The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and Air Force Falcons put on an ugly display of basketball at the Thomas & Mack Center Tuesday night, but in the end the Rebels did just enough to pull out a 49-42 win. For most of the night, it appeared as though the air had been taken out of the basketball, as both teams struggled mightily on the offensive end. UNLV (19-7 overall, 7-5 Mountain West Conference) shot just 33% for the game, including 28% in the second half and 2-of-14 from three-point range. But the Falcons (13-11, 4-7) couldn’t find the range either, shooting 36%, including 6-of-24 on threes. In fact, Air Force had a stretch of nearly 14 minutes in the second half without scoring a single point. The teams also combined for 31 turnovers, 16 by Air Force and 15 by UNLV.
The only real difference in the outcome came at the free throw line, where the Rebels outscored the Falcons 19-4. UNLV attempted 27 free throws to Air Force’s 7. Tre’Von Willis was the only Rebel in double figures with 13 points, including 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Willis was clutch in the closing minutes as the game remained close. After Air Force reeled off an 8-0 run to cut the Rebels’ lead to 37-36 with less than three minutes remaining, Willis hit an open jumper to put UNLV up by three, and the Falcons got no closer the rest of the way. Willis also hit all four of his free throws in the final minute to help UNLV close out the win.
The Runnin’ Rebels now head out on a tough road trip, at Colorado State Saturday and at New Mexico next Wednesday. UNLV already lost at home to Colorado State earlier this year, and the Rebels trail CSU for third place in the conference standings.
Numbers of Note: UNLV has now won seven straight meetings with Air Force and is 14-1 all-time vs. the Falcons at the Thomas & Mack Center…The Rebels play three of their last four regular season games on the road, with their final home game vs. Wyoming on Feb. 26.