March 1, 2006
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- These are not Jerry Tarkanian's UNLV Rebels. Neither are these the New Mexico Lobos of yesteryear.
Chasing the century mark in scoring is no longer an option for these two programs who back in the '70s used to crash it on a routine basis.
New Mexico (17-11, 8-7 MWC) won despite matching its season low point total. The Lobos also scored 47 in a two-point win over Wyoming two weeks ago. New Mexico missed 13 of its first 16 shots in the second half, yet never trailed in the final 20 minutes.
UNLV (15-12, 9-6) was equally inept, with the 39 points matching the lowest point total in school history. The Rebels also failed to break the 40 points in a 59-39 loss to Virginia on Jan. 3, 1994.
At no point did this game resemble the game the Rebels and Lobos played in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, 1978, when New Mexico snapped UNLV's 72-game homecourt winning streak with a 102-98 run-and-gun clinic.
Back then Tarkanian's teams scored like the pros. The Rebels scored 100 or more points in 46 games in the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons. In 1990, UNLV won the national championship by routing Duke 103-73, the most lopsided score ever for a national title game.
On this night, the Runnin Rebels spent most of the game trying to run down their missed shots. Ditto for the Lobos, whose best scoring run was a 15-5 spurt over the final 8:28 of the first half for a 27-17 lead at the break.
"Considering we're not setting the world on fire offensively, that stretch was huge," New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay said.
Thank goodness for defense, said McKay.
"I don't know if I've had a group that defended as well as this team has," he said. "Over the second half of the season we have looked very inconsistent shooting the ball from the perimeter, but as inconsistent as we are on the offensive end, we are as consistent on defense."
The Rebels put up several airballs in the closing minutes, hit just 15 of 62 shots (24.2 percent) and were 3-of-17 on 3-point shots. They even had trouble at the foul line, where they went 6-for-11.
"We had troubles for sure," said UNLV second-year coach Lon Kruger. "When you shoot less than 25 percent, not much good can come from that. New Mexico played well defensively and we didn't do the things we needed to."
Louis Amundson was the only Rebel in double figures with 15 points, 11 of them in the second half. Amundson's seven straight points sparked a 14-4 UNLV run that got the Rebels within 36-34 with 5:42 left.
New Mexico reserve guard Jeff Hart then hit a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought of more than five minutes for the Lobos. It also was New Mexico's first field goal in more than eight minutes.
Ricky Morgan countered with a 3 for the UNLV to again make it a two-point deficit with 2:55 remaining, but the Rebels' only points the rest of the way were a pair of free throws by Jo' Van Adams with 51 seconds left.
The Lobos got just enough offense in the final two minutes to stay on top. Walters and Kris Collins each hit two free throws and David Chiotti had two dunks, the last one with 9.4 seconds left on a pass off the backboard from Collins.
Hart, a senior and former walk-on who got to start, matched his season high with 11 points. Hart, who had to have three stitches above his right eye at halftime, hit two 3-pointers in the game's first 3½ minutes.
But after that, it was a game of defense and missed scoring opportunities.
"We emphasized getting back and didn't let them get back and locate their shooters," said Walters. "We didn't leave anybody open and didn't let them have easy buckets."
New Mexico shot 32.7 percent and hit only 6 of 22 shots in the second half.
New Mexico's David Chiotti, right, attempts to block a shot by UNLV's Louis Amundson in the second half.