UNLV shakes off last-second loss to San Diego State by dominating New Mexico
For the second time in a week, UNLV faced a very worthy Mountain West Conference opponent in the New Mexico Lobos. Although they couldn’t come out with a win last Saturday against San Diego State, the Runnin’ Rebels drove the point home that they are nobody to mess with as they took down the Lobos 80-63 in front of the most electrifying crowd the Thomas & Mack has seen this season.
I knew the game was going to be huge as soon as I caught traffic right off Swenson. The place was packed and the cars kept piling in as I pulled in to a full parking lot at 6:05.
The game didn’t start until 7:15.
I saw Reggie Miller broadcasting courtside for CBS College Sports and although I’ve been writing for this team all season long, seeing Reggie broadcasting for CBS assured me one thing: These Runnin’ Rebels are for real. The more media coverage we get and the more wins we keep stacking, the higher the stock rises for UNLV.
As soon as the Lobos won the opening tip off the game had a conference-tournament feeling. UNM did a solid job of pressing to try to slow down the speedy UNLV offensive attack, something few teams have done all season.
As the Lobos jumped ahead 4-0, Coach Dave Rice was as vocal as I’ve seen this season trying to speed up the tempo of the game. UNLV played from behind the entire game against the Aztecs, and there was no way Rice wanted to see his team go through the same slump twice in one week.
UNLV trailed for the first 12 minutes of the game until Justin Hawkins drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc to give the Runnin’ Rebels a 28-26 lead.
The Runnin’ Rebels did an excellent job keeping Drew Gordon, the pre-season MWC Player of the Year in check. Mike Moser, who was teammates with Gordon at UCLA, had his hands in Gordon’s face all night and held him to just six points in the first half.
UNLV had a hard time controlling the boards again, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Lobos ended the first half with 13 offensive rebounds, while the Runnin’ Rebels finished with 15 total.
UNM head coach Steve Alford was very vocal with his team as well. The Lobos were very effective slowing down the Runnin’ Rebels on the fast break for the majority of the first half. However, as the game went on, UNLV used all five guys to drive to the basket, and the ball movement from the Rebels was as effective as it has been all season.
After UNLV began to pull away in the second half and Chace Stanback delivered a perfectly executed give-and-go to Mike Moser for the finger roll, Alford sat in his chair and slammed his water bottle down in anger.
It’s no surprise Alford lost his temper. After all, he did play for Bob Knight at Indiana. However, no chairs were thrown so it was all good.
The Runnin’ Rebels remain perfect in Las Vegas and picking up their 18th victory of the season in front of a sold- out T&M crowd has to feel exemplary. Not to mention the fact that they took down a hungry New Mexico team with 15 wins.
As January comes to an end, the calendar is that much closer to March. These Runnin’ Rebels have Las Vegas in the most dynamic mood it’s been in since Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon wore the scarlet and gray in the early 1990′s.
This team has rejuvenated the fan base of UNLV basketball. We may not have a professional team in Sin City, but the Runnin’ Rebels are just as exciting to watch. With their next home game a week and a half away, UNLV with have to do its best to put this win behind them and get ready for back-to-back road games as they take on Boise State and Air Force.
The Mountain West is a solid conference this season, and UNLV playing as strong as it is only solidifies its importance in the national rankings. With a few higher-ranked teams losing this weekend, the Runnin’ Rebels are making their case for a top-10 ranking.
I think I speak for everyone in Las Vegas when I say that this team is extraordinary to watch. They’re unselfish, they can shoot the three, (which has hurt them at times) and they can ram it down your throat underneath.Everyone seems to be enjoying this team.
Except Steve Alford.
Runnin’ Rebel Report is a commentary on UNLV basketball.