Last night, the Wyoming Cowboys held the lead only once at 2-0 as the UNLV Runnin' Rebels continued their on the road winning ways this year, punishing the Cowboys 78-50.
The Rebels improved to 7-1 on the road and 18-4 overall as they completed the first half of Mountain West Conference play at 6-2. They're tied with the Lobos of New Mexico and stand one game behind Conference leader BYU at 7-1.
Matt Shaw came off the bench and had a career high 16 points and six rebounds as the Rebels continue to have a different player step up to elevate his game. Derrick Jasper is injured but will hopefully be back for the Mountain West Conference Tournament, starting Mar. 9 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Coach Lon Kruger started junior guard and three-point specialist, Kendall Wallace, in Jasper's place.
The Rebels' leading scorers Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback both scored in double figures with 15 and 12, respectively. Oscar Bellfield and Anthony Marshall both added eight points as the Rebels shot 53 percent from the floor.
I had some concerns about this game because it set up a perfect "trap" game with nationally-ranked BYU and New Mexico visiting the Rebels this Saturday and next Wednesday.
The fact that the Rebels played a very consistent game on both sides of the ball is a tribute to Lon Kruger and his coaches, as they had the young team prepared and ready to play.
Tre'Von Willis seems to be getting better everyday.
Already the leading scorer in Mountain West Conference games, he has upgraded his all- around game. Last night in addition to his 15 points, he had eight rebounds and four assists. He will have to be at his best as the next two ranked opponents will be looking for road wins to pad their resumes for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
If the picks for the tournament were today, all three top Mountain West teams would get bids with San Diego State knocking at the door. The second half of conference play should be intense—to say the least.
The overall level of play in the Mountain West Conference this year is the best I have ever seen since the Conference was started.
Not only do I think that four teams are deserving a tournament bid, but I also predict that at least two of the invited teams have a great chance to reach the Sweet Sixteen or even further.
Many of these games are televised on either the CBS Sports Channel or the Mountain West Network.
My recommendation is, if you get a chance to see any of these games, you certainly won't be disappointed.