UNLV escaped with a key conference road victory in a game that was much closer than the final score would otherwise indicate. The Rebels and Rams battled in a back and forth game before UNLV was able to finally pull away in the final minute. A career night from Chace Stanback, combined with another strong performance by Tre'Von Willis overcame a scrappy CSU squad that killed UNLV on the offensive glass.
As UNLV has done lately in conference play, they fell behind early and were down by as many as 7 points to the Rams early on. UNLV managed to get back into the game and rode a pair of 8-0 runs to a 5 point halftime lead. The key in the first halfway was a strong performance by freshman Justin Hawkins, who managed 9 of his 10 points in that half. UNLV put together a relatively efficient scoring performance in the first half, but CSU showed signs of hustle that carried over throughout the game.
CSU jumped out early in the second half, rallying from 5 down to briefly take a 2 point lead. UNLV couldn't manage to get out of their own way as during the opening three minutes they were turning the ball over left and right. A Willis three gave UNLV the lead back, a lead they held for most of the rest of the game. CSU managed a 1 point lead at one point, but they could never really get all the way over the top. UNLV road a career high performance from Chace Stanback, as he put up 15 second half points and made key shot after key shot. The Rebels struggled to break out to a bigger lead, but every time CSU cut the lead to one, or tied the game, Stanback or Willis was there to push the lead back out. In the end, they provided a bit too much fire-power for the Rams to overcome.
UNLV: The Rebels will be heading straight to Dallas to battle TCU, hoping to finish this road trip the exact opposite of last season. UNLV was rolling coming off wins over Arizona, Louisville and New Mexico, with an NCAA tournament berth in their heads. Two losses at TCU and Colorado State later and UNLV was brought crashing back to reality. This year, UNLV has locked up the win at CSU and needs to finish this trip strong with a win at TCU. At 14-4 (they have a D-2 win that doesn't count for RPI purposes), if UNLV wants to make the NCAA tournament, they simply cannot lose at TCU. They can make it in spite of a loss, but a loss would throw another sizable obstacle in their path.
CSU: The Rams will have no time to lick their wounds, as they head down to New Mexico for a battle at The Pit. A 2-0 start probably had some CSU fans starting to ponder a potential postseason berth, but now the Rams find themselves looking to avoid a tailspin. If they lose to New Mexico, the 3-game losing streak certainly would not be the end of the world given that it would be to 3 of the top 4 teams in the conference. At the same time, they need to get some confidence heading into the Mountain West tournament that they can actually beat any of the top teams in the conference.