AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Michael Lyons scored 27 points and Mike Fitzgerald added 18, helping Air Force snap an 11-game skid against UNLV with a 71-56 win over the Runnin' Rebels on Wednesday night.
The Falcons (15-8, 6-4 Mountain West) broke out a snazzy, seldom-used look for the occasion, wearing camouflage shorts and matching tops. But there was nothing different about their style of play, as they confounded and confused the Rebels (18-7, 5-5) with back-door cuts, picks and layups.
Air Force also played tenacious defense, holding Anthony Bennett, the league's leading scorer, to just eight points. He averages 18.3 points a game.
Katin Reinhardt finished with 15 points — all in the first half — to lead the Rebels, who have dropped three of four.
This time, the Falcons did everything they didn't do in a 76-71 overtime loss to UNLV in Las Vegas on Jan. 12. They outrebounded the Rebels (35-24) and dominated them in the paint (34-24).
In addition, Air Force got under the skin of Bennett, who lost his cool midway through the second half. After a basket, Bennett took the ball and tossed it at Lyons. Bennett was assessed a technical foul, which was his fourth foul of the game.
With Bennett on the bench, Air Force extended its lead to 63-39 with 10:46 remaining.
From there, the Falcons tried to run time off the clock with their modified version of the Princeton offense. But the Rebels refused to go away, going cutting the deficit to 65-53 with 3:46 remaining on a layup by Anthony Marshall.
Moments later, Lyons quelled the rally with a steal and a layup.
Reinhardt appeared to hurt his left shoulder early in the second half, when Lyons slid over in an attempt to draw a charge. The UNLV guard slammed down hard and had to be helped to the bench. Just two minutes later, he was back on the floor.
This was only the third time the Falcons have gone with the all-camouflage look. They wore them for the All-Military Classic earlier this season, when they beat Army and The Citadel.
Air Force led by 17 points in the first half and took a 43-29 lead into the locker room thanks to the hot shooting of Lyons, who had 19 in the first half.
After a pinpoint pass late in the half, a frustrated UNLV fan sitting in the front row screamed: "Come on. Graduate, already!"
The senior has tormented teams his entire career.
Bennett struggled in the first half, scoring just four points on three shots. But all the focus on Bennett left Reinhardt wide open, as his 15 first-half points were just three shy of his career high.
At one point, Reinhardt had 13 of UNLV's 15 points.
Cameron Michael (flu) and Ethan Michael (shoulder) didn't play for the banged-up Falcons, while Marek Olesinski (sprained left thumb) and Tre' Coggins (sprained left shoulder) saw limited time on the court.
The Falcons host No. 24 Colorado State on Saturday. This week, the Rams returned to the AP rankings for the first time since 1954. Air Force is just 3-78 against ranked teams in the program's history.