Things did not go the way UNLV had hoped for in its Mountain West Conference opener, but that’s not about to shatter the Runnin’ Rebels’ collective confidence.
Looking to bounce back from a frustrating defeat, the No. 14 Rebels hope to continue their dominance over visiting TCU on Wednesday night.
The preseason MWC favorite and owner of a seven-game winning streak, UNLV’s hopes of a regular-season league title were not dashed but took a hit with Saturday’s 69-67 loss at then-No. 22 San Diego State.
Coming into that contest averaging 81.3 points and shooting 48.1 percent, the Rebels (16-3, 0-1) shot a season-low 35.3 percent but still had a chance to win.
Jamaal Franklin’s off-balance layup with three-tenths of a second left gave SDSU the lead. On the ensuing inbounds play, UNLV’s Mike Moser stepped over the line and the Aztecs got the ball to secure the win.
Though SDSU has an early leg up in the conference race, the Rebels are not concerned despite dropping their third straight MWC opener.
“One game, whether it’s a win or a loss, doesn’t make or break us, in terms of one of our goals, which is to win a conference title,” coach Dave Rice said.
Rice’s players were quick to grasp his words as they try to give the school its first regular-season MWC title since sharing it with Utah in 1999-2000.
“It’s one game out of 14,” said guard Anthony Marshall, who scored a career-high 26 points. “It’s really not going to dictate the conference.”
While the Rebels cling to that mindset, they have a very good chance to bounce back against TCU (10-6, 0-1). The Horned Frogs have averaged 62.7 points and shot 40.1 percent during a seven-game skid at UNLV that dates to a 76-72 win Feb. 22, 1999.
Playing its last season in the MWC before moving to the Big 12, TCU looks to snap an 11-game overall league road skid after falling 95-89 in double overtime at Colorado State on Saturday. The Horned Frogs’ last MWC road win came 76-68 over Wyoming on Feb. 13, 2010.
The Rebels, winners of five straight overall and 15 of 17 against the Horned Frogs, averaged 88.5 points on 56.0 percent shooting while winning both 2010-11 meetings by a combined 49 points.
Marshall has totaled just 20 points in four games versus TCU, but he’s averaged 17.8 while making 53.8 percent of his shots in his last five overall.
UNLV senior swingman Chace Stanback averages a team-leading 14.4 points but has scored seven in each of the last two games. He’s averaged 18.5 on 30-of-46 shooting in four career games versus the Horned Frogs, scoring 24 in a 94-79 win at TCU on Feb. 9.
Hank Thorns, who leads TCU with 13.1 points per game, had 21 and nine assists in that meeting. However, he was held to nine points during an 83-49 loss at UNLV on Jan. 8, 2011.
The Horned Frogs have dropped 17 consecutive road games against Top 25 opponents since an 83-76 win over No. 24 Hawaii on Jan. 19, 1998.