It felt like March Madness had arrived in November as the UNLV Runnin' Rebels (5-0) upset the 16th ranked Louisville Cardinals (4-1) 76-71, handing them their first loss of the season in front of an extremely energized crowd at the Thomas and Mack center.
The Rebels led the entire game, starting the game strong and building a double digit lead by half time at 40-30.
UNLV then came out strong to start the second half going on a 8-0 run to take an 18 point lead before Louisville was down 53-34 with 14:05 left in the game and went on a 30-11 to tie the game up at 62 with 5 minutes left to play.
The Rebels did not fold then and rebuilt their lead to eight with under a minute to play and managed to hold off the Cardinal's last minute push.
"They threw a big run at us. We took the hit, but we got up and fought back," Tre'von Willis said. "We ground it out at the end of the game. It shows our character, it shows how much fight we have in us."
UNLV was led in scoring by Oscar Bellfield who had 17, while Willis added 16 along with 9 assists and 6 rebounds. Also scoring in double figures for the Rebels was Derrick Jasper with 12 and Darris Santee who had 13.
The Rebels had 21 assists on 27 made baskets, more than doubling Louisville's passing as they only had ten.
"This group's been very unselfish, really comfortable moving the ball, comfortable with different guys, different nights, stepping in, getting more minutes, and getting better results" head coach Lon Kruger said. "The ability to keep people fresher because of the depth we have is huge."
That depth was shown today as 11 players got more than 7 minutes and 9 of those 11 scored.
The Rebels defense was also on point, holding Louisville's star sophomore Samardo Samuels well below his averages of 17.5 points and 8 rebounds, by only allowing him 13 points and 3 rebounds. They also forced the Cardinals to commit 16 turnovers while only giving up the ball 13 times.
The fans were extremely loud and played a crucial role in keeping the Rebels focused on the victory. The crowd of 14,390 made their presence known especially late in the game as they were loud and vocal.
"The atmosphere was crazy tonight, fans were crazy; it was loud," Santee said. "They had our adrenaline pumping and we just fed off of them."
The thrill of such a big win cannot be relished on for long as the Rebels travel to Tucson, Arizona to face Arizona on Wednesday 12/2 at six.
"It's kind of a big boost but we still have some other big games coming up," Bellfield said. We gotta enjoy this for today, and tomorrow be ready for Arizona and get ready."
The Rebels started off 5-0 last year and will hope to extend their hot start to 6 straight wins as they take on an Arizona team that has struggled a bit in the beginning of the season, going 3-2, but coming off a loss to 24 Vanderbilt. They are undefeated at home, however, and will look to stay that way against the Runnin' Rebels.