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UNLV’s offense turns back clock

Peach baskets were long gone by then, but the shot clock and 3-point eras still were a long way off.

The date was Jan. 6, 1962.

John F. Kennedy was the president, Lon Kruger was in fourth grade, and Nevada Southern — as UNLV was known back then — outlasted Grand Canyon College, 43-42.

The Rebels staggered to a 46-43 victory over last-place Air Force on Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV’s lowest winning point total since that game 47 years ago.

It certainly wasn’t the kind of effort that the Rebels, 181/2-point favorites on Senior Night, were looking for as the Mountain West Conference Tournament draws closer and they hold out hope for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.

"We never did get any rhythm going," Kruger said. "We never did shoot the ball very well."

Some of it was the Rebels’ ineffectiveness and inability to make open shots. Some of it was Air Force’s zone defense and slow-down offense that saps the shot clock and puts pressure on each possession.

"You’re really tired, and you’ve got to go down and run your offense," UNLV senior guard Wink Adams said.

The Rebels went 11 minutes in the first half without a field goal and seven minutes in the second half without a point.

"Air Force was playing some pretty good defense, but we weren’t attacking like Coach told us to do," senior forward Joe Darger said. "He said we’ve got to keep getting the ball in the paint and making plays because every time we were getting the ball in the paint we were hitting shots and getting to the foul line.

"In that 11-minute stretch, we were settling for jumpers."

UNLV shot 30 percent — its worst performance this season — including 26.1 from 3-point range. Adams, who scored 11 points, was the only Rebel to reach double figures.

And this was the winning team?

It nearly wasn’t. Air Force clawed back from a 12-point deficit with 8:17 left to pull within two twice in the final two minutes. But Adams came through at the perfect time by driving for a layup and a 45-41 lead with 24 seconds left.

Air Force (9-19, 0-15 Mountain West) had lost its previous six conference road games by an average of 19.5 points.

UNLV (21-8, 9-6) finishes the regular season Saturday at San Diego State, with the conference tournament next week at the Thomas & Mack.

Kruger appeared ready to move on, rather than dwell on the Rebels’ woeful night.

"We’ve got one game left," Kruger said. "It’s not like we’re going to change everything we’re doing."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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