On Saturday, the UNLV basketball program scored the biggest win of the Marvin Menzies era by beating arch rival San Diego State 88-78 at the Thomas and Mack. The win snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Aztecs but it was much bigger than that. It snapped a three-game conference home game losing streak and reaffirmed that this edition of the Rebels could contend for the Mountain West Conference title and possible NCAA bid.
The most promising thing about the win over San Diego State was that the Rebels were led by their big men, who to this point in conference play had been disappointing in Mountain West play. PF Shakur Juiston had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Brandon McCoy had 21 points and 7 rebound to lead four Rebels in double-figure scoring. Most impressively, the two went a combined 19 for 24 from the field, a blazing 79%.
The most important takeaways from the win besides the Juiston/McCoy breakout was the home win. The Rebels are now 4-4 in MWC play, 1-3 at home and 3-1 on the road. The Rebels had several big leads in the game and turned back every Aztec rally. That has not been the case for most of the year. The Rebels dominated the second half and closed out the game. Again, that has not always been the case as UNLV has been guilty of several terrible second halves and has not always played smart in crunch time.
The next two weeks are key for UNLV. On Wednesday, the Rebels face San Jose State at home which should be a little more than a tune up. That said, UNLV cant take the Spartans lightly as they were taken to the limit by San Jose in early January. The Rebels then face the conference gauntlet with road games at MWC leading Boise and Nevada before coming home to face a very tough Wyoming Cowboy squad.