The Rebels came out running early as guard Bryce Dejean-Jones provided a spark, hitting a trio or three-point shots early and scoring 13 of his 16 points for the game in the first 12 minutes. UNLV used that spark to take a 24-10 lead and virtually never looked back.
"I just thought the first 10 to 14 minutes of the game, we were just a little out of character," said UNM head coach Steve Alford. "We didn't play with poise."
The Rebels shot hot in the first half, especially form behind the arc, hitting 7-of-16 treys in the first half and shooting 40 percent from the field overall. By contrast, UNM shot just 9-of-30 from the floor (30%) and just 2-of-12 from 3-point range (16.7 percent).
But it was UNLV's stifling defense that caused the Lobos the most problems, as an extended defense that often caught UNM guards in traps produced 10 first half turnovers and gave the Rebels the up tempo game pace they prefer.
New Mexico (20-4, 7-2 MWC, ranked 15th in the AP poll and 16th in the Coaches poll) opened the second half on a 5-0 run but UNLV managed to hold the lead in double digits for much of the second half. UNM cut the lead to 56-48 on an Alex Kirk tip-in with 3:34 left but the Lobos were unable to cut the lead anymore, going the next two minutes without a field goal.
"I thought our guys gave great effort," said Alford. "(We held them to) 37 percent shooting and we tied them on the backboard (44 rebounds apiece). We didn't turn the ball over that much (13 times). I really like what the guys did defensively.
"But you shoot 50 (percent) from the line and you shoot 33 (percent) from the field and 18 (percent) from 3 - that's hard to win on the road when you have those kinds of shooting numbers."
Kirk for UNM had a career night on the boards, pulling in a career-high 16 rebounds while completing the double-double scoring 17 points. Cameron Bairstow added 13 points and six rebounds but no other Lobo scored in double figures.
Anthony Bennett led UNLV with 17 points and 12 rebounds and guards Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt added 16 points, combining to shoot 7 of 13 on three pointers.
UNM committed 10 of their 13 turnovers in the first half and the Rebels took advantage scoring 13 points off the gaffes.
UNLV improved to 18-6, 5-4 in league play and are tied with Air Force for fourth in the MWC. UNM remained in the MWC lead despite the loss, maintaining a half-game lead over Colorado St., which was idle Saturday.