Fooch's Note: Don't forget to check out our game thread to discuss the rest of the MWC slate of games today.
The UNLV Rebels went into Colorado Springs and absolutely dominated an overmatched Air Force Falcons squad, winning 77-47. Air Force hit a 3 early in the game to go up 3-2, and that was more or less the end of it for them. UNLV used a 17-0 run to go up 26-7 and never looked back. While New Mexico and BYU have been in a back-and-forth affair, the Rebels basically ran shooting drills for much of the game. In the past, UNLV and Air Force have played rather low scoring games, with neither team surpassing 60 points in the previous 5 contests. UNLV did not have such problems today.
Team leader Tre'Von Willis was held to 9 points, his first conference game with single digit points. However, for the third straight game, the Rebels put together a solid team effort. Chace Stanback led the way with a career-high 21 points to go with 8 rebounds, while Kendall Wallace and Oscar Bellfield went a combined 9-15 from beyond the arc, pouring in 27 points. Freshman Anthony Marshall filled the stat sheet with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Games against the conference cellar-dwellars are often lose-lose affairs, at best basically breaking even. You're facing a team you're supposed to beat, but even with a win your RPI probably won't go up and it's not going to do much to impress the tournament committee if you're on the bubble. Over the last three games, UNLV has faced three teams that, barring a miracle run in the MWC tournament, will not be in the NCAA tournament. These are games UNLV easily could have lost focus in, and either been upset, or been forced to battle the entire game to win. Fortunately for Rebels fans, none of the three games ended up that way.
In all three games, UNLV led by double-digits at the half, and never dropped below that in the second half. The committee looks at how you finish the season, and even though these are bad opponents, it seems likely that the committee will at least notice the blowouts. It's a sign that UNLV can easily win the games they're supposed to win. The Utah sweep was a huge disappointment, but blowing out the bottom of the conference might offset that a little bit. UNLV has done the most they could possibly do with these last three games and cannot ask for more.
UNLV: The Rebels get a week off before closing out their regular season against Wyoming. Once again, UNLV is in a must-win situation. However, this game has some added significance because UNLV is hoping to have guard Derrick Jasper and forward Matt Shaw back in the lineup for the first time in several weeks (Jasper since 1/26 and Shaw since 2/13). UNLV struggled without Jasper, and Shaw gives them additional big man depth. UNLV has played fairly well recently with their shortened lineup, but given the talent Jasper and Shaw bring to the table, UNLV will welcome them back with open arms. This game against Wyoming will hopefully provide a chance to regain some of the chemistry the team had with those two playing.
Air Force: The Falcons wrap up their regular season Tuesday at Wyoming and Saturday at home against San Diego State. While Air Force is locked into the conference tournament play-in game, a win at Wyoming would actually put them in a position to avoid finishing in last place thanks to the tie-breaker of a head-to-head sweep. While that's not exactly the most exciting possibility, it's certainly better than nothing in what has been a fairly ugly season for the Falcons.