UNLV 85, New Mexico 83
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)—Kevin Kruger scored a career-high 29 points and his late block of a shot by New Mexico’s best 3-point shooter sealed UNLV’s 85-83 win over the Lobos on Wednesday night.
UNLV (24-6, 11-4 MWC) enhanced its chances for at least an at-large NCAA tournament bid and kept alive its bid for a share of the Mountain West Conference title with BYU.
New Mexico (15-15, 4-11) used a furious second half rally to nearly pull out a win in its final home game under lame duck coach Ritchie McKay. He was fired last week, effective at the end of the season.
The loss marked the first time New Mexico has lost five conference games in a season in The Pit.
Kruger hit seven 3-pointers and had 9 assists, but his biggest play was his block of New Mexico guard Chad Toppert’s 3-point shot with four seconds left. Toppert got a chance for a game-winner after teammate Darren Prentice missed the second of two free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining for the game’s final point.
Kruger’s block sent the ball out of bounds and New Mexico got one more shot with 0.5 seconds remaining. J.R. Giddens, who led the Lobos with 28 points and scored 11 of the Lobos’ last 12 points, put up an off-balance 3-pointer that was short.
UNLV used a 17-0 run to open up a 58-42 lead with 13:11 left. Kruger hit a pair of 3-pointers and added two free throws off a technical call on McKay in the midst of the run. McKay was hit with the technical after slamming his clipboard to the court while arguing with an official during a timeout.
But New Mexico, which has lost close games all season, wasn’t finished. The Lobos answered with an 11-2 run. A short jumper in the lane by Tony Danridge cut the UNLV lead to 60-53 with 10:15 left. Moments later the Lobos put together another 11-2 run to get within 68-66. Prentice finished the run with five straight points on a 3-pointer and then a layup after he stole a Rebels pass.
The teams traded leads, Giddens carrying the Lobos’ offense with a variety of drives to the basket and outside jumpers and Kruger hit a pair of clutch shots. Joel Anthony gave the Rebels the lead for good (80-78) with a dunk with 1:27 left and 20 seconds later Kruger followed with his final 3-pointer.
Giddens countered with a 3-pointer to make it 83-81 and had a chance to tie it with 23.7 seconds left but missed the first of two free throws.
UNLV guard Wink Adams then hit two free throws with 20.4 seconds left.
New Mexico led 29-16 in the first half after scoring nine straight points but the Rebels closed out the first half with a 12-2 run to tie it at 37-37 at halftime.