UNLV went into Wednesday night’s home game with New Mexico still clinging to slim hopes of getting back into the Mountain West title race.
You could say any chance of that happening got shot down cold.
The Rebels (17-9, 8-5) connected on just 31.7 percent of their shots from the floor and made just one of their first 18 3-point tries en route to a 68-56 loss to the Lobos (20-5, 11-2) at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV now trails first place San Diego State (23-2, 12-1) by four games with five games left to go.
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Reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Kendall Williams scored a game-high 29 points, including 4-of-7 3-pointers, and grabbed seven rebounds while Cameron Bairstow added 18 points and five blocks as the Lobos led wire-to-wire while avenging a 76-73 home loss to the Rebels on Jan. 15.
“Just got off to a very rough start offensively in the first half,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
That might have been the understatement of the night.
How bad was it?
* New Mexico shot better from 3-point range (5-of-9, 55.6 percent) than UNLV did from the free throw line (8-of-18, 44.4 percent) while building a 38-29 halftime lead.
* The Rebels were 1-of-18 from 3-point range in the first 36 minutes before hitting two of their final three tries in garbage time.
* UNLV finished 19-of-60 from the floor, a season low for field goals made in a game. The 31.7 final shooting percentage was second to a 30.0 shooting effort in 63-52 loss at San Diego State on Jan. 18.
* Guards Kevin Olekaibe, Deville Smith and Bryce Dejean-Jones were a combined 9-of-31 from the floor for 25 points.
Despite the poor offensive display, the Rebels, who trailed by as many as 17 points in the second half, cut the deficit to 54-47 with 8:42 left after freshman forward Christian Wood sank a pair of free throws to cap an 8-0 spurt.
But Williams abruptly ended the comeback with a long 3-pointer and New Mexico pulled away with a 9-2 run.
Khem Birch led the Rebels with 12 points and 11 rebounds but was just 3-of-10 at the free throw line. Roscoe Smith finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Dejean-Jones also finished in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
UNLV, which now finds itself in a battle with Wyoming (8-5), Boise State (7-6) and Nevada (7-7) to avoid finishing sixth and opening Mountain West Tournament action with a Wednesday play-in game, travels to Boise State on Saturday.
PHOTO BY JOSH HOLMBERG