A shocking upset win at UNLV on Jan. 7 looked as if it might be the type of victory that could catapult a struggling UNR program back to respectability.
That hasn’t exactly happened.
The Wolf Pack have dropped four straight games since that night, including two home losses and a 56-point drubbing at Colorado State.
But UNR will enter Tuesday night’s home rematch against UNLV with the confidence of that 64-62 win from three weeks ago, combined with a sweep last season that gives the Wolf Pack three straight wins in the series.
In order to break that streak, UNLV will have to do a better job on the boards. UNR out-rebounded the Rebels 47-39 in the first meeting and scored 19 points off 22 offensive rebounds.
Those numbers aren’t acceptable.
AJ West was the biggest thorn in UNLV’s side at the Thomas & Mack Center. He finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds and is currently leading the nation with nearly six offensive rebounds per game.
Marqueze Coleman was 1 of 8 from the field until he hit a jumper in the closing seconds to give the Wolf Pack the victory.
His teammates didn’t shoot the ball much better. UNR was able to win the game almost entirely on its ability to crash the offensive glass.
UNLV has to do a better job of that in the rematch, especially on the road.
The Rebels may be catching a break as UNR doesn’t appear to be at full strength. Michael Perez, who gave UNLV fits last season, is playing through a wrist injury.
He has gone scoreless in three of his last four games.
West has been in top form during conference play. He has recorded a double-double in four of the six Mountain West games, including the first matchup with UNLV. West fell just one rebound shy of a double-double in the other two conference games.
He has scored in double-figures in eight straight games, averaging 14.6 points, 11 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and shooting 54.2 percent from the field over that span.
Expect UNR to look a bit different tonight when the game begins. Wolf Pack coach David Carter put freshman Eric Cooper Jr. and junior college transfer Tyron Criswell in the starting lineup for the first time for the Fresno State game on Saturday.
Cooper scored 20 points and matched the four 3-pointers he made in the UNLV game. It was just the second 20-point game for a UNR player this year.
Criswell also responded well, putting up 19 points against the Bulldogs.
The change makes UNR a bit more dynamic offensively.
UNLV fans hope it was just a temporary boost.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj