Five takeaways from the UNLV basketball team’s 87-80 victory over Colorado State on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center:
1. If the Rebels continue to play like they have the past three halves, they will be a dangerous team down the stretch. They outscored San Jose State 40-24 in the second half of Wednesday’s 64-61 victory, and then never trailed against Colorado State.
2. But will UNLV continue to play that well? This is a team that has shown such flashes. Remember the three-game winning stretch after Todd Simon became the interim coach? So the onus is on the Rebels to establish consistency and take momentum into the Mountain West tournament.
3. You never want to lose an inside presence like Stephen Zimmerman Jr. (sprained left knee), but what his absence has done is to force UNLV to play defense and crash the boards as a team. With Zimmerman no longer back there to protect the rim, UNLV has picked up its defensive intensity and held its own when fighting for rebounds. Guard Patrick McCaw, for example, had eight rebounds against the Rams.
4. UNLV could have its hands full on Tuesday at Air Force. Don’t expect another 100-64 blowout like the one the Rebels enjoyed on Jan. 16 at home. Against the Falcons’ Princeton-style offense, this is when the losses of Zimmerman and Ben Carter (torn left anterior cruciate ligament) should be felt the most. Doesn’t mean the Rebels won’t win, but they will have to work harder for the victory.
5. The true test of whether the Rebels are starting to roll — assuming they beat Air Force — will be on Saturday when UNR visits. If UNLV beats the Wolf Pack and stretches its winning streak to four games, that will be crucial going into the final two weeks of the regular season, especially with road trips to Boise State and San Diego State.
Contact Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65
Check our GameDay page for full coverage of the UNLV-Colorado State game.