UNLV coach Dave Rice was pleased with his team's determination when the game was on the line.
Chace Stanback stole a Todd Fletcher pass with two seconds remaining in overtime to help No. 12 UNLV escape Air Force with a 65-63 win Saturday night.
The clutch play eased Stanback's 1-for-10 shooting night in which the Rebels' leading scorer finished with just six points.
“I did have a rough night, so it felt really great to get that steal for my team,” said Stanback, who entered the game averaging 14.7 points.
“They had been picking it up for me the whole game, so I owed them that. We're a team, we're a family, and we know how to stick together and always try to pick each other up.”
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. Mike Moser had a chance to make it a two-possession game with 12.5 seconds left for UNLV, but missed a pair of free throws.
“The bottom line is, we found a way to win,” said Rice, whose team has won 11 of 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.”
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 against ranked opponents and lost to the Rebels for the ninth consecutive time.
“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.”
It was UNLV's second straight overtime win against the conference's bottom two teams, but Rice hesitated to say that his team had played down to its opponents.
“We know we need to get better, but we've found ways to win two important games,” Rice said.
“Our guys take every opponent very seriously, and I think (tonight) was more of a credit to the pace Air Force was able to run its offense. I want to commend coach (Jeff) Reynolds and his staff for a great job of prep work.”
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 — finished with 15 points and seven assists against one turnover for the Rebels.
Michael Lyons, who led Air Force with 25 points, had a chance to win the game in regulation, but missed a shot with three seconds remaining.
The Falcons led 56-51 with 3:33 left, but the Rebels came alive in time to force overtime.
The loss spoiled a career-high 13 points from Air Force freshman Kamryn Williams, and 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.”
UNLV built a 24-13 lead in the game's 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.