It could be tough for Mike Moser to top what he did last week. With his energy drained by the flu, he elevated his play to another level and helped UNLV pull out two overtime victories on the road.
Moser was named Mountain West Conference player of the week for the third time during his sophomore season.
"It really wasn’t my best basketball," he said. "I just tried to play my heart out and play my hardest."
It might not matter, considering how well he played while feeling ill, but Moser is back in top shape as the No. 11 Rebels (20-3, 4-1) prepare to play Colorado State (14-6, 3-2) at 7:30 tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"I feel great," he said. "My wind is back, and my legs feel good."
It has been nine years since a UNLV player was selected in the NBA Draft. Although that streak seems certain to end soon, Moser said he’s in no hurry to be the first draftee since Marcus Banks in 2003.
The 6-foot-8-inch forward, who was Oregon’s Mr. Basketball as a high school senior, is planning to attend his homecoming game next season, when the Rebels play at Portland on Dec. 4.
UNLV coach Dave Rice recently added the game to the nonconference schedule so Moser could return to his hometown.
"I’m real excited," said Moser, who smiled about speculation — and concerns from some fans — that he could leave early for the NBA. "There’s no need to worry. I’ll definitely be here for that game for sure."
Moser is averaging a team-leading 14.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game after totaling 45 points and 33 rebounds on the Rebels’ road trip to Boise State and Air Force. He has four straight double-doubles and 12 for the season.
"Mike has become such a consistent rebounder that we just have come to expect that he’s going to get somewhere in the vicinity of nine, 12 or 14," Rice said. "I guess as a coaching staff, we do take it for granted a little bit, but at the same time we very much appreciate it."
Aside from Moser’s play, and a couple of timely 3-pointers from senior point guard Oscar Bellfield, there were few bright spots to be found after two of the league’s worst teams took UNLV to overtime.
"The disappointment was we need to play better for longer periods of time, especially on the road," Rice said.
The Rebels moved into a first-place tie with San Diego State, which was upset 77-60 at Colorado State on Saturday, and Rice called that the "bottom line" after his team narrowly avoided hitting rock bottom.
"As grimy and ugly as it probably looked, we got things done," Moser said. "We escaped with two wins, so we’ve got to take the good with the bad. I don’t think we came out to play for 40 minutes of the game at both places. We know there are things we need to improve.
"Being at home it helps a lot."
The Rebels, 11-0 at the Thomas & Mack and 14-0 in Las Vegas this season, were punished on their home floor in a 78-63 loss to the Rams in January 2011.
"Colorado State is a team you can’t overlook because they will come out and jump on you," said Moser, who watched last season’s debacle from the bench while sitting out as a redshirt transfer from UCLA. "They have shooters, and they’re going to light it up."
Junior guard Wes Eikmeier leads the Rams in scoring, averaging 15.8 points per game, and he’s one of seven players on the team shooting 36 percent or better from 3-point range.
Colorado State, which set a Mountain West record by hitting all 23 of its free throws against the Aztecs, ranks in the nation’s top 15 in free-throw, field-goal and 3-point percentage.
"They have got three and sometimes four guys on the floor who can all make 3-point shots," Rice said. "It’s a team that’s terrific on the offensive end."
Pierce Hornung, a 6-5 forward who has been touted by Rams coach Tim Miles as perhaps the conference’s best defender, will draw the assignment of slowing Moser. That was something the flu could not do.
■ NOTES — Sophomore forward Carlos Lopez, who missed Saturday’s game with a sprained right ankle, did not practice Tuesday but will dress for the game. "I don’t anticipate that he will play," Rice said. Colorado State’s win over then-No. 13 San Diego State was its first over a ranked team since the 2003-04 season.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.COLORADO STATE VS. UNLV
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today
WHERE: Thomas & Mack Center
TV/RADIO: The Mtn. (334), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
LINE: UNLV -14.5; total 148.5