(9-8, 2-3 MW)

New Mexico 62

(15-5, 2-3 MW)

    9:00 PM ET, January 29, 2005

    University Arena, Albuquerque, New Mexico

    1 2 T
    UNLV 24 3458
    UNM 29 3362

    Top Performers

    UNLV: O. Blankson 21 Pts, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    New Mexico: D. Granger 11 Pts, 10 Reb, 5 Ast, 4 Stl, 2 Blk

    New Mexico 62, UNLV 58

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- It took Jeff Hart more than two years to get back into the New Mexico starting lineup.

    Apparently, he'd been stockpiling a lot of moxie.

    The 6-foot-1 former walkon, getting his first start since Dec. 21, 2002, came up big Saturday night in New Mexico's 62-58 win over UNLV.

    Hart scored 6 points, tied his career-high with 5 rebounds and had 3 steals. He also defended Rebels point guard Jerel Blassingame so well that Blassingame hit just 2 of 10 shots and finished with 8 points.

    Hart also was the catalyst in a second half run by the Lobos that erased a 38-29 UNLV lead. He hit a deep baseline 3-pointer early in a 15-6 run by the Lobos. He later fed teammate Alfred Neale for an alley-oop slam dunk and forced Blassingame into a turnover on a UNLV inbound play. Hart then beat of UNLV players to tip in an offensive rebound that got New Mexico within 50-48 with 4:54 left. Moments later, with the game still on the line, Hart forced another turnover, this one by Rebel Romel Beck.

    "Jeff Hart has a huge commitment to this program and a huge heart," said New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay. "He steadies us, he cuts and he defends. On paper, it doesn't look like he can guard Blassingame."

    On this night, Hart did all that and more.

    "I was just thinking of ways of trying to make something happen and getting our team going," Hart said.

    Mark Walters scored 15 points, four of them in the final minute, as New Mexico (15-5, 2-3 Mountain West) ended a seven-game losing streak against the Rebels.

    The Lobos had four players in double figures, but equally huge was the play of Hart, who broke into the starting lineup because point guard Chris Collins broke a bone in his right foot earlier in the week.

    "That was a coy coaching move," said McKay of his decision to start Hart, who before Saturday night had played just 46 minutes this season.

    Odartey Blankson led UNLV with 21 points, with 16 of them in the second half. He also had 9 rebounds.

    UNLV's Louis Amundson hit the final basket of the first half to cut the Lobos' lead to 29-24 and the Rebels started the second half with a 14-0 run to take a 38-29 lead.

    New Mexico went more than six minutes without scoring to start the second half. Guard Ryan Wall ended the drought by hitting one of two free throws and that kicked off the 15-6 run. A layup by New Mexico's Danny Granger tied it at 44 with 7:54 left and after three ties, the Lobos took the lead for good at 53-50 on a three-point play Granger with 3:29 left.

    "When teams make runs at us, that's something we've struggled with all year," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "The opportunities we've had in the second half when we've had the lead, we need to lock it up. We didn't tonight."

    Granger, playing for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

    "I thought he looked fine," Kruger said of the Lobos' leading scorer and rebounder. "He didn't shoot very well, but he definitely had an impact on the game."

    And like just about everyone else, Granger was impressed with Hart.

    "He gave us so much energy," Granger said. "I think he had five or six rebounds ... that's unheard of. And that tip-in came at a crucial time."

    After Granger's 3-point play, Blankson got the Rebels within a point with a basket inside over New Mexico center David Chiotti. Chiotti countered with a short jumper with 2:07 left and Walters, Hart and Chiotti sealed the win with seven free throws in the final minute.

    Alfred Neale scored 12 points for New Mexico, while Chiotti had 11.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 58 62
    FG Made-Attempted 22-51 (.431) 20-56 (.357)
    3P Made-Attempted 5-18 (.278) 6-28 (.214)
    FT Made-Attempted 9-11 (.818) 16-23 (.696)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 14 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 9 6

    2004-05 Season

    » Jan 29, 2005 @UNM 62, UNLV 58Recap
    Mar 1, 2005 UNM 77, @UNLV 66Recap