I am all but positive there are three young men who slept very well last night after UNLV's Runnin' Rebels came from behind to beat the San Diego State Aztecs 76-66 at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Those guys happen to be Wink Adams, Joe Darger, and Rene Rougeau who led the 2008-'09 Rebels. In their senior year they were humiliated by these same Aztecs three times, twice at the Thomas and Mack, including one in the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
The Rebels had lost only three out of 36 games at home in conference play over the last two years and all those losses came at the hands of San Diego State.
Last night, for thirty minutes it certainly looked like history was going to repeat itself. After leading 18-16 early in the game, the Rebels fell behind by as much as 10 points only to make a gallant comeback and tie the score at 50 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Chase Stanback provided to spark for the Rebels to get even. He finished with a career high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting while also picking up five boards.
San Diego State out rebounded the Rebels 42-30 but appeared not as close as those numbers indicate. It seemed like the Aztecs had all five of their players on the floor completely boxing out the Rebels. Time and time again they had two or three offensive rebounds getting easy baskets right under the net.
Once again the Rebels went to their leader down the stretch and he delivered. Tre'Von Willis scored 17 of his game high 23 points in the second half including nine in a row as the Rebels pulled away in the final five minutes.
Oscar Bellfield added 12 points along with six assists bringing his total to 15 assists in his last two games.
San Diego State leading scorer, Las Vegas native, Billy White fouled out of the game with three minutes to go.
White, who has been a Rebels killer was nursing an high ankle sprain which was obvious while he was on the floor. When he becomes fully healthy this will be a very good San Diego State team which will, despite its two conference game losses, be in the hunt not only in the Mountain West but also an excellent shot at the NCAA Tournament.
For the Rebels who have now faced the three top teams in the conference and won two out of three, the road doesn't get any easier as the Utah Runnin' Utes come into town on Saturday night. The Utes who played a vicious non-conference schedule come back to the Thomas and Mack where they won last year's Mountain West Conference championship game.
In order for UNLV to continue their winning ways they still have to learn to play all 40 minutes of the game. When they do as they did last night they are tough to beat. They will have to shoot better than 40 percent and they need to have a presence in the middle. They have been constantly out rebounded in most of their games with quality opponents.
The best point about this team is how coach Lon Kruger will use up to 11 different players on the floor. This bodes well as the Rebels get deeper into conference play. Last night they simply wore the Aztecs down with constant defensive pressure causing 20 turnovers to their 10.
Kruger feels you win the turnovers you win the game. I agree.