Air Force was close to pulling off arguably the greatest win in program history.
Then, just like that, UNLV stole it away.
Chace Stanback made a steal of Todd Fletcher's pass with 2 seconds remaining in overtime to help No. 12 UNLV hold off Air Force with a 65-63 win Saturday night.
“Overall, I thought we played well enough to win,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. “They hit some big shots, and even as poorly as we played down the stretch, we still had a chance to win. I can't fault our kids' effort, and I thought they played their hearts out.”
Oscar Bellfield's 3-pointer with 2:28 left in overtime broke a 61-61 tie and gave the Rebels (20-3, 4-1 Mountain West) the lead for good. UNLV's Mike Moser had a chance to make it a two-possession game with 12.5 seconds left, but missed a pair of free throws.
Air Force committed six of its 17 turnovers and was only able to attempt one shot in overtime. The Falcons (11-8, 1-4) fell to 1-74 all-time against ranked opponents and lost to the Rebels for the ninth consecutive time.
Michael Lyons, who led Air Force with 25 points, had a chance to win the game in regulation, but missed a shot with 3 seconds remaining. The Falcons led 56-51 with 3:33 left, but the Rebels came alive to force overtime.
The loss spoiled a career-high 13 points by Air Force freshman Kamryn Williams. Taylor Broekhuis added 11 for the Falcons, who hit 11 3-pointers.
“We just didn't execute at the end,” said Williams, who had a team-high eight rebounds. “The effort was there. Everything was there. I think we can take a lot out of this game and be ready for New Mexico in the next game.”
Moser finished with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, marking his 12th double-double of the season and eighth in the past nine games.
“It's frustrating being in these situations back-to-back like this, but it's going to make us better down the road because we're learning how to finish out close games,” Moser said. “(Playing tough defense) is our bread and butter. When we do that for 40 minutes, it's not that close of a game.”
Bellfield, the conference's assist leader, had 15 points and seven assists against one turnover for the Rebels.
UNLV won for the 11th time in 12 games, but has been pushed to overtime in its past two games against the conference's bottom two teams.
“The bottom line is, we found a way to win,” said Rice, whose squad has won 11 of its last 12. “We got huge stops down the stretch when we needed them and made huge offensive plays as well. Now we're back fighting for a conference title again.”
UNLV built a 24-13 lead in the first 11 minutes, but Air Force charged back with a 19-4 run to take a 32-28 lead. Air Force led 34-33 at the break, despite the Rebels shooting 56 percent from the field.