Anthony Marshall scored 13 points and Bryce Dejean-Jones added 12 as No. 21 UNLV held on for a 62-60 win over UTEP on Monday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (3-5) trailed by 15 points (38-23) early in the second half, but cut the lead to two (62-60) on a driving layup by Jacques Streeter with 34 seconds left. DeJean-Jones had an opportunity to make it a two-possession game but missed two free throws with 16 seconds left.
Konner Tucker had a last-second opportunity for the Miners after taking an inbounds pass from the far sideline for a three-point attempt that bounced up and off the rim.
UTEP held UNLV (9-1) 19 points below its season average and limited the Runnin’ Rebels’ freshman star Anthony Bennett to 10 points and three rebounds. The Miners scored tied their season-high with 38 points in the second half after sputtering to a 31-22 deficit at the break.
“I felt like the game was lost in the first half,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We just played really foolish offensively. We turned the ball over. We started isoing [John] Bohannon from the three-point line and from the wing. I don’t know where that came from. I’ve never seen that in practice. As a result we started standing.”
At one point UNLV outscored UTEP 15-2, turning a 5-0 deficit into a 15-7 lead.
The Rebels opened the second period with a 7-1 spurt to take their largest lead of the game, 38-23, with 17:25 to play.
It was still a double-digit game (53-43) with under seven minutes to play before UTEP outscored UNLV 10-4 in a span of 3:10 to pull within four (57-53) on Bohannon’s first career three-pointer with 3:23 to go.
The Miners shot 48 percent from the field, 50 percent (4-for-8) from three-point range and 76.9 percent (10-for-13) from the line in the second half.
“I thought our movement was better,” Floyd said. “I thought our defense was pretty good in both halves. We guarded pretty well and did a pretty nice job on Bennett. We were able to change defenses and got some mileage out of that.”
The Miners were also competitive on the boards against a UNLV team that boasted a rebound margin of eight per game coming in.
“I loved our effort on the boards for the most part with Jalen Ragland [seven rebounds, all in the first half] and Julian Washburn [eight rebounds],” Floyd said. “We didn’t have a lot of flow to our offense, and I think you have to credit UNLV for doing a great job defensively. It’s kind of who we’ve been all year. I thought it might get better with the amount of time we’ve had to practice.”
Washburn scored 13 points and Tucker, playing his first regular-season game for the Miners after missing a month with a broken hand, added 12.
“We got a nice lift from Konner Tucker,” Floyd said. “I was glad to see him get some confidence, step out there and make a few shots for us.”
Trailing 62-60, the Miners opted to go for the win rather than try to force overtime.
“They had a small lineup and we felt like they were going to switch everything inside,” Floyd explained. “The other issue that we have is Konner Tucker hasn’t been practicing with us. And so our inbounds plays that we run -- and I think we’ve really executed our inbounds plays well -- we couldn’t execute tonight. We just had guys in there in Konner Tucker and McKenzie Moore who had no clue about what we were doing in those things. We just drew up something that we knew we could get a look regardless [at the end of the game]. And I like the look that we got.”
Moore, making his UTEP debut after practicing for two days and still struggling with his conditioning, played nine minutes.
The Miners will host Oregon on Wednesday at 6 p.m., a team that won at UNLV, 83-79, on Nov. 23.
“It’s a real challenge,” Floyd said. “They are a very, very good basketball team. They’ll finish in the top two or three in their league. I think they finished second [in the Pac-12] a year ago and they’re better this year.”