The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels defeated the Wyoming Cowboys last night in Laramie, before a sleepy crowd of a few dozen Eskimos who own snowmobiles.
To say that the atmosphere was swollen with overwhelming lethargy would be a gross understatement. Around tip off, Arena Auditorium was so dull and devoid of energy, it could have bored a corpse back to life.
Predictably, the teams’ effort and sharpness the early part of the ball game were nonexistent, like a four year old wearing mittens trying to color between the lines.
UNLV was grossly outplayed by the sluggish Cowboys and trailed by eight points at the half, 31-23.
The shooting numbers were disgusting. I won’t display them here for fear that readers might lose their lunch (or breakfast or dinner or fourth meal) all over the keyboard—keyboards are hard to clean.
Wyoming was playing a matchup zone and the Rebels were struggling.
It was ugly. They were struglying, an ugly, ugly struggly struggle.
Then, at halftime, something happened. It’s hard to say what, but a different team emerged from the locker room for the second stanza of basketball.
It was as though the hapless Rebels hopped into a time machine and turned back the clock six weeks. They played with a purpose and energy absent since early December.
They played beautiful basketball.
The first half was Al Davis. The second half was Heidi Klum.
UNLV shot the ball well. They moved the ball well. They spaced the floor, worked it inside, penetrated the gaps, made the extra pass and finished effectively.
The offense was fluid and virtually flawless, an assembly line of point production.
Henry Ford would have been proud.
After sputtering out 23 first half points while playing with an effectiveness that rivaled a stopped clock, the Rebels exploded for 51 in the second half.
They could do no wrong.
It may have been a byproduct of a weak opponent and venue that felt like a 15,000 seat medically induced coma.
It’s possible that half two looked so majestic because it was juxtaposed with a level of basketball so putrid as to make a high school girls JV team squirm.
Maybe it meant nothing, but it felt like a turning point.
It felt like the Rebels realized what was happening, looked themselves purposefully in the mirror and rode that euphoric self-discovery to victory.
It felt like a drug addict hitting bottom, being jarred awake by the realization of where he (or she) was, and starting down the road to blissful recovery, a sincere turnaround.
The difference being the Rebels seem addicted to stubborn, crappy jump shooting and moribund offense.
Last night felt like a turnaround, an awakening.
It truly felt like it meant something.
UNLV now has a full week of no games to build and grow. The catharsis in Laramie was the perfect way to enter the break. They exercised some demons and hopefully left them buried in a deep snow drift far from the bright lights of Las Vegas.
The season is far from over.
If the Rebels that bulldozed Wyoming in the second half last night keep showing up, things might not be so bad around town.
Happy times, success and a good show could be lurking.
If that first half ugly stepsister of hoops rears her grosstastic face again, well, purchase some Pepto.
Things could get messy.