With the shot clock winding down Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center, Kelli Thompson buried a 25-foot bomb to give UNLV a 54-45 lead over New Mexico with 8:07 left in their Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinal.
At that point, it appeared the night would belong to the Lady Rebels. But the Lobos stormed back, sinking four straight 3-pointers in a game-ending 16-4 run to deal UNLV a stunning 61-58 loss.
The Lobos (10-19) are the first No. 7 seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the Mountain West tournament and will face No. 6 seed Boise State in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
The Lady Rebels (22-9), who swept the regular-season series from New Mexico, had several chances to tie it in the final minute, but couldn't convert.
Thompson had a good look at a 3 from the wing with seven seconds left, but her shot clanged off the front of the rim.
"I was praying it would go down," said Thompson, who led UNLV with 16 points, 12 in the second half. "It didn't go my way."
Mia Bell's desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer wasn't close for the Lady Rebels, who only made 2 of 12 from 3-point range.
Porche Torrance supplied a game-high 20 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for New Mexico, which made 8 of 14 3-pointers.
Caroline Durbin (12 points, eight rebounds) and Nikki Nelson (14 points) each hit a pair of 3s in the decisive run by the Lobos.
Durbin's 3 made it 54-48, and Nelson connected on consecutive 3s to tie it at 54.
"The phrase 'don't give up' just kept running through my head," said Nelson, who was 4-for-6 on 3s. "Everyone started hitting. Everyone fed off the excitement and confidence."
Thompson made one of two free throws to give UNLV a 55-54 edge, but Durbin answered with another 3 to give the Lobos a 57-55 lead with 4:55 left.
"We just didn't close out hard enough on their 3-point shooters," Lady Rebels coach Kathy Olivier said. "They're a team that if you give them some looks, they're going to make their shots."
Lenita Sanford tied it for UNLV on a layup with 4:01 to go, but Lauren Taylor (12 points) made two free throws, and Torrance scored inside for a 61-57 lead with 1:39 left.
Bell scored 12 points, and Sanford and fellow senior Sandrine Nzeukou each had 11 points and five rebounds for the Lady Rebels, who lost in the first round of their conference tournament for the third straight year.
"You're in that locker room, and they're very, very upset," Olivier said. "Last year was different. It was like, 'OK, it's over, let's start building for next year.
"This team talked about postseason play from day one. Hopefully the NIT won't overlook us."
UNLV, which had its first winning season in six years and reached 20 wins for the first time in eight years, probably needed to win the tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Now they can only hope for an invite to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.
TOP-SEEDED AZTECS FEND OFF AIR FORCE
Chelsea Hopkins scored 19 points, and backcourt mate Courtney Clements had 18 points and a career-best 11 rebounds as top-seeded San Diego State rallied to beat No. 8 seed Air Force 68-58 in a quarterfinal game of the Mountain West Conference women's tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Aztecs (23-6) advanced to Friday's noon semifinal game against No. 5 seed Wyoming.
Hopkins added eight rebounds, six assists and three steals as San Diego State overcame an early seven-point deficit against the upset-minded Falcons (6-24). The Aztecs trailed 34-32 at halftime.
No. 5 Wyoming 61, No. 4 Texas Christian 44 -- Kayla Woodward led four players in double figures with 17 points as the Cowgirls routed the Horned Frogs (16-14).
Woodward hit three of Wyoming's nine 3-pointers.
Kaitlyn Mileto had 12 points, Ashley Sickles 11 and Alison Gorrell 10 for the Cowgirls (12-16).
No. 6 Boise State 68, No. 3 Colorado State 63-- Lauren Lenhardt scored 18 points, and Boise State (15-15) upended the Rams (13-17) to earn a spot in the semifinals against seventh-seeded New Mexico, which upset second-seeded UNLV, 61-58.