Las Vegas, NV – Off to their best start since the 1991-92 campaign, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels find themselves ranked 11th in the nation and tied for the top spot in the Mountain West Conference as they prepare for the arrival of the upstart Colorado State Rams to the Thomas & Mack Center tonight.
Since losing to San Diego State on a last-second shot back on January 14 on the road, the Rebels have ripped off four straight wins and because of that, in conjunction with SDSU's surprising loss to Colorado State over the weekend, the two teams are locked in a first-place tie at 4-1. On Saturday, the Rebels were taken to overtime for the second straight game, but once more they came out on top, this time with a 65-63 triumph over Air Force on the road at Clune Arena. With the victory UNLV reached 20 before the end of January for the first time since 1987.
As for the Rams, they went into last weekend having lost back-to-back conference games against Wyoming and New Mexico both on the road, but at home CSU came out of nowhere to register a 77-60 win over San Diego State, snapping SDSU's 11-game win streak in the process. Certainly the win was surprising given that Colorado State had been held to just 51 and 52 points in the two previous outings.
Even though the teams split their two regular-season meetings in 2010-11, UNLV still controls the relationship with 15 wins in the last 17 encounters and a 32-9 mark versus the Rams overall. However, Colorado State did show some spunk a year ago when they captured a 78-63 win in Sin City.
Colorado State was guilty of 17 turnovers against the Aztecs on Saturday, but the hosts were able to wash those all away by not only shooting 6-of-13 behind the three-point line, but also setting a new conference record by converting a perfect 23-of-23 at the free-throw line. Wes Eikmeier, who nailed all eight of his free throws, finished with a team-best 19 points, followed by Will Bell with 17 points, Dorian Green 12 and Kaipo Sabas 10 points off the bench for the group. Overall this season, Eikmeier has been the top scoring threat with his 15.8 ppg, but not far behind is Green (13.5 ppg) who has been shooting a fantastic 48.6 percent from three-point range in order to help push the team to 41.9 percent out on the perimeter overall. Pierce Hornung (7.7 ppg) hasn't appeared in every game for the Rams, but still he is the top rebounding option for the program with his 7.6 boards per outing.
The Air Force defense went from allowing the Runnin' Rebels to shoot 56.0 percent from the field in the first half to just 32.0 percent after the break and that's what got the Falcons into overtime. Unfortunately, during that bonus period The Academy scored only six points and it wasn't enough to keep up against one of the premier programs in the country. Mike Moser carried much of the load for the visitors as he registered yet another double-double with his 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Oscar Bellfield chipped in 15 points and handed out seven of the unit's 19 assists. One of the top rebounders in the entire country, Moser is clearing 11.7 per game and is also the top scorer now for the Rebels with his 14.7 ppg as the team aims to live up to the nickname of the Runnin' Rebels. Chace Stanback (14.1 ppg) has been doing his damage from three-point range where he is shooting 45.9 percent, while Bellfield and Anthony Marshall have combined to hand out 228 of the team's 424 assists, the duo nearly matching the combined efforts of the competition which has delivered 265 assists over 23 outings.