In a dominant performance, New Mexico senior Tony Danridge took over the game.
And then he ended it in dramatic fashion, driving and dropping in a bank shot with five seconds to play to lift the Lobos to a 73-69 overtime victory over UNLV on Saturday.
Disappointed and stunned, the Rebels absorbed a severe blow to their Mountain West Conference title hopes as a crowd of 17,407 howled in The Pit.
“We needed this game,” Danridge said. “It was pretty intense. The crowd was crazy, and you couldn’t hear anything. My ears were ringing.
“I had it going a little bit. I felt pretty good.”
Danridge scored a career-high 26 points, 24 in the second half and overtime.
No player felt worse than UNLV senior Rene Rougeau, who committed a technical foul that shifted the momentum late in regulation.
The Rebels (17-6, 5-4 MWC) suffered their second overtime defeat in five days, and Rougeau, the dominant player in the first half, could do nothing but watch it slip away.
Rougeau had 12 points and 13 rebounds before drawing a technical and fouling out with 4:28 remaining in the second half. He was called for a personal foul while jumping with Danridge for a rebound. Rougeau argued the call and was hit with a technical.
New Mexico (15-9, 6-3) converted four free throws — two by Danridge and two by Chad Toppert — to take a 56-53 lead. More critically, Rougeau was done for the stretch run.
“I definitely put the blame on me,” Rougeau said. “We probably could have won that game if I didn’t get the technical. I let the team down. I’ve got to be smarter and walk away from him.”
Rougeau’s reaction to his fourth foul provoked official Kelly Self into calling the technical. Rougeau appeared to have a valid argument.
“We were both battling it out and being physical,” Danridge said. “It probably could have went either way.”
Danridge, a 6-foot-5-inch guard, took advantage of every opportunity in the second half by slicing through a combination of UNLV defenders that included Rougeau, Wink Adams, Mareceo Rutledge and Tre’Von Willis.
Danridge scored five points in overtime. He shot 9-for-12 after halftime, when he received a lecture from Lobos coach Steve Alford.
“Coach said, ‘You can’t be sitting around and getting one shot off in the half.’ I got more aggressive,” said Danridge, who played every minute in the second half and overtime.
Danridge, who also had nine rebounds, drove around Rutledge to hit the winning shot.
“Danridge made some tough shots,” Rebels coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought our guys battled but came up short.”
Adams led UNLV with 18 points, but was short on an 18-foot jumper late in regulation.
The rebound was deflected out of bounds and the Rebels retained possession with 3.6 seconds left. Rutledge missed a contested jumper in the lane at the buzzer.
“When the big shots come, I want to be the guy taking them,” Adams said. “So if I miss the shot, I can put the loss on my shoulders.”
After Rougeau was disqualified and the Lobos made four free throws, the Rebels’ Oscar Bellfield tied the game at 56 with a 3-pointer.
UNLV went up 59-57 on Willis’ layup with 1:48 to go, but Danridge’s jumper in lane with 36 seconds left tied it again.
The game went to overtime, where the Rebels also faltered in a 68-66 loss to San Diego State on Tuesday.
“Once we lost Rene, we lost a lot of our inside defense,” Adams said. “It’s tough because both games could have gone the other way.”
Rougeau’s 10 points and nine rebounds helped UNLV gain a 32-26 halftime lead.
Danridge scored all of the Lobos’ points during their 11-3 run to open the second half. He shot 5-for-5 in a four-minute stretch to put New Mexico ahead 37-35.
Adams answered with his own surge, scoring nine points in the middle of the Rebels’ 14-6 run.
Adams hit a 3-pointer from the top to put UNLV up 44-41 with 12:40 left. Joe Darger followed by making a 3, and Rougeau’s fastbreak layup extended the lead to 49-43.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.