ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- For 10 frantic minutes, there were glimmers of what UNLV used to be -- and could've been.
Had the Runnin' Rebels played that way for 40 minutes, they might still be part of the NCAA tournament.
Needing to be perfect after falling behind by 20, the Rebels almost pulled it off. They drew within two but got no closer in a 68-64 loss to Colorado in the South Regional on Thursday night.
"Any time you get down early at this level, it's kind of hard to fight back because you're playing the best teams all the way around," guard Anthony Marshall said. "It's no cupcake, where can you get down and just come back easily."
Certainly not against 11th-seeded Colorado, a team that bullied its way into the NCAAs by winning the Pac-12 tournament, then played with a freedom and looseness that made the game look easy. Never as easy as early in the second half, when Austin Dufault (14 points) made back-to-back 3-pointers and Carlon Brown (12) followed with another to push CU's lead to 49-29. A few minutes later, it was 53-33.
CU leading UNLV by 20?
That's the kind of thing that just didn't seem possible -- and not just decades back, but as recently as a few weeks ago.
Maybe it was too good to be true.
UNLV went on a 22-4 run and cut the lead to two on Justin Hawkins' 3-pointer with 4:20 left. From there, though, sixth-seeded UNLV (26-9) missed its next seven shots. Brown threw down a windmill dunk to help CU regain its bearings, then the Buffs made 4 of 8 free throws in the last minute to hold on for the win.
"Our guys were not handling it well, that was obvious," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "We talked about playing with poise, playing with composure, and continuing to attack. When we got stops, we wanted to run. That's one of the things that had gotten us that lead to begin with."
Boyle improved to 10-2 in the postseason with Colorado, combining this year's run with last year's trip to the semis of the NIT. Despite the shaky finish, Colorado led wire-to-wire in this one and has now had a lead for 160 of 200 minutes since the start of the Pac-12 tournament.
The latest was a signature win over a marquee program, though this UNLV team certainly isn't the same group of renegade winners from the Jerry Tarkanian days. In fact, these Runnin' Rebels don't even resemble what they were five weeks ago. The team that led the Mountain West with eight 3-pointers a game made nine in this one -- but on 36 attempts. They missed their first seven.
"Our shooters felt comfortable. Everybody felt comfortable. We just didn't make shots and they did," Marshall said.
Marshall scored 15 and Hawkins had 11 for the Rebels, who started Dave Rice's first season as head coach at 16-2 but lost six of their last 11 and didn't win away from home after Jan. 28. Their last two appearances in The Pit -- the first against the actual tenant, New Mexico -- have resulted in a pair of losses by a combined 24 points.
At times, it looked as though the total could have been worse. UNLV's comeback was impressive, but trailing by 20, it would have taken a near-perfect final 15 minutes and the Rebels came up short.
"We made a fight," Marshall said. "Never rolled over and just kept battling. It's very disappointing and hurtful for our seniors. They put in so much time and effort into the program over the years. They've been tremendous. So to go out like this is very disappointing and hurtful."