On Wednesday night, the teams meet for the third and final time as non-conference opponents at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, where the unbeaten No. 20 Rebels will try to extend their best start since 1991.
Boise State (6-1) will join UNLV (8-0) in the MWC next season after leaving the Western Athletic Conference. The Broncos will get an advance look at one of their new rivals when they face a Rebels team on the rise.
UNLV, off to its best start since the 1990-91 team won its first 34 games and reached the Final Four, hopes its trip to nearby Orleans Arena goes better than it did last season. The Rebels, playing again at the venue because the National Rodeo Finals are held at the Thomas & Mack Center, lost 95-80 to Kansas State on Dec. 12 for their first defeat after a 7-0 start.
UNLV certainly doesn’t look like a team in danger of suffering a letdown. It has won its last four games by an average of 17.3 points, shooting 52.9 percent while holding opponents to 58.8 points.
The Rebels played their last two games on the road, winning 82-70 over Nevada on Saturday. Oscar Bellfield scored a career-high 24 points and went 5 of 6 from 3-point range for UNLV, which led 22-2 and didn’t allow a field goal until 9:04 remained in the first half.
“We’re playing hard,” coach Lon Kruger said. “The guys really did a good job defensively and picked up some steals. It was a combination of a lot of solid play. We were pretty solid defensively the first 12 or 14 minutes.”
Kruger’s team held the Wolf Pack to 20.8 percent shooting in the first period and scored 32 points off 17 total turnovers. UNLV is forcing 17.1 turnovers per game and holding opponents to 36.0 percent from the field, among the best in the country.
The Rebels could have another big defensive performance against Boise State, which is coming off a poor offensive effort in its first loss.
The Broncos were trying to set a record for the best start in school history Sunday, but shot 37.7 percent and fell 69-66 to Long Beach State.
Boise State is giving up 55.0 points per game, but couldn’t protect a 12-point second-half lead. The 49ers shot 51.9 percent after the break and went 7 of 10 from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes.
UNLV and Boise State have split their two meetings, with the Broncos taking the most recent matchup 84-69 in the first round of the 2004 National Invitation Tournament.
The Rebels are 183-52 against current members of the WAC.