UNLV is about to tipoff its second consecutive home game as it tries to keep pace with Brigham Young in the Mountain West Conference standings.
The Rebels are a game back after falling at Provo in the conference opener, but the Cougars still have to visit the Thomas & Mack Center.
Tonight’s opponent is Utah, which will be without one of its best players, Kim Tillie.
The Rebels are expected to handle the Utes fairly easily, but nothing can be taken for granted during conference play.
The task will be simplified if Chace Stanback continues his emergence as a consistent second option behind Tre’Von Willis.
The UCLA transfer has gotten progressively better this season as he grows more comfortable with the offense and with his own abilities, as he has not been a regular for more than two years.
Stanback has arguably had his two best games as a Rebel in the last two contests.
Derrick Jasper was expected to be one of the top newcomers in the Mountain West Conference when he became eligible this season after transferring from Kentucky.
Instead, he has struggled to find his place on the team.
Jasper has not had nearly the impact he or the Rebels had hoped for thus far, but the season is still relatively young.
He has shown flashes of the athleticism and ability that made him one of the top young players in the Southeastern Conference, but it appears that perhaps he has lost some of his explosiveness after several knee injuries.
Jasper was part of some highlight-reel ally-oop finishes in non-conference play, but has disappeared for stretches since Mountain West play started.
UNLV needs him to find his rhythm quickly if they are going to win the conference crown.
Lon Kruger and several players credited the loud and boisterous crowd in the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night for some of the second-half intensity that led to a comeback win.
That could be working to UNLV’s advantage again tonight.
The arena was more than 75 percent full 15 minutes before tipoff and it is as loud as it has been in here for pregame introductions in quite some time.