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Feisty McCaw, Rebels knock off Boise State 87-77

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UNLV charges past Boise State with a big second half at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday night.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of Todd Simon receiving the attention, a familiar face emerged for the Runnin' Rebels Wednesday night.

Sophomore guard Patrick McCaw flashed, clawed and shined until his legs decided to call it a night after drilling a three-point dagger with 17 seconds left on the clock in a 87-77 win over Boise State. McCaw's legs cramped up shortly after hitting the final shot of the game, forcing the sophomore to be dragged to the sidelines by UNLV assistants while a thundering crowd displayed their appreciation.

McCaw finished with 25 points, four assists and five key steals that led UNLV to its fourth win under interim head coach Todd Simon. Stephen Zimmerman tallied 18 points, Derrick Jones scored 17 and Ben Carter logged a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Mikey Thompson, playing with a heavy heart after a pre-game ceremony of his late father, led the Broncos in scoring with 19 points. MW player of the year front-runner James Webb III was held mostly in check by UNLV's lengthy frontcourt, limiting the junior to a modest 14 points.

After trailing by eight at the break, the hometown Rebels saved the best for last, firing on all cylinders in the second half and outscoring Boise State by 18 in the final 20 minutes. The Broncos, looking for its 13th win in 14 games, appeared to be in the driver's seat after a strong finish heading into halftime, courtesy of a 17-5 run.

The second half was a completely different story. UNLV quickly began chipping into the Bronco lead by being active and tenacious on the defensive end, which translated into a number of easy dunks and layups in transition. Boise State entered the game as the least turnover-plagued team in the conference, but the Runnin' Rebels forced the Broncos into a season-high 18 turnovers.

Boise State has struggled this season against teams that are relentless on the defensive end. BSU's most recent loss was against San Diego State, a team that is accustomed to grinding out victories without producing much on the offensive side but rather relying on consistent defensive effort. This is exactly what UNLV brought to the gym Wednesday night.

After a dismal 0-3 slump to begin conference play, the Runnin' Rebels have refocused and are playing much better as a team. Now 4-4 in the league, UNLV has a quality victory over a Boise State squad that could be headed to the NCAA Tournament in March.

Now is not the time to cross out the Rebels. Todd Simon has his team playing fundamentally sound basketball, something that seemed impossible to find earlier in the season under the direction of Dave Rice. UNLV will be an extremely tough matchup if it continues to give the type of effort that was on display Wednesday night, and could pose a threat in the MWC Tournament that will be hosted in UNLV's very own Thomas & Mack Center.

Up next for UNLV is a showdown in Vegas against MWC-leading San Diego State Saturday.

Boise State will look to regain its footing after splitting two games on the road; the Broncos will host New Mexico on Saturday.