career in a Lobo uniform. He finished with 17 points and a career-high 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Over the past four games, Logwood is averaging 16.1 points and seven rebounds.
The Lobos and Rebels battled back-and-forth throughout the first half and UNM settled for a 42-41 lead at intermission after a nifty set play coming out of a timeout by UNLV with 3 seconds left before halftime.
In the second half, the Lobos built their lead to as many as 11 points with 11:49 to play before UNLV gradually began chipping away at the lead. The Rebels eventually retook the lead at 82-81 with 3:48 to play on a Brandon McCoy old-fashioned 3-point play that was first called a charged and then switched to the fifth foul on Joe Furstinger after replay determined he was inside the arc in the lane, and thereby ruled a block. The Rebels’ rally was fueled in part by the seemingly endless trips to the foul line in the second half. The Rebels shot 40 free throws for the game, converting only 28. Meanwhile, the Lobos made 24-of-29 foul shots to help offset their opponents’ frequent trips to the foul line.
Next up for the Lobos is a road game at Colorado State on Wednesday night before finishing the regular season at home against Fresno State in what could end up being a battle for third place in the conference behind first-place Nevada (14-2) and second-place Boise State (12-4). Fresno State’s team took a hit with a season-ending foot injury to point guard Jaron Hopkins, but still managed to beat Air Force 54-48 on Monday night to improve to 11-6 in MWC play, a half game ahead of the Lobos.
The Rebels held almost every advantage in the box score except for the final score. UNLV outrebounded the Lobos 39-28, and outdid them 46-30 (points in the paint), 17-11 (points off turnovers), 16-4 (second-chance points), and 18-3 (fast-break points). UNM, however, outscored UNLV 29-15 in bench points and held an 11-4 advantage in 3-pointers made.
Lobos center Joe Furstinger had a pair of blocks vs. UNLV, giving him 101 for his career, ranking him in a tie for eighth on the all-time list at UNM.
Anthony Mathis led a parade of five Lobos in double figures with 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Mathis has scored in double figures in 16 straight games and has led the team in scoring in 10 games. Besides Mathis and Logwood, Furstinger and Maluach added 13 points apiece and Dane Kuiper chipped in 10 points. The Lobos made 11-of-22 treys as a team, adding to their school record (325) for the season. Mathis, who has hit 88 3-pointers, is closing in on the individual season record of 102. He ranks fourth in the nation in 3P FG percentage at 49.1.
The Lobos currently have five players averaging double digits in points, led by Logwood’s 13.1 scoring average. The others are Mathis (12.9), and a trio averaging 10 points per game in Maluach, Antino Jackson and Chris McNeal.