UNLV proved Wednesday night why it is the top team in the Mountain West and one of the best teams in the country when the Runninâ€™ Rebels beat CSU 82-63 in Las Vegas.
Early in each half CSU (14-7, 3-3 MW) came out and played like they may be able to secure a second upset of a top-15 team in two games.
But each time UNLV (21-3, 5-1 MW) responded and ran CSU into the ground.
In the first half CSU jumped out to a 19-12 lead that silenced the crowd.
Rather than panicking, No. 11/13 UNLV responded by slowly clamping down on defense while the offense took off.
The Runninâ€™ Rebels went on a 20-2 run and eventually held a 48-35 lead at halftime after Chace Stanback hit a jump shot at the buzzer.
UNLV hit 59 percent of its shots in the first half and seven of its 13 three-point attempts.
â€œWe made some mistakes and we got caught up,â€ coach Tim Miles said on the first half deficit. â€œWhether it be the atmosphere in the crowd, or the pressure of UNLV. And that was disappointing because I felt like we were shooting ourselves in the foot.â€
CSU didnâ€™t fold at the break, though.
The Rams came out re-energized in the second half and in the first 3:30 went on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to two points, 48-46.
And once again, UNLV was able to re-establish control.
UNLV coach Dave Rice called a timeout to help stop the momentum. Out of the timeout UNLV once again hit big shots to stop CSU.
This time an 11-0 run for UNLV followed, making the score 59-46, putting CSU away once and for all.
â€œI didnâ€™t think we played offense well in the second half,â€ Miles said. â€œThe shots at the rim, we didnâ€™t seek out the contact, we weren’t able to get to the foul line consistently in the second half.â€
For the game, UNLV shot 50 percent from the floor and scored an impressive 27 fastbreak points. But despite the breakneck pace they played with, UNLV only turned the ball over 10 times.
â€œTheir transition is as good as Iâ€™ve ever seen a UNLV transition team,â€ Miles said.
The loss puts CSU in a tie with Wyoming for fourth-place in the MW. The Rams host seventh-place Air Force on Saturday afternoon at Moby Arena.
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.
Final: CSU-63 UNLV-82
Top performer: Oscar Bellfield, Chace Stanback-16 pts each
Up next: Air Force Academy vs. CSU
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where: Moby Arena