ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- With the final second ticking away and UNLV's fate already sealed, guard Oscar Bellfield put up the last 3-pointer of his college career.
Fittingly, the shot fell short, and the Rebels, who inspired great expectations for most of the season, came up short as time ran out. A team that stumbled into March was ushered to another early offseason Thursday night.
Askia Booker scored 16 points, and Andre Roberson totaled 12 points and 16 rebounds as 11th-seeded Colorado withstood a second-half comeback to upset sixth-seeded UNLV 68-64 in the teams' NCAA Tournament opener at The Pit.
The Rebels (26-9) were a one-and-done tournament flop for the third consecutive year.
"We knew what's at stake. It's very frustrating," said junior guard Anthony Marshall, who led UNLV with 15 points. "I think I'm more hurt for the seniors. To go out like this is very disappointing."
The Buffaloes (24-11) advanced in the South Region to face third-seeded Baylor (28-7). The Bears held off South Dakota State 68-60 behind 18 points from Pierre Jackson, a Desert Pines product.
Down by 20 and on the verge of their last rites, the Rebels rallied to avoid an embarrassingly lopsided loss and almost saved their season.
"We made a fight and a surge to come back," Marshall said. "We never rolled over."
UNLV coach Dave Rice finally went to full-court pressure out of desperation, and his move sparked a flurry of empty possessions by the Buffaloes, who nearly collapsed because of 23 turnovers.
A 22-4 run by the Rebels over a nine-minute span chopped Colorado's lead to 57-55 on Justin Hawkins' 3-pointer from the left corner with 4:19 to go.
With the Buffaloes up by three, Hawkins missed a 3 from the same corner, and Carlon Brown hauled in a full-court pass and dunked on the break.
Marshall made a free throw to pull UNLV within 60-56 with 2:16 remaining. But Mike Moser drove baseline and missed a floater. Roberson was fouled on the rebound and made both free throws.
Bellfield missed a jumper in the lane, Kendall Wallace missed a 3, and Colorado weathered the storm by sinking eight free throws in the last two minutes.
But for the Rebels, the game was lost in the first 27 minutes when they were pushed around by the tougher Buffaloes, the Pacific-12 Conference tournament champions.
"We got on our heels, and they made their run. We had a deer-in-the-headlights look," Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. "So we dodged a little bit of a bullet there. But we did just enough."
Austin Dufault finished with 14 points and Brown had 12 for Colorado, which built a 36-25 halftime lead while UNLV shot 8-for-29 from the field.
Early in the second half, after an embarrassing defensive lapse by the Rebels that allowed Spencer Dinwiddie to run wide open on a back cut for a layup, Rice called timeout and angrily pulled his players into a huddle.
Out of the timeout, UNLV senior Chace Stanback shot a 3 that missed badly and Dufault followed by draining back-to-back 3s to extend the Buffaloes' lead to 46-27.
Rice used another timeout. But the Rebels were almost run off the court after Brown hit a 3 to bury them in a 49-29 hole. It was 53-33 before UNLV started to come back to life, and a 3 by Bellfield followed by Marshall's layup closed the gap to 57-52 with 5:28 remaining.
"We certainly got off to a rough start. I did think they played with a greater sense of urgency than we did," Rice said. "I'm extremely disappointed for our team, but incredibly proud of the comeback."
Hawkins had 11 points, while Bellfield and Moser each finished with 10 for the Rebels, who shot 9-for-35 from 3-point range and 9-for-17 on free throws.
Brown, a transfer from Utah, opened the scoring with a 3-pointer and got the Buffaloes rolling to a 14-4 lead after seven minutes. The Rebels missed 11 of 13 field goals to start the game and took too long to recover.
"When you are in the NCAA Tournament and you get knocked out, it's always difficult," Rice said. "It will be tough for us."
The bottom line was a tougher team sent UNLV home early again.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.