Rebels’ drama nearly a flop

After another dramatic finish at the buzzer, UNLV sophomore guard Tre’Von Willis was not in a celebratory mood.

He said he was "bummed," and he offered an apology to his teammates. But, most importantly, he was not sorry about the result.

Willis scored 15 points, and the Rebels barely escaped with a 60-58 victory over New Mexico on Saturday night in the Mountain West Conference opener at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"We’ll take the win. But at the same time, we’re all unhappy with our effort," Willis said. "We were disappointed in our effort."

UNLV (13-2) extended its home winning streak against MWC opponents to 25 games, but the journey to that destination was a 40-minute struggle.

The Rebels missed five free throws in the final 37 seconds, and had to hold on during a white-knuckle ending.

The Lobos’ Chad Toppert missed an open 3-point attempt with five seconds left, and after the ball took a high bounce off the rim, Tony Danridge rebounded and missed a short shot in the lane at the buzzer.

"We had a little trouble at the line there at the end and gave them opportunities," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "We feel fortunate to come out with a win."

Willis made a big play out of a timeout with 1:04 remaining, when he drove strong through the lane for a layup to put the Rebels ahead 58-53.

"That is exactly the play we wanted," Kruger said. "Tre drove the ball and made a nice finish."

After UNLV’s Mareceo Rutledge missed two free throws, Jonathan Wills made a 3-pointer to cut New Mexico’s deficit to 58-56 with 14 seconds left. Willis went to the free-throw line and shot an air ball on his first attempt. He regrouped and made the second shot.

Toppert hit two free throws with 9.4 seconds to go. Willis was fouled again, and he missed the first shot and made the second.

"I made the game a little closer at the end," said Willis, who made 7 of 11 free throws. "I was a little bummed about that (air ball). I felt I let my team down. I apologized to the team and said it will never happen again."

Daniel Faris, the Lobos’ 6-foot-9-inch, 245-pound forward, finished with 19 points.

"Faris is a tough guy," Kruger said. "He’s unheralded with what he’s doing and how good he’s playing."

Danridge finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for New Mexico (9-6).

Rebels seniors Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau scored nine points each. Darger had 10 rebounds, and Rougeau grabbed seven.

Faris scored inside to put the Lobos up 38-33 three minutes into the second half, prompting Kruger to use a timeout.

Darger’s 3-pointer pulled the Rebels within 43-41, and Darris Santee’s layup tied it at 43 with 10:33 left.

Rougeau scored on a reverse layup, was fouled by Roman Martinez and finished the three-point play to put UNLV up 46-44. Rougeau dribbled off a Santee screen and knocked down a 17-foot jumper to make the score 48-44 at the 9:09 mark.

The Lobos led 52-50 after Faris’ layup with 6:20 to go. Rougeau made a jumper and Willis hit two free throws to put UNLV ahead 54-53 with 4:11 remaining.

Willis’ two free throws extended the lead to 56-53 with 1:50 to play.

Faris scored 10 points to lift New Mexico to a 32-30 halftime lead.

The Rebels played sluggishly for most of the first half, confirming Kruger’s concerns of an emotional letdown three days after UNLV’s 56-55 upset win at 18th-ranked Louisville.

"I definitely think it was a letdown," Darger said. "We didn’t come in and play with the intensity like we hoped.

"It’s something that seems to happen to teams sometimes. We didn’t play so well. We were real sloppy with the ball and had a lot of unforced turnovers."

Senior guard Wink Adams, out since Dec. 23 with a lower abdominal injury, entered at 12:25 of the first half with the Rebels trailing 17-13. Adams was out of sync, and he shot 0-for-6 and did not score.

UNLV is off until playing at Texas Christian on Saturday.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

UNLV 60

New Mexico 58

NEW MEXICO Min FG-A FT-A R A PF PTS

Martinez 30 0-2 0-0 7 0 5 0

Faris 31 8-13 3-6 3 0 1 19

Gary 13 2-3 1-1 1 2 4 5

McDonald 18 1-4 0-0 2 1 3 2

Danridge 37 5-17 0-1 10 3 2 10

Wills 12 1-3 1-2 0 0 0 4

Garth 26 3-6 2-5 3 4 3 9

Brown 8 1-4 0-0 5 0 2 2

Toppert 25 2-5 2-2 6 1 0 7

TOTALS 200 23-57 9-17 41 11 20 58

Field goals–40.4%. Free throws–52.9%.

Three-point goals–3-12 (Garth 1-1, Wills 1-2, Toppert 1-4, McDonald 0-1, Danridge 0-2, Martinez 0-2). Team rebounds–4. Blocked shots–3 (Danridge, Garth, Brown). Turnovers–14 (Danridge 3, Faris 3, Garth 3, Gary 3, Brown, Martinez). Steals–3 (Faris, Gary, Martinez).

UNLV Min FG-A FT-A R A PF TP

Rougeau 28 4-7 1-1 7 1 3 9

Santee 20 2-3 4-6 1 1 1 8

Darger 31 3-7 0-0 10 0 4 9

Bellfield 18 2-7 0-1 3 3 4 5

Willis 32 4-12 7-11 1 4 3 15

Adams 18 0-6 0-0 2 3 1 0

Wallace 17 1-4 2-2 2 0 0 5

Rutledge 20 1-3 2-4 4 0 1 5

Hoffman 0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Massamba 9 0-1 0-0 2 0 2 0

Mitchell 7 2-3 0-1 2 0 0 4

TOTALS 200 19-53 16-26 38 12 19 60

Field goals–35.8%. Free throws–61.5%.

Three-point goals–6-24 (Darger 3-7, Rutledge 1-2, Bellfield 1-3, Wallace 1-3, Adams 0-4, Willis 0-5). Team rebounds–4. Blocked shots–4 (Santee 3, Rougeau). Turnovers–11 (Willis 3, Bellfield 2, Adams 2, Darger, Rougeau, Santee, Massamba). Steals–5 (Rutledge 2, Santee, Darger, Rougeau).

A–14,189. Officials–Eric Curry, Tony Padilla, Jimmy Casas. Technical fouls–None.

New Mexico 32 26 — 58

UNLV 30 30 — 60

UNLV 60

New Mexico 58

NEW MEXICO Min FG-A FT-A R A PF PTS

Martinez 30 0-2 0-0 7 0 5 0

Faris 31 8-13 3-6 3 0 1 19

Gary 13 2-3 1-1 1 2 4 5

McDonald 18 1-4 0-0 2 1 3 2

Danridge 37 5-17 0-1 10 3 2 10

Wills 12 1-3 1-2 0 0 0 4

Garth 26 3-6 2-5 3 4 3 9

Brown 8 1-4 0-0 5 0 2 2

Toppert 25 2-5 2-2 6 1 0 7

TOTALS 200 23-57 9-17 41 11 20 58

Field goals–40.4%. Free throws–52.9%.

Three-point goals–3-12 (Garth 1-1, Wills 1-2, Toppert 1-4, McDonald 0-1, Danridge 0-2, Martinez 0-2). Team rebounds–4. Blocked shots–3 (Danridge, Garth, Brown). Turnovers–14 (Danridge 3, Faris 3, Garth 3, Gary 3, Brown, Martinez). Steals–3 (Faris, Gary, Martinez).

UNLV Min FG-A FT-A R A PF TP

Rougeau 28 4-7 1-1 7 1 3 9

Santee 20 2-3 4-6 1 1 1 8

Darger 31 3-7 0-0 10 0 4 9

Bellfield 18 2-7 0-1 3 3 4 5

Willis 32 4-12 7-11 1 4 3 15

Adams 18 0-6 0-0 2 3 1 0

Wallace 17 1-4 2-2 2 0 0 5

Rutledge 20 1-3 2-4 4 0 1 5

Hoffman 0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Massamba 9 0-1 0-0 2 0 2 0

Mitchell 7 2-3 0-1 2 0 0 4

TOTALS 200 19-53 16-26 38 12 19 60

Field goals–35.8%. Free throws–61.5%.

Three-point goals–6-24 (Darger 3-7, Rutledge 1-2, Bellfield 1-3, Wallace 1-3, Adams 0-4, Willis 0-5). Team rebounds–4. Blocked shots–4 (Santee 3, Rougeau). Turnovers–11 (Willis 3, Bellfield 2, Adams 2, Darger, Rougeau, Santee, Massamba). Steals–5 (Rutledge 2, Santee, Darger, Rougeau).

A–14,189. Officials–Eric Curry, Tony Padilla, Jimmy Casas. Technical fouls–None.

New Mexico 32 26 — 58

UNLV 30 30 — 60

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