After going up against a Big 12 team and a pair of Pac-12 opponents and coming up short on all three occasions, UNLV was a basketball team in need of some class relief.
The Rebels found it Monday night in Abilene Christian of the Southland Conference.
With junior guard Amauri Hardy showing the way with 25 points, UNLV snapped its three-game losing streak with a 72-58 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center to kick off a four-game homestand.
“Winning’s got to be so important to us we have to come out in the second half the way we started the game,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We were careless in the second half. We’ve got to value that basketball and cut down win the turnovers.”
Don’t let the final score fool you. The scrappy, undersized Wildcats battled all night, maintaining contact for a good portion of the contest. It took a 20-8 run over a 7:42 span in the second half after Abilene Christian tied it 50-50 with just over 10 minutes to play for the Rebels to finally pull away and improve to 2-3.
Winning solves a lot of problems,” Hardy said. “The guys are happy.
“We’ve been in this position in the past where we had a big lead and let it slip away and I don’t like being in those kind of games. I just wanted to attack and get a great shot for my team.”
Otzelberger said of the run to close out the Wildcats: “We understood the importance of getting stops and we were able to make them take the ball out of the basket.”
The Wildcats, who fell to 1-3, have been in every contest, having lost by three to Drexel and by four to Pepperdine. So they weren’t going to be an easy out despite being a 10-point underdog. They used quickness, unselfishness and some underrated rebounding from their guards to hang with UNLV.
But the Rebels also shared the ball (14 assists) and while still willing to settle for jumpers, they got enough open looks to fall (54 percent shooting from the floor) and get to the finish line first. They’ll host Texas State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.