It wasn't as easy as it could have been, but UNLV eventually closed out Wyoming for an 85-70 win at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Rebels' 21-point first-half lead gradually disappeared, and the Rebels actually trailed, 50-49, early in the second half. But thanks to the superior inside play of Shakur Juiston, Brandon McCoy and Tervell Beck, the Rebels were able to recover and pull away down the stretch.
Juiston finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while McCoy posted 19 points and 15 boards. Beck set a career high with 15 points in just 19 minutes.
Wyoming helped out UNLV by not shooting well from long range. The Cowboys connected on just 6-of-3 from 3-point distance.
UNLV improves to 18-7 on the season and 7-5 in Mountain West play.
Rebels holding onto 72-61 lead over Wyoming
With 4:30 to play, UNLV is still holding onto a 72-61 lead over Wyoming.
The Rebels are grinding on offense, as they've made just one of their last 11 shots from the field, but Brandon McCoy and Tervell Beck have each hit a pair of free throws in the last two minutes to help keep Wyoming at bay.
McCoy is 7-of-7 from the line today, and he's got 14 points and 13 rebounds. Beck has scored a career-high 15 points.
The Rebels have yet to find their shooting touch, as they're a combined 4-of-18 from 3-point range. Wyoming hasn't been able to take advantage, however, as the Cowboys are just 5-of-26 from deep.
Rebels lead Wyoming, 63-55
UNLV lost its big lead, but the Rebels have bounced back over the last few minutes, and with 11:29 to play, UNLV has a 63-55 lead over Wyoming.
The Rebels led by as many as 21 points in the first half, but Wyoming fought all the way back and pulled ahead early in the second half. Hayden Dalton tipped in a fast-break layup to give Wyoming its first lead, 50-59, with 15:18 to play, but Shakur Juiston scored at the other end to give UNLV the lead again. Since losing the lead, UNLV has outscored Wyoming, 14-5, but the Rebels are now in a battle — and likely will be for the final 12 minutes.
Juiston has a game-high 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting. Brandon McCoy has 11 points and 10 rebounds.
UNLV leads Wyoming by 10 at half
UNLV led by as many as 21 points, but the Rebels got sloppy in the closing minutes of the half, allowing Wyoming to pull within 45-35 at the break.
The Rebels have had no problem infiltrating the Wyoming defense, building a 32-16 advantage in points in the paint. Shakur Juiston has a team-high 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while Tervell Beck has pumped in 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Wyoming opened the game just 2-of-15 from 3-point range, but the Cowboys made their final two before the half as they embarked on a 15-4 run to close the gap. UNLV's defense has held Wyoming leading scorer Justin James to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, and sharpshooter Hayden Dalton has been limited to three points on 1-of-6 shooting.
UNLV leads Wyoming, 39-20
Wyoming made a bit of a run to pull within 10 points, but UNLV has responded with an 11-2 spurt to push the lead to 39-20 with 4:25 left in the half.
Brandon McCoy scored consecutive layups to start the run, and Jovan Mooring scored on a runner and a transition layup to force Wyoming to call timeout.
McCoy now has seven points and seven rebounds, while Mooring has six points. Tervell Beck has a team-high 11 points.
Wyoming is just 2-of-12 from 3-point range and 9-of-30 from the field. Top scorer Justin James has four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Rebels jump to big lead vs. Wyoming
UNLV continues to play its best basketball of the season, as the Rebels have followed up their big win at UNR by jumping out to a 24-5 lead over Wyoming with 10:59 left in the first half.
Tervell Beck opened the scoring with a 3-pointer on the game's first possession, and that launched a 9-0 run for the Rebels. It was 19-2 before Wyoming forward Hayden Dalton finally canned a 3-pointer, but the Rebels responded with a quick 5-0 spurt before the media timeout.
Beck has nine points on 3-of-5 shooting, while Shakur Juiston has six points and three rebounds. UNLV has made 10-of-18 from the field, while Wyoming is just 2-of-16.
Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. Wyoming
After landing a big road win over in-state rival UNR on Wednesday, the Rebels have an opportunity to build some momentum as they enter the final stretch of the Mountain West season. A victory over Wyoming on Saturday (5 p.m., CBS Sports Network) would lend even more credence to the idea that UNLV is capable of beating the best the conference has to offer, and therefore capable of making noise in the MWC tournament in March.
Can the Rebels stay hot against Wyoming? Three keys to watch:
Wyoming (16-8, 7-4 MWC) is not a tough-minded defensive team. The Cowboys allow opponents to shoot 59.8 percent around the rim, which ranks them 162nd in the nation, and they block just 11.9 percent of shots at the rim, which is 118th.
With no real rim protector on the roster and no intimidating size in the paint, Wyoming is extremely vulnerable to a team like UNLV (17-7, 6-5). The Rebels are among the best in the nation when it comes to converting close-range shots (67.6 percent, 27th nationally), so the first option on every possession should be getting the ball inside to center Brandon McCoy and power forward Shakur Juiston.
Both McCoy and Juiston shoot better than 72 percent around the basket. Wyoming has no means of stopping them. It's a pretty obvious game plan, from the Rebels' perspective, but why over-complicate things? Toss it into the big men and let them go to work.
Make Dalton move
Hayden Dalton is one of the most unique offensive weapons in the Mountain West, as the lanky 6-foot-8 forward can make shots over just about any defender and heat up quickly. He's averaging 17.8 points per game while making 37.5 percent of his 3-pointers, and his efficiency (1.03 points per possession) is up there with any player in the league.
There is a way to neutralize him, however. Dalton is absolutely molten as a standstill shooter — he shoots 46.2 percent on unguarded catch-and-shoot plays, good for a ridiculous 1.39 PPP — but when he is forced to put the ball on the floor, his accuracy drops dramatically. On all jumpers off the dribble, he is shooting just 23.1 percent, with an efficiency of 0.54 PPP.
UNLV coach Marvin Menzies will have to devise a game plan that keeps a defender glued to Dalton at all times. If the Rebels help off him, let him loose in transition, fail to find him in scramble situations or give him the slightest chance to set his feet for an open shot, he will cash in. The priority will be to stay on his hip, force him to create off the dribble and make him play the type of game he doesn't want to play.
The little things
Menzies wants his team to be playing its best basketball at the end of the season, and it looks like the Rebels are on schedule. They've looked good in wins over San Diego State and UNR (and an overtime loss at Boise State), and in order to continue that internal improvement down the stretch, Menzies thinks the key will be attention to detail.
The Rebels rely on several true freshmen and other youngsters to play key roles in the rotation, and Menzies said they've come a long way since the beginning of the season when it comes to basketball minutiae such as timing, shot selection, screen-setting, etc. But the final seven regular-season games — starting with the Wyoming contest — should give the Rebels even more opportunity to enhance their focus.
"The technical aspects of what needs to improve are really the details," Menzies said. "Right now, we've got to become a better screening team, we've got to become a better communicating team. Our effort has been good and our energy has been high, so those are things that we've got to keep, but we've got to start to clean up the details."