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Home support big key to UNLV Rebels’ success

Last week was a very good week for the Runnin’ Rebels. We played two home games, beating Texas Christian on Wednesday and New Mexico on Saturday. As has been the case all season, the key to our success was our defense. We were locked in, and, other than the first half against New Mexico, we did a terrific job rebounding the basketball. Our defense led to numerous transition opportunities, and we averaged more than 90 points for the two games, including scoring 101 against TCU.

Our crowds have been tremendous all year, and both games last week were an example of that. The atmosphere in the Thomas & Mack on Saturday against New Mexico was incredible. It was a sellout, and the crowd was into the game. Without question, our home crowds have had a hand in our success. Our players get energy from the crowd, and it is a factor in the outcome of games. Our team is grateful for the tremendous support that we have received. I have said many times that any success we have is made even more special because we can share it with great fans.

A lot of credit for our success goes to Rich Hilliard, our director of student-athlete development. During the season, Rich spends countless hours breaking down video and providing it to our assistant coaches for scouting reports. I know I mentioned Rich last week, but he is doing such a great job that I wanted to mention him again. He literally never takes a day off and is the first person in the office and the last one to leave. He has a fabulous work ethic and is going to be a very good assistant coach. I know that is one of his career goals.

Last week was also very special for our program with the dedication of the Mendenhall Center. The ceremony was terrific. Thirteen of the 15 Runnin’ Rebel Donor All-Star team members were there, and we also were honored to have Gov. Brian Sandoval and Board of Regents chairman Jason Geddes join us. UNLV president Neal Smatresk and athletic director Jim Livengood also were there and spoke to those in attendance.

Many of our players saw the finished Mendenhall Center for the first time that day and were very impressed with what a wonderful facility we have. It truly is a program-changing facility and already has paid dividends in recruiting. More important, it will be good for us on a day-to-day basis. I can’t thank our generous donors enough for making this great facility possible.

Later that day, president Smatresk hosted the Governor’s barbecue, and my former teammate and good friend Greg Anthony took time out of his busy schedule to serve as the keynote speaker. Greg talked about how much it still means to him to be a Runnin’ Rebel. It was truly a great Rebel night.

On behalf of our program, thanks again for the great support we are getting from Runnin’ Rebel fans. We know we have a lot of hard work ahead, but we are pleased with the direction of our program.

UNLV men’s basketball coach Dave Rice writes a weekly column for Rebels Report.

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