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UNM MEN’S BASKETBALL LOSES AT HOME

By Arnie Leshin 
Next, well that’s Monday night‘s men’s non-conference basketball visit from Oral Roberts, and it’s not one for the slumping University of New Mexico team to look forward to.
 
Number one, the Lobos, playing before a sellout crowd at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque Saturday night, might not even be in the national top 25 again after back-to-back losses at unheralded Fresno State last week followed by this one’s 84-77 reversal versus a good UNLV team. Ranked 21st prior to these two starts, they no longer might be ranked.
 
And if Oral Roberts, which plays out of the Summitt Conference, carts off another win from the Pit, forget the rankings unless UNM responds with a wake-up call. Either that or it will have a decent campaign in the Mountain West but not worthy of a national ranking.  
 
As for the University of Las Vegas, it’s nothing news for the Running Rebels to be successful on the court. It’s way beyond the times of Jerry Tarkanian, who as head coach would drape a red towel, the school colors, over a shoulder. He was serious but full of fun. He was a stellar recruiter, he had all-star lineups, he went after game officials, he never let his family sit too close to his team bench. 
 
And he was known as the “Shark”. He’s been long gone, missed, and still often referred to on the tubes, the radio, the newspapers. Now the program has a second-year head coach in Kevin Kruger, son of long-time college coach Lon Kruger, who still coaches the Oklahoma men. 
 
And on the previous Saturday that brought a surprising defeat at conference rival Fresno State, now 5-9), the Lobos fell for the first time, but this was worse, for it was home to a full house announced at 15,424, and was against a better opponent. UNLV is now 13-3 and with the turnout before them, came back after trailing 8-0 by missing its first four shots and committing six turnovers. But it came back following a Kruger time out and went on top 28-24 before falling behind 43-38 at halftime. 
 
For UNLV, Jalen House was having a good first half with a dozen points, four assists and three steals, but the second half resulted in zero points for him. Head coach Richard Pitino said afterwards that House was getting off good shots, just not making them. Still, the home side maintained its lead until the Running Rebels pieced everything together. With 3:31remaining, they went in front 70-69, upped it to 75-70, and kept it until the final buzzer.
 
It did get dreary and even scary for them in the final minute. The Lobos had cut the gap to 77-74, with 1:18 left, but usually accurate foul shooter Jamal Washburn was fouled on a 3-point shot, made the first, missed the next two and Elijah Harkness grabbed the rebound for UNlV. Now it’s 80-79, and Harkness, the leading scorer with 25 points -21 coming after the intermission, drove down the lane for a layup, then added a pair of free throws, and at 84-79, it was all over but the shouting for the visitors. 
 
Harkless also added a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe, was 8 for 14 from the field, brought down six boards and handed out five assists. Then he became the first player to foul out as the final seconds ticked down, and was followed by teammate Reshon Gilbert. 
 
In all, UNLV hit on 29 of 56 attempts from the floor and converted 18 of 24 freebies. The Lobos were 29 for 67 and 14 for 22. They had a 33-28 edge in rebounds, but UNLV had more assists, 12-9, and in 3s, the visitors made good on 8 of 22 and UNM 5 of 19. In turnovers, the home crowd saw its team committ 16 to the Running Rebels 13, and in steals it was eight each. Blocks? Not close, UNLV came away with eight, seven more than the Lobos. 
 
Scoring wise, Washburn led his team with 19 points on 7 of 15 from the floor and 5 of 8 from the line, with those two misses very damaging. Morris Udeze turned in a dozen points for UNM and brought down 11 rebounds. 
Oral Roberts figures to be in the Land of Enchantment early Monday. It won this thriller at conference rival Kansas City when 6-foot junior guard Max Abmas applied the heroics with a half-court buzzer-beater as time expired and totaled the game-high 25 points that dropped KC to 6-11 overall.
 
After the Golden Eagles visit, it’s hit the road time for the Lobos when they play next Saturday at San Diego State, but right now it’s first things first for them. 
 
 

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