ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The 25th-ranked New Mexico Lobos overcame some crucial missed free throws down the stretch to hold off No. 24 UNLV 65-60 on Wednesday night.
Alex Kirk finished with 23 points and nine rebounds as New Mexico (14-2, 1-0) prevailed in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
The Lobos had their chances to pull away late at the free-throw line, but they were only 6-for-12 from the line in the last three minutes.
New Mexico trailed by a point after Kirk made one of two free throws with 2:26 left, but the Rebels (13-3) kicked the ball out of bounds after the miss on the second shot. Kendall Williams made them pay, hitting a three-pointer with 2:15 remaining to put the Lobos ahead 60-58.
Another UNLV turnover followed, and New Mexico got an offensive rebound after Williams' off-balance 3-point attempt hit off the rim.
Khem Birch then fouled Williams' drive to the basket with 41.5 second left. Williams hit the first free throw but missed the second.
Williams was fouled again with 35.6 seconds left and the Lobos holding a three-point lead. Again he made one of two to extend New Mexico's lead to 62-58.
The Rebels countered with Anthony Marshall's driving layup with 28.6 remaining to reduce the deficit to two points.
Tony Snell hit one of two free throws to make it 63-60, setting up a furious final 25.4 seconds.
UNLV's Katin Reinhardt missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game. Hugh Greenwood got the rebound was immediately fouled by Birch. Greenwood would miss both free throws with 13 seconds left, but UNLV turned the ball over and Snell sealed the game with two made free throws with seven seconds to go.
Kirk scored 16 points in the first half, which ended with New Mexico holding a 34-30 lead.
Lobos senior Chad Adams went down with a hyperextended right knee injury with three minutes remaining in the first half. Adams had to be helped to the locker room, but he returned in the second half.
New Mexico trailed 22-17 after Reinhardt hit a three-pointer with 8:01 left before halftime.
The Lobos went to work and took a 24-22 lead on Tony Snell's 3-pointer.
UNLV tied things back up on a pair of Birch free throws, only to see Greenwood complete a three-point play and put New Mexico up for good in the half.
The Lobos shot just 40.6 percent (13-for-32) in the first half, while the Rebels were only 36.7 percent (11-for-30) from the floor.
Birch led UNLV with eight points, while Adams scored six for New Mexico before his injury.
NOTES: Mike Moser made his first appearance for UNLV since he dislocated his elbow on Dec. 9 at California. He finished with three points on 1-for-6 shooting in 14 minutes of action... This was only the third time in 14 years that the Lobos opened Mountain West play at home. They won both of the previous matchups in 2001 and 2005. ... New Mexico and UNLV split their regular-season games in 2011-12, but the Lobos had the last laugh with a 72-67 win in Las Vegas in a Mountain West Tournament semifinal.