Khampha Bouaphanh / AP
Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
FORT WORTH, Texas — On Wednesday night, UNLV again finally looked like the team that blitzed through opponents at will during a 9-0 start to the season.
Go figure, it was a game that no one outside of TCU's Daniel-Meyer Coliseum could see.
Bitter conditions outside not only led to a crowd of fewer than 1,000 but forced TCU's campus to close on Wednesday, meaning that a student-run production of the game that would have run on The Mtn. was also canceled.
What was witnessed by only a few was the Rebels shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and hitting 11 of 17 3-point tries in a 94-79 rout of the Horned Frogs.
The 94 points marked a season high for UNLV and was the highest number posted by the program since scoring 97 against Dixie State on Nov. 13, 2007.
"It was only a matter of time," junior forward Chace Stanback said of the renaissance performance. "Our team's been remaining confident throughout the season. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to knock down shots, but tonight we were able to."
And it really looked as simple as Stanback made it sound.
After falling behind 9-0 in the early minutes, the Rebels (18-6 overall, 6-4 Mountain West) never appeared panicked or worried.
Following a timeout called by Lon Kruger and a pair of substitutions, the Rebels were off.
A Tre'Von Willis three with 11 minutes left in the first half tied it back up at 17-17, and an Oscar Bellfield trey on UNLV's next possession put the Rebels ahead of the depth-challenged Frogs (10-15, 1-9) for good.
From there, it was all just one big offensive blur.
The Rebels went to the half shooting 66.7 percent, which tied as their most efficient half in that category this season, posting the same number in the second half against Murray State on Nov. 26. Also, their 64.7 percent 3-point shooting as a team was by far the biggest number posted all year.
Making it all that much more impressive, though, were the 22 assists that UNLV recorded on 35 made field goals, its second-most this season.
"We moved the ball very well. That's a great number," Kruger said. "We made a lot of good plays for each other, stepped up and finished opportunities when they were there."
Bellfield and Anthony Marshall each had six of those helpers. Looking healthier and more confident with his shot than he has in a few games, Bellfield also scored 13 points.
Elsewhere on the stat sheet, Stanback led all scorers with 24 points, hitting all four of his 3-point tries. Willis, who came off of the bench as punishment for arriving late to a team meeting earlier in the day, tallied a season-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
"Maybe a little bit," Bellfield responded when asked if Wednesday night felt like late November or early December all over again. "We're not quite there yet, but it's a start."
On the interior, Quintrell Thomas feasted on TCU's struggling front-court, posting 14 points and 10 rebounds, including an 8-of-8 showing at the free throw line.
Working the ball through Thomas again helped set up a good portion of UNLV's outside shots.
"I'd say since that Illinois State game (on Dec. 1), it feels like we haven't been able to shoot the ball as well as we've needed to," Thomas said. "This is definitely a good game to boost a couple of guys' confidence, and hopefully we can build on this going forward.
"I think people feel a little more comfortable stepping into the shot, getting the ball from down low, because that's how you practice it. We're definitely learning to get the ball to the basket and get your confidence before you start jacking up shots."
UNLV's players had maintained over the past few weeks that they were still a confident team, despite shooting better than 50 percent in only one of their first nine MWC tilts.
Still, it was clear that they lacked some of their signature swagger in recent games, whether they admitted it or not.
"When you're not making shots, it works on you a bit, but to their credit, they just kept on working," Kruger said. "They keep hearing about not shooting well and everyone keeps talking about it, understandably. They've continued to work on it."
The spurt came at the perfect time for UNLV, after struggling to hit only 18 of 60 shots in Saturday's 78-64 loss at BYU.
It would be unreasonable to expect the Rebels to fire away at 60 percent or more the rest of the way, but Wednesday proved that the team earlier this season considered one of the nation's most dangerous is still in there somewhere.
TCU seemed more concerned for much of the night about what it would do on its next offensive possession rather than locking down on defense. Scoring that big and clicking like that against the Frogs was one thing, but doing so again on this weekend back at home against No. 6 San Diego State (24-1, 9-1) — or at least coming close to it — would be another.
In the first meeting back on Jan. 12 — a 55-49 Aztecs win in San Diego — the Rebels weren't out-played by any means but were crippled by 22-of-61 shooting and hitting only one of 18 attempts from 3-point territory.
They'll tip at 5 p.m. on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
A win over SDSU could give UNLV the marquee Mountain West win it's still seeking and would also greatly solidify their postseason résumé.
They'll head into it as confident as possible.
"It's perfect timing," Stanback said of Wednesday's offensive blitz. "As long as we remain confident and knock down shots like we did tonight, we should be fine."