BOISE, Idaho — Boise State scored the first eight points, and UNLV coach Marvin Menzies knew he couldn’t wait for the 16-minute mark to get a timeout.
What looked like another potential rout in the making quickly shifted as the Rebels got hot from outside and fought back.
And fought back they did, making the key plays late to defeat Boise State 83-72 on Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena.
Kris Clyburn’s 3-pointer with 4:57 left gave the Rebels the lead for good at 71-68. Noah Robotham delivered a 3-pointer with 2:03 remaining for a 76-70 advantage. Then Robotham found Clyburn inside for a dunk with 54 seconds left for a 78-70 lead.
“Those are daggers,” Robotham said. “I think it was the end result of a good game by the whole team. We moved the ball really well, and we made shots.”
Robotham scored 21 points, making 5 of 6 3-pointers, and had 10 assists. Clyburn added 17 points, Amauri Hardy 15 and Nick Blair 14.
“Noah’s night was not just on the floor, where he had those points and assists and no turnovers, but he was great in the locker room as well,” Menzies said, referring the senior’s leading in rallying the team.
UNLV also made 14 of 26 3-pointers, the third time this season the Rebels have made that many. They shot 53.8 percent overall, winning the shootout over a Boise State team that shot 52.7 percent.
“I said it in the press conference (early in the season) I thought we were a great shooting team,” Robotham said. “People looked at me like I had three heads, but in all reality, I really think we were a bad shot selection type of team. I didn’t think we were a bad shooting team. Once we were moving the ball, I think we were a way better shooting team.”
This was a pivotal game for both teams as the race begins to heat up to get in the top five of the Mountain West standings and avoid the first-day games in next month’s conference tournament.
UNLV (12-10, 6-4 MW) moved into fourth place, with the Broncos (10-13, 5-5) now in sixth. San Diego State (13-9, 5-4), which lost 83-70 at New Mexico on Tuesday, is in fifth.
The Rebels next play Fresno State at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV had lost its three previous games each by 17 points, and Taco Bell has been a difficult place for the Rebels, having lost their past five games in this building.
And then came this game’s start with Boise State taking that 8-0 lead before Menzies called timeout after just 3:22 elapsed. But the Rebels rallied and eventually took a 46-45 lead early in the second half when Robotham made a terrific pass to Mbacke Diong for a layup.
The stage was set for UNLV to break open a tight game late.
“I was pleased with the leadership and the solidarity in the locker room at halftime,” Menzies said. “I thought the guys figured some things out, and mostly on their own, the way that they handled themselves and their adjustments.”
1. Back in the middle. UNLV center Mbacke Diong, who started the first 12 games, found himself back in the opening lineup. His last start was Christmas Day against Bucknell in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
2. Late, late show. About 4,000 fans turned out at Taco Bell Arena, but what do you expect for a game that began at 9 p.m. local time in the middle of the week? Maybe these late starts won’t be part of the next TV deal for the Mountain West.
3. Getting a long look. UNLV guard Bryce Hamilton, who had been fighting for quality minutes, was the first reserve in the game. He played 14 minutes in the first half alone, which was more than he saw in all of three of the four previous games.