Give Marvin Menzies and his Runnin’ Rebels credit, they didn’t quite when they easily could have.
Heading into halftime, the Rebels were trailing Wyoming by 18 points, 41-23. They had played one of their worst halves of the season on both offense and defense.
UNLV: 9-32 (28%) from the field, 1-10 from 3-point range.
Wyoming: 17-31 (54%) from the field, 5-13 from 3-point range.
This is not a stat line a team can produce during 20 minutes of basketball and expect to be competitive at any point during the rest of the game. However, coming out of the break the Rebels began to methodically chip away at a lead that at one time seemed insurmountable.
Fueled by the play of freshman guard Zion Morgan on offense, they opened the half with a quick 8-3 run and answered a made 3-pointer by Wyoming with 10-3 run to cut the lead to 41-47 with 13:35 left to play. Every time Wyoming countered with a basket the Rebels countered with a run. Inching closer and closer to the Cowboys, before finally tying the game at 59-59 after Rebels guard Jovan Mooring connected on another incredibly deep 3-pointer with 4:33 left to play.
Just over 30 seconds later the Rebels would take back the lead (60-59) for the first time since it was 6-5 at the 17:19 mark of the first half, behind a made free throw by forward Tyrell Green. Everything seemed to be going the Rebels way. Wyoming was cold on offense; the Rebels had the momentum and were already in the double bonus, shooting two free throws the rest of the game. But sadly for UNLV fans they were dealt a vicious flashback to the days of the Dave Rice era as missed free throws would doom the team down the stretch.
After a Jordan Naughton layup with 2:48 to go cut the Rebels lead to 1 the rest of UNLV’s possessions went as follows:
Two missed Christian Jones free throws, missed jumper by Mooring, offensive rebound and put back by Jones, Uche Ofoegbu Turnover, one made and one missed free throw by Mooring, missed 3-point jumper by Mooring as time expired.
During that 2:48 span after the Naughton layup, Wyoming would only make two more baskets, and hit one free throw, bringing them to 66 points. UNLV would only score three points during that span, missing three free throws that could have iced the game for them. For the night they finished 12 of 21 from the free throw strip. If they would have just shot their average for the season, 68%, they could have stolen a huge game on the road. When asked about the loss after the game, coach Menzies had the following to say.
“It’s a tough one. You try not to get wrapped up in the standings because we’ve got 10 games to play, but it is what it is.”
The lose moves UNLV to 8th place in the conference at 3-4, and an overall record of 10-11.
For Wyoming the win moves them to 6th place in the conference at 4-4, and an overall record of 14-7.
The Rebels were led in scoring by Jovan Mooring, 15 points, and Christian Jones, 14 points and 12 rebounds. In addition to these two starters the Rebels received a huge second half performance from freshman Zion Morgan who tallied 12 second half points and provided the spark that got UNLV comeback attempt rolling.
The Cowboys received big nights from Louis Adams, 15 points in just 19 minutes, and do everything forward Hayden Dalton who chipped in 15 points of his own.
UNLV travels to play San Jose State on Saturday, January 28th. Tip off is set for 2 pm pt.
Wyoming takes on the Broncos of Boise State in Laramie on Saturday afternoon. Tip off is set for 3 pm pt.