Air Force-UNLV Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- After losing consecutive games for the first time this season, UNLV is apparently back on track and very much alive in the Mountain West Conference title race.
The No. 21 Runnin' Rebels look to build on their latest victory while trying for a 10th straight win over Air Force in Saturday's league matchup at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Reeling from back-to-back defeats at TCU and conference-leader New Mexico, UNLV (23-6, 7-4) played like a desperate team during a 75-58 win over Boise State on Wednesday.
After shooting a season-low 31.1 percent in the 65-45 loss to the Lobos, the Rebels made 49.1 percent of their shots - including 10 of 21 from 3-point range - en route to a 14th straight home victory.
"There were a lot of people disappointed here in town," coach Dave Rice said. "We have no time for negativity. Staying together was a key for us. We bounced back."
In addition to halting their skid, the Rebels moved within one game of New Mexico after the Lobos fell 71-63 at Colorado State a night earlier. UNLV and No. 24 San Diego State are tied for second with three games remaining.
"We understand the challenge," Rice told the Rebels' official website. "We still need to get better."
The Rebels have traditionally looked good while beating Air Force (13-12, 3-8) by an average of 12.0 points during their nine-game series winning streak. Though UNLV has won six straight at home over the Falcons, it must continue to play at a high level after pulling out a 65-63 overtime win at Air Force on Jan. 28.
Star forward Mike Moser had 27 points with 12 rebounds, but UNLV needed an Oscar Bellfield 3-pointer with 2:28 left in overtime to take the lead for good. Air Force last beat UNLV 65-53 at home Jan. 12, 2008, while its only win in 18 road games against the Rebels came 52-50 on Jan. 25, 2006.
Despite the latest defeat in the series, coach Jeff Reynolds was pleased with Air Force's effort.
"Overall, I thought we played well enough to win," Reynolds said. "Even as poorly as we played down the stretch, we still had a chance to win. I can't fault our kids' effort, and I thought they played their hearts out."
Though Moser averages a team-leading 14.4 points, the sophomore transfer from UCLA has totaled 14 on 5-of-17 shooting in the last two games.
Senior Chace Stanback missed 9 of 10 shots and finished with two points at Air Force last month but scored 20 during a 69-53 home win over the Falcons on March 10. Battling a knee injury, Stanback had 19 points Wednesday after averaging 7.7 in his previous six games.
"I was fortunate to knock down some shots," Stanback said. "I wanted to have a great game for my teammates. I haven't done that (lately)."
Air Force junior guard Michael Lyons, averaging a team-leading 15.6 points, scored 25 against the Rebels in January. However, he's averaged 8.7 in three career games at UNLV.
Lyons averaged 25.0 points on 58.7 percent shooting in three straight contests before he went 3 of 10 from the field and finished with nine points in a 65-62 home loss to TCU on Wednesday.
Air Force improved to 2-74 against ranked opponents with a 58-56 home win over then-No. 13 San Diego State last Saturday.
Updated February 24, 2012