What a difference a week makes. Last Tuesday, the Rebels were 0-3 in the Mountain West Conference, had just fired their coach and were taking the court against a New Mexico team that was undefeated at 3-0 in conference play.
They were a team in disarray, with a season about to be lost.
Fast forward 7 days, and the Rebels are 3-3 in conference play after logging three convincing wins, with the most impressive being Tuesday night after an 80-68 win against the Utah State Aggies at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah.
Both teams came out with a similar defensive game plan of playing aggressive perimeter defense, looking to limit open looks from the 3-point range, and both were effective. UNLV went 0 for 5 from long range in the first half, while Utah State only hit 2 of 6 and the Aggies went into the half leading 36 to 35.
UNLV opened the second half by going on a 19 to 2 point run over the first 7 minutes and never looked back. They answered with big plays and shots anytime the Aggies brought the Rebel lead back to single digits.
Jordan Cornish and Jerome Seagears both had nice nights running the point for the Rebels. Cornish scored 10 points with one turnover while Seagears notched 12 points with only two turnovers.
Freshman Stephen Zimmerman continued his streak of outstanding play by notching another double double, with 12 points and 16 rebounds, and also logging 4 blocks on the defensive end.
However, the star for the Rebels was Freshman Derrick Jones Jr., who continued to shine, providing a couple of highlight reel dunks, while also leading all players in scoring with 21 points.
Reigning Mountain West Player of the Week, Chris Smith led all Aggies in scoring with 16, while standout Jalen Moore chipped in 9.
For the third game in a row, the Rebels continued their trend of looking like a completely different team than what they had for most of the season.
Instead of abandoning their game plan in the second half, and trying not to lose when they had the lead, they continued to play aggressive defense and force the ball inside where their superior size and skill will more often than not win out.
UNLV travels to Reno to face instate rival Nevada on Saturday. The Wolf Pack are 2-3 in the conference and coming off a loss to Boise State. They will be playing at Wyoming on Wednesday.
Utah State travels to face first place San Diego State on Saturday, looking to get revenge after the Aztecs defeated them on their home court during the second conference game of the year.