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Rebels and Pokes duke it out in Mountain West showdown

Tied with San Diego State atop the Mountain ranked UNLV Runnin' Rebels are again out on the road this afternoon as they tangle with the Wyoming Cowboys at Arena Auditorium in Laramie.

The Rebels, off to their best start in a generation, had their issues in the first half against Colorado State in the most recent outing on Wednesday night, but after 40 minutes it was clear that UNLV was the better team as it cruised to the 82-63 win at home. The victory was the fifth in a row and the 12th in the last 13 games for the Rebels, who have lost only to San Diego State on the road on a last-second shot during that stretch.

As for the Cowboys, they continue to play in the shadows of the big boys in the MWC, even though they've turned in 17 wins in 22 games already. However, the last couple of weeks have been a bit pressing for the Pokes with two losses in the last three outings, the lone win coming against Boise State (75-64), which is still winless in the MWC. Three nights ago, Wyoming dropped to 3-3 in league play with a 58-52 loss at TCU.

The Rebels, who will host the Cowboys in Las Vegas next month, have dominated the all-time series with a 28-14 advantage, thanks in part to a 90-77 win in the most recent meeting last season at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV trailed by seven points in the first half against visiting Colorado State at home a few nights back, but then the hosts came alive and eventually shot 59.4 percent from the field in the first half to give themselves a cushion at the break. Except for Brice Massamba who finished with just four points, every starter scored in double figures for the Rebels, beginning with Chace Stanback and Oscar Bellfield who both tallied 16 points, followed by Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall with 13 apiece. Moser, who pulled down a team-best eight rebounds, failed to register a double-double due to the fact that he dealt with early foul trouble and had to take a seat on the bench. Nevertheless, Moser is still one of the nation's leaders on the glass with his 11.6 rpg and is also first on the team with his 14.7 ppg, although Stanback has closed the gap slightly and is now putting up 14.2 ppg. Marshall (11.8 ppg) has teamed with Bellfield (9.7 ppg) to deliver a collective 241 assists which makes it so tough for defenders to handle both players and their passing abilities.

The staunch Wyoming defense was a bit lax against the Horned Frogs in the latest outing, allowing the hosts to make good on 57.1 percent from the field in the first half, giving TCU enough of an advantage to ride out the second half at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth. Nevertheless, Leonard Washington still posted a game-high 21 points for the visitors, followed by Adam Waddell and Francisco Cruz with 13 and 10 points, but even that was not enough to offset the awful 2-of-12 shooting performance behind the three-point line by Luke Martinez. Washington, the team's leading scorer in three of the last four contests, has boosted his season average of 13.1 ppg up to 17.2 ppg versus the rest of the MWC and yet the team as a whole is posting just 60.8 ppg in league tests which is almost five points per game under their season average. The same goes with the defense for the Pokes which, overall this year has limited opponents to 53.8 ppg, but MWC foes have managed to put up 58.3 ppg which makes the team's scoring margin that much smaller.