Rebels’ loss to Lobos is an inside job

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It didn’t take long for UNLV to find out just how much they’ll miss injured forward Ben Carter the rest of the season.

In the first game since the 6-foot-9 junior forward went down with a torn left ACL, New Mexico made itself quite at home inside, finishing with a huge 50-30 edge in points in the paint and 15 second chance points en route to a 87-83 Mountain West victory on Tuesday night at WisePies Arena/The Pit.

Tim Williams, a 6-8, 240-pound junior transfer from Samford, bulled his way to a career-high 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting and also grabbed eight rebounds while sophomore guard Elijah Brown added 26 points, including a perfect 12-of-12 at the free throw line, to lead the Lobos (14-8, 7-2 MW).

UNLV (13-10, 4-6) lost despite connecting on 12-of-26 3-pointers, including five by sophomore guard Jordan Cornish.

The Runnin’ Rebels were whistled for 28 fouls compared to 15 for New Mexico. The Lobos finished with a big edge at the free throw line, sinking 28-of-36 attempts compared to 13-of-16 for UNLV.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Cornish kept the Runnin’ Rebels in it by connecting on five straight 3-pointers in the second half, the final one tying the game at 79-79 with 1:38 left. But Williams answered with 10 consecutive points over a six-minute span, including a driving layup with 56.7 remaining that put New Mexico ahead to stay. Trailing 83-81 with 15.8 to go, senior guard Jerome Seagears missed a driving layup attempt and Xavier Adams grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Adams then sank two free throws to seal the win in a game that feature 16 lead changes and 14 ties.

WHO STOOD OUT: Williams took advantage of UNLV’s thin front line that got even thinner when starting forward Dwayne Morgan fouled out after playing just seven minutes. UNLV freshman forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. had his best game of the season, finishing with a career-high 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking a career-high five shots in 38 minutes of action. Cornish, senior guard Ike Nwamu and sophomore guard Patrick McCaw combined for 42 points and were a combined 10-of-18 from 3-point range.

THE SKINNY: Morgan fouled out with 10:25 left in the game while fellow forwards Derrick Jones Jr. and Zimmerman both finished with four fouls. That forced interim UNLV head coach to use Cornish, a 6-6 guard, to defend New Mexico’s 7-foot-1 junior center Obij Aget at times down the stretch. Aget finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

QUOTES TO NOTE:
Simon on the disparity that saw UNLV whistled for 28 fouls compared to just 15 for host Lobos:
“It’s no secret you have to be 20 points better to win by two here. It’s a difficult place to play.”

Cornish on UNLV’s sloppy play down the stretch:
“We just had a lot of miscues, especially the last three or four minutes, that we have to clean up. Like Coach Simon said, we played hard to the end. Just had some brain farts that we have to fix.”

Zimmerman, who picked up his third foul with 14:20 left, on the defensive limitations of trying to guard Williams late in the game:
“We already had two people foul out so that definitely was on my mind. But I still have to stop him in those situations.”

New Mexico coach Craig Neal on Williams taking over late in the game:
“I think the players made nice adjustments to get Williams the ball. I think he willed us to win.”

UP NEXT: The Runnin’ Rebels conclude their two-game road trip on Saturday at Fresno State. The 4 p.m. game will be streamed live by ESPN3.

NOTABLE: This was UNLV’s first loss of the season when scoring 80 or more points. … Williams’ 29 points were the most scored by a Rebel opponent this season eclipsing the previous high of 24 set by Lobo guard Elijah Brown in the first meeting. … Both teams had 15 turnovers but New Mexico finished with a 25-18 edge in points off turnovers.

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