What those who remained home didn’t see: A team in UNLV that, while hardly perfect at either end, made more winning plays when arriving at the critical juncture of five minutes remaining.
With point guard Nikki Wheatley watching in a knee brace, UNLV fails to penetrate Colorado State’s zone defense and loses its Mountain West women’s basketball opener at Cox Pavilion.
A few things are undeniable: UNLV is likely a few recruiting classes from being NCAA Tournament worthy, and yet its fan base expects a nonconference schedule littered with high major opponents.
UNLV’s basketball team has ensured itself a winning record in the non-conference portion of its schedule, news that wouldn’t make headlines for countless programs across the country, but significant for the Rebels.
MW officials want you to believe this is merely a momentary downturn in what is a cyclical process that will soon rebound to a time of multiple NCAA bids. That’s a huge stretch.
Duke beat UNLV 94-45, and it might have been the best thing that could have happened for the Rebels.
Duke and UNLV have taken separate, very different journeys through the college landscape since that Final Four game in 1991, when Bobby Hurley as the Blue Devils point guard helped guide his team to an upset that was viewed as improbable as it was historic.
The calendar flipped to December and with it has arrived a predicted reality for UNLV’s basketball team, where Marvin Menzies might not have a more significant stretch of games this season in which to guide and, yes, challenge his players.
Most of a 10-point lead had vanished over the previous five minutes and UNLV stared at a 66-65 lead with 8:40 left against Southern Utah. For this particular Rebels team, it was the perfect test.
While the Rebels will cite various statistics to paint a picture of some improvement on the field, such development isn’t near the level it needs to be for sustained success.