A crowd of 6,011 witnessed a New Year’s Eve thriller as Wyoming senior Larry Nance Jr. traded shots with UNLV sophomore Chris Wood and pushed Wyoming to a 76-71 in a Mountain West opener at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
What you are witnessing is Dave Rice’s prophecy coming true, and within it will be these sorts of close losses to an experienced team. But as the games and weeks and possessions pass, UNLV basketball improves.
On Wednesday, with the calendar ready to turn to 2015, the Lady Rebels rallied from eight points down in the second half and held off Wyoming 58-55 at Cox Pavilion in the Mountain West opener for both teams.
UNLV opens Mountain West play against Wyoming tonight in Laramie. Tip is at 6:00 p.m.
Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. is arguably the best player in the Mountain West. Nance will get an argument from UNLV freshman guard Rashad Vaughn, the league’s leading scorer at 18.1 points per game, and the two will meet on opening night.
There aren’t a whole lot of college students who would choose to spend New Year’s Eve in Laramie, Wyo., voluntarily. That fate was assigned the members of the UNLV basketball program by the Mountain West conference’s schedule makers.
Say what you want about those tools used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee when determining at-large berths each March, the opinion about a Mountain West ranked 11th among conferences nationally in RPI today is fairly consistent.
UNLV coach Dave Rice admitted he was concerned about a possible letdown Saturday night against Southern Utah. Not only had the Rebels split a pair of consecutive games against ranked teams, a loss to Utah followed by the win over Arizona, but there are two big games on the horizon.
The frontcourt — Chris Wood, specifically — set the bar high for the Rebels on Saturday night. The Rebels dominated Southern Utah, 79-45, earning above-average grades across the board. UNLV avoided a letdown after Tuesday’s big win over Arizona.
One way to wake up a bored crowd is with a windmill dunk, and Chris Wood threw down a thunderous one. A lightning-strike streak of 3-pointers also can do the trick, and Rashad Vaughn made three during a two-minute stretch in the second half. And the Rebels rolled over Southern Utah, 79-45.