UNLV opened Saturday's game against Wyoming with a 24-5 run, closed with a 9-2 run, and played okay in between. In the end, it added up to an 85-70 win for the Rebels, who are suddenly red hot (18-7 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) and sitting in third place in the conference standings.
As expected, it was UNLV's interior duo of Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston that led the way against Wyoming's undersized frontcourt. Juiston made 11-of-15 shots from the field and posted 22 points and 14 rebounds, while McCoy went for 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Coming off a huge win at UNR on Wednesday, the main concern for the Rebels was the potential for an emotional letdown against Wyoming. That worry lasted for about five minutes, as UNLV jumped out to an 11-0 lead, and by the time Kris Clyburn swished a 3-pointer to make it 24-5 midway through the first half, there was no doubt the Rebels came to play.
Wyoming fought back to within 10 points at halftime, however, and the veteran-laden Cowboys didn't stop there. Hayden Dalton's tip-in actually gave Wyoming a 50-49 lead with 15:18 to play, and as recently as a few weeks ago, that would have been reason for the Rebels to panic. Instead, UNLV responded with maturity, using an 11-2 run to immediately reestablish order.
Juiston knocked down a short jumper to give UNLV a 60-52 lead with 13:10 to play, and Wyoming never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
After the game, Juiston said the Rebels never lost control.
"Basketball is a game of runs," Juiston said. "Coach emphasized at halftime and in the huddles, saying, 'You know, we threw our greatest punch at the beginning, and it was about time they came back with a run and answered back.' And they did. They did a great job. But we stayed together, stayed positive and got the job done."
It was the big-man duo of Juiston and McCoy that led the way down the stretch. McCoy totaled 12 of his 19 points in the second half, with 10 of those coming from the free-throw line (10-of-12), while Juiston scored eight points after the break. They also combined to block five shots in the second half.
Wyoming went on a 7-0 run to pull within 76-68 with 2:15 to play, but McCoy, Jordan Johnson, Jovan Mooring and Amauri Hardy combined to make 9-of-12 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes to seal the victory.
Head coach Marvin Menzies said the Rebels let Wyoming back into the game by becoming stagnant on offense, but that he trusts the team's ability to fix that issue.
"These types of games really help their experience," Menzies said. "I thought we shared the ball really well the first half, and I thought we got away from it. So that's some great video and film to educate them on what playing for others does for you."
Wyoming also helped the cause by shooting an ice-cold 6-of-33 from 3-point range. The Cowboys came into the game shooting 33.2 percent from long distance.
UNLV wasn't much better at 4-of-22 from deep, but Juiston and McCoy made the difference with their interior scoring, as UNLV finished with a 44-32 advantage in points in the paint.
Johnson chipped in five points and six assists, while Mooring followed up his supernova shooting game at UNR by scoring 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
With four wins in their last five games, the Rebels are trending up in the Mountain West and exuding confidence.
McCoy said that continual improvement has been an emphasis for the team all season.
"Coach Menzies always tells us that we want to be up in the last [month]," McCoy said. "We want to keep going up, and I feel like we've started to buy in to what he's saying. We know that if we keep building off beating Reno, the sky is the limit for us, and we're going to keep pushing."
The Rebels will try to keep it rolling on Wednesday, when Air Force (10-13, 4-7) visits the Thomas & Mack Center.