LAS VEGAS - UNLV came into Saturday night's game against New Mexico desperate for a win. Following a pair of surprising losses, the Runnin' Rebels earned it in impressive fashion.
Anthony Bennett had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead UNLV to a 64-55 victory over No. 15 New Mexico.
The Rebels we coming off a pair of losses to Boise State and at Fresno State. Though they shot just 37.1 percent (23 of 62) from the field, the Rebels were 9 of 22 (40.9 percent) from beyond the arc.
Bennett started the scoring with a 3-pointer less than a minute into the game, and the Rebels never relinquished the lead. Up 15-8 with 13:40 left in the first half, UNLV (18-6, 5-4 Mountain West) went on a 9-0 run while holding the Lobos scoreless for 5:31, until Alex Kirk scored at the 8:09 mark.
New Mexico (20-4, 7-2) would tighten the gap to 24-16, but the Rebels closed the first half on a 13-7 run to take a 37-23 halftime lead.
Both teams came out playing at a frenetic pace, as they combined for 11 turnovers in the first 8 1/2 minutes, mostly because of hustle and simply trying to execute plays. Altogether both teams committed 24 turnovers (New Mexico 13, UNLV 11).
UNLV, which led by as many 16 in the second half, came into the game limiting foes to 38.5 percent shooting overall and 29.5 from long range. The Rebels stepped it up defensively to stifle the Lobos to 33.9 percent shooting (21 of 62) and a meager 18.2 percent 4 of 22) from beyond the arc.
``We were coming off very tough two-game road trip, and our guys were disappointed, frustrated (and) mad; but more than anything we were determined,'' UNLV coach Dave Rice said. ``We understood the challenge of playing against a terrific New Mexico team and as a program we took that challenge. It was a fantastic defensive effort.
``I can't say enough about the resolve and the resiliency of our team to find a way to win this game.''
Bryce DeJean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt each scored 16 points for UNLV. Jones was 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and Reinhardt was 4 of 7. Anthony Marshall added 11 points for the Rebels.
Since the 3-point field goal was adopted by the NCAA in 1986-87, UNLV has converted at least one 3-pointer in all 863 games played, a Division I record.
``We needed to have individual accountability and we did that tonight,'' Rice said. ``For us to be successful, we need everybody. Guys who play a lot of minutes, guys who play a few minutes, our scout team. We want our program to be about `team,' and this was a terrific team victory for us tonight.
``It'll matter even more if we continue to win more.''
The Lobos, who had established themselves as the team to beat in the Mountain West during the first half of the season, came into Las Vegas sporting a gaudy 7-1 league mark, three games better than UNLV.
UNLV avenged an earlier clash in which the Lobos won 65-60 at The Pit on Jan. 9.
``We had our opportunities but we didn't make the most of them,'' New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. ``They got us out of character in the first half. They played with greater poise in the first 10 minutes than we did. It was our lack of poise offensively and our inability to make shots (that cost us the game).''
UNLV has now won 12 straight home games and 11 straight at the Thomas & Mack Center. In addition, the Rebels have won 31 of their last 32 regular-season games at the TMC and have won 13 straight regular-season home games against Mountain West foes.
Kirk scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to lead New Mexico.