The 17th-ranked Runnin’ Rebels try to avoid a fourth straight road loss Wednesday night against the Rams, who are looking to knock off a third Top 25 opponent at Moby Arena in the last 4 1/2 weeks.
Despite its recent woes away from home, UNLV (24-6, 8-4 Mountain West) is in a three-way tie for first place in the conference with New Mexico and No. 21 San Diego State. Each team has two games remaining, and the Runnin’ Rebels conclude the regular season against Wyoming on Saturday night.
UNLV has the chance to go 17-0 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Saturday’s finale, but more pressing at the moment is solving its problems outside of Las Vegas. The Rebels are 6-6 in true road games - three of those wins came in overtime - and have lost all three this month.
“It’s extremely important for us - we haven’t played well on the road,” Chace Stanback said after Saturday’s 68-58 home win over Air Force. “It’s a challenge we’ll have to live up to.”
That certainly could be the case come NCAA tournament time, but the good news for UNLV is that Wednesday’s game will be its last away from home until then. The conference tournament is held at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Stanback has been in the middle of UNLV’s road struggles. The senior has combined for 40 points on 14-of-26 shooting in the last two games - both at home - but is averaging 6.3 points on 30.8 percent shooting in the last four road contests.
Stanback and Oscar Bellfield each had 16 points in an easy 82-63 victory over Colorado State on Feb. 1, but things could be a bit tougher with a rematch in Fort Collins.
The Rams (17-10, 6-6) have won 12 straight home games, including a 17-point victory over then-No. 13 San Diego State on Jan. 28 and a 71-63 win over then-No. 18 New Mexico last Tuesday. This is the program’s longest home winning streak since a 13-game run in 2002-03.
Defense has been the key for Colorado State lately, allowing an average of 54.6 points on 35.6 percent shooting in its last five games at Moby Arena.
Although the Rams are trying to finish with a perfect home record in conference play for the first time since 1961, the Rebels have won six of the last seven matchups in Fort Collins and 16 of 18 meetings overall.
Stanback has averaged 15.0 points in five career games against Colorado State.
After defeating the Lobos last week, the Rams couldn’t pull off a second straight upset, losing on the road to the Aztecs 74-66 on Saturday.
“This would have been a big win, especially after New Mexico,” said Dorian Green, who scored 14 points and is averaging 13.2. “But we can’t dwell on it because we have Vegas coming up next.”
Wes Eikmeier also had 14 points Saturday but shot 5 for 18. The junior guard is scoring a team-leading 15.9 per game but has averaged 9.7 over the last three while shooting 29.4 percent.
Bellfield also has struggled, averaging 5.3 points on 25.0 percent shooting in his last three games after scoring in double figures in six straight.
A win over UNLV would give Colorado State three victories over Top 25 teams in a single season for the first time in program history.