Since opening Mountain West play with one of the worst shooting performances of his career, UNLV senior point guard Oscar Bellfield has started to find his range.
He was on target last season versus Wyoming.
With a matchup looming against the only team to beat them in MWC play this season, the 11th-ranked Runnin’ Rebels go for their fifth consecutive victory over Wyoming on Saturday in Laramie.
Bellfield is having a rough shooting year at 39.9 percent, but he had a particularly difficult game as UNLV (21-3, 5-1) began league play with a 69-67 loss at then-No. 22 San Diego State on Jan. 14.
Bellfield missed 11 of 12 shots in that contest - the worst shooting game of his career with more than nine field goal attempts - and finished with four points as the Rebels made 35.3 percent from the floor.
The senior guard scored six points in each of the next two games, but he is averaging 14.7 points and has hit 10 of 22 from 3-point range over his last three. Bellfield had four 3s and 16 points - matching season highs for both - in Wednesday’s 82-63 victory over Colorado State.
“Oscar needed it for Oscar but more importantly, his teammates have confidence in him,” said UNLV coach Dave Rice, whose team is trying to win its first conference title since sharing it with Utah 12 years ago. “He’s continued to have confidence.”
Last season against Wyoming, Bellfield made 9 of 16 shots, including 6 for 12 from long distance, and averaged 16.0 points - second on the team to Chace Stanback, who scored 36 with 17 rebounds in the two victories.
The Rebels are among the highest scoring teams in the nation at 80.6 points per game, but they’ll face a much different Wyoming team than the one that gave up 65.9 points per game and finished 10-21 in 2010-11 after coach Heath Schroyer was fired with eight games left.
Under Larry Shyatt, who once coached the Cowboys from 1997-98 before leaving for Clemson, Wyoming (17-5, 3-3) leads the Mountain West in scoring defense at 53.8 points per game and is third in field goal percentage defensively at 39.6 percent.
Shyatt, though, needs to see better offensive execution after Wyoming committed 14 turnovers in Wednesday’s 58-52 loss at TCU.
“We just had too many unforced errors tonight,” Shyatt said. “We helped another team with foolish turnovers. A lot of our turnovers were fostered by plays we tried to make. You can’t do that at home and can’t do that on the road.”
If the Cowboys are going to avoid a 20th consecutive loss to a ranked team, they’ll have to lean heavily on forward Leonard Washington, a USC transfer, and junior college transfer Luke Martinez.
Sophomore forward Mike Moser, who is averaging 14.7 points with a MWC-best 11.6 rebounds, will likely be matched up with Washington, who scored 21 points Wednesday to improve his team-leading average to 13.1.
Martinez missed 10 of 12 from long range in that game and scored six points, snapping a string of eight consecutive double-digit scoring games. He leads the conference in 3s made (58) and attempted (158).
UNLV has won 15 of 17 over Wyoming and leads the all-time series 28-14.