To say that the Rebels won because Dave Rice was gone would be inaccurate, but to say that last night's victory over the now the 3-1 Lobos was a step in the right direction for the UNLV Rebels would be astute.
Under interim Head Coach Todd Simon, UNLV scored their first win in conference play. It was long overdue for Rebel fans. In the process of their losing streak, the Runnin' Rebels Head Coach Rice was fired and disappointment over the (thus far) losing conference season permeated the fan base. However, the Rebel fans came out strong on Tuesday night to support their team in transition.
The Todd Simon version of the Rebels looked more confident. They appeared as if they successfully could fulfill the kind of vision that Rice had promised all season long - run and gun. As Rice would often say, "the ball has energy"; and last night, the ball kept moving, high-low, in and out, and the Rebels showed more patience to find the right shot.
The Rebels outscored New Mexico with points in the paint and dominated points off turnovers (24 to 7). UNLV also outscored the Lobos on second chance points and fast break points. And the Rebel bench dominated bench points 39 to 5. In fact, New Mexico only had the lead in the game for a little over one minute.
Each player from UNLV seemed to be locked-in, amped with extra drive and energy (much more than they've portrayed in the previous three games). Todd Simon appeared comfortable, making the quick transition from assistant to head. His coaching staff stood behind him and continued to support the Rebel players from start to finish.
With Patrick McCaw finally looking more like his old self (scoring 18), and Stephen Zimmerman and Ike Nwamu each adding 15, the Rebels looked formidable. This was the kind of game that Runnin' Reb fans had been waiting for. It came 4 games into the regular season - and with the loss of a head coach - but the new coach has his team starting anew and primed for a fresh start.