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Jan. 15, 1998

Rebels Fall at New Mexico, 79-61

AP Sports Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Nothing deters No. 15 New Mexico from shooting 3-pointers.

The Lobos, who have hit at least one 3-pointer in 222 straight games, missed 9 of their first 10 3-point shots Thursday night, but simply kept firing away until they started to drop.

Eventually, they did.

Led by Clayton Shields' five straight 3-pointers over the final 8 1/2 minutes of the half, New Mexico went on to hit 13 in a 79-61 win over UNLV.

"We'll keep putting them up," said Shields, who earlier this season tied the school record with eight 3s against Holy Cross and has 564 in his career. "Sooner or later, we know they're going to start falling."

Shields' prolific shooting in the first half and Kenny Thomas' steady stream of points early in the second half carried New Mexico (13-2, 3-1 WAC) to its 37th straight homecourt win - the second longest such streak in the nation behind Kansas' 54 wins at Allen Field House.

Thirty of the Lobos' 58 shots in the game were 3-pointers. But for the first 10 minutes, it appeared that New Mexico's shot-of-choice would be the Lobos' undoing. But they finished the first half by hitting 7 of 9 en route to a 42-28 lead.

Shields, who had 19 points, hit all five of his 3s in the run and Royce Olney and Lamont Long also hit from behind the arc. Over the last seven minutes of the half, New Mexico outscored the Rebels 21-7.

Thomas, in foul trouble in the first half and held to five points, finished with 22 points and nine rebounds. He carried New Mexico's offense through the first eight minutes of the second half, repeatedly scoring inside against UNLV's imposing frontline of 6-foot-11 Keon Clark, 6-9 Kaspars Kambala and 6-6 Tyrone Nesby.

Thomas, a 6-8, 250-pound junior, was able to outmuscle the 250-pound freshman Kambala, consistently beating him to the basket.

"I knew that matchup was going to be a tough one experience-wise," said UNLV coach Bill Bayno.

Edwin "Greedy" Daniels scored 13 points and Kambala added 12 for UNLV (8-6, 1-1). But the shorter but quicker New Mexico frontline of Thomas, Shields and Long held Clark, Nesby and Kambala to a combined 30 points. The trio had been averaging 68 points a game.

"They were physical with us and took a lot of things away," Bayno said. "They got us to stand around." We didn't get what we wanted on our initial sets and then we got tentative. We didn't attack the basket."

UNLV scored six straight points to get within 62-51 with 7:05 left on a pair of free throws by Mark Dickel. But New Mexico freshman Greg Davis hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key. UNLV's Brian Keefe again got the Rebels within nine with a 3-pointer, but Olney connected on a 3-pointer to start a 15-3 New Mexico run that gave the Lobos' their biggest lead at 77-54.

New Mexico coach Dave Bliss attributed his team's slow shooting start to UNLV's athleticism.

"We had to adjust to the distortion that they put on the game," Bliss said. "Our shots were a little quick and we were shooting over some outstretched arms that hadn't been there before."

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