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Basketball: Short-handed Lobos best Runnin’ Rebels

February 2, 2017

In the building that has been historically kind to Lobo basketball, The University of New Mexico found a little of the magic that has treated the program so well in the past.

Getting 29 points from Elijah Brown and huge contributions from Damien Jefferson and Obij Aget, the Lobos held on for an 80-77 victory over UNLV in the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Nev.

The win helped the shorthanded Lobos (14-9, 7-4) move within half a game of first place in the MWC behind co-leaders Boise State and Nevada. It also gave them a huge boost of confidence since they were without injured starters Tim Williams and Dane Kuiper.

A true freshman, Jefferson had a career night, establishing personal bests for points (13), rebounds (9) and minutes played (36). He got his first career start, taking the spot of Kuiper.

Aget did most of the work inside for UNM. His 15 points was one short of a career high. He also had 11 rebounds and a blocked shot.

The Lobos stuck with a four-guard lineup for most of the game and it paid off in the end as they hit several key free throws deep in the second half, going 11-for-14 in the final 13 minutes. Jordan Hunter hit 1 of 2 attempts with 6 seconds remaining, then New Mexico avoided overtime when UNLV’s Jovan Mooring missed an open 3-point attempt as the final buzzer sounded.

Mooring kept the game close in the final 30 seconds by hitting a pair of wild 3-balls after the Lobos had opened their biggest lead of the game, 75-69, on a Brown 3-pointer with 43 seconds remaining.

The game was close throughout with neither team leading by more than half a dozen points. There were 13 ties and 13 lead changes, the last coming with 2:51 remaining when Jefferson grabbed an offensive rebounds off a missed Jalen Harris baseline jumper, the put it back in to give the Lobos a 68-66 lead.

That sparked a 9-3 run that proved to be enough.

The game was tied at 35 by halftime as neither team was able to take control. With its smaller lineup in place, the Lobos were able to avoid playing a zone defense for most of the night, which caused a tough shooting night for UNLV. The Rebels shot just 39 percent from the floor compared to UNM’s 48 percent.

Mooring had 23 points for UNLV while Tyrell Green had 25. The pair had all six of the Runnin’ Rebels’ 3-pointers.

The Lobos now have road wins at San Diego State, Colorado State, Boise State and UNLV. They are the first team in the history of the Mountain West to accomplish that in the same season.

UNLV dropped to 10-13 overall and last place in the MWC at 3-7.

GAME NOTES

Lobo women: A poor shooting night doomed the Lobos in a 61-52 loss to UNLV in The Pit on Wednesday night. UNM falls to 12-10 overall and 7-4 in the Mountain West.

The Lobos shot just 32 percent from the floor and committed 14 turnovers. They were also outrebounded 46-37.

Cherise Benyon finished with a team-high 20 points, the eighth time this season she has hit the 20-point plateau.

Richelle van der Keijl had a double-double for New Mexico with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Mykiel Burleson added 11 points.

The Lobos used only two substitutes and their bench produced just three points. One of the more unusual stat lines came from starting forward Kianna Keller. She played 34 minutes but didn’t attempt a single shot. She had five rebounds and had one block, leaving the game only briefly.

Men’s look: The Lobo men wore turquoise uniforms for Wednesday’s game, the second time this season they’ve gone with that look. The other was back in November during a home game.

UNM typically wears red on the road. The team’s two-game swing to Nevada and UNLV saw UNM wear their white in Reno last weekend and then Wednesday’s game in the Thomas & Mack.

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