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UNLV Basketball:

McCaw’s ‘unbelievable hustle plays’ lead Rebels past Broncos in 87-77 victory

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV guard Ike Nwamu (0) and UNLV guard Patrick McCaw (22) celebrate their win over Boise State as they walk off the court at the Thomas & Mack Center, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016.

UNLV Defeats Boise State

Boise State guard Mikey Thompson (1) rolls over UNLV guard Patrick McCaw (22) fighting for a loose ball during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Launch slideshow »

There were many reasons Teresa McCaw wanted to surprise her son, UNLV sophomore guard Pat McCaw, at tonight’s game. One was a feeling any fan could understand.

“I couldn’t yell through the TV anymore,” she said.

The Rebels were perfect at home with the McCaw family in attendance when Wednesday’s game against Boise State tipped off and they remained that way thanks largely to Pat McCaw, who scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half of an 87-77 victory against the Broncos (15-6, 6-2). That tied his career high in points, and although McCaw has led the team in scoring most of the season, it was just the second time in the past month and a half that he led that category in a game.

“I know I’ve been struggling the past few games, but I’m always trying to stay locked in,” said McCaw, who shot 8-of-11 with five steals, four rebounds and four assists to three turnovers.

McCaw’s scoring wouldn’t be a huge concern except that the team unquestionably plays better when he’s putting up points, and the struggles have also included an uptick in careless turnovers. Those were few and far between against the Broncos and everything else was working, too, as interim coach Todd Simon pointed to one second-half dive after a loose ball as indicative of McCaw’s overall night.

“Pat made some unbelievable hustle plays,” Simon said. “When he dove on that ball at center court I thought that kind of turned the tide that we weren’t going to be denied today.”

Click to enlarge photo

Boise State guard Mikey Thompson (1) rolls over UNLV guard Patrick McCaw (22) fighting for a loose ball during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.

UNLV (13-8, 4-4) trailed by eight at halftime thanks largely to familiar culprits: missed free throws and turnovers. That changed almost immediately in the second half as the Rebels forced nine Boise State turnovers after the break and started to really ramp up the total possessions.

There were familiar highlight-worthy dunks from freshman forward Derrick Jones Jr., who had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and senior guard Jerome Seagears was great driving to the rim, finishing with nine points and five assists. Over the last six games, Seagears has 17 assists to five turnovers.

There was also a career-high 18 points plus eight rebounds from freshman forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. and the second career double-double for junior forward Ben Carter at 10 points and 11 rebounds. The entire team was a part of the defense that held one of the league’s top offenses to 39.3 percent shooting in the second half, but even they recognize that McCaw was the catalyst.

“Big-ups to Pat for making a lot of those shots,” Carter said. “He doesn’t want to take the credit, but he played a helluva game.”

McCaw is so soft-spoken that even his mother has a hard time getting more than a few words out of him sometimes. The last game the family saw in person was a 14-hour roundtrip drive to Wichita State, where Pat McCaw first showed signs of the struggles that have come with being the opponents’ top priority.

That game started a 2-6 stretch that ended with coach Dave Rice’s firing, a move that made Teresa McCaw even surer that she needed to book a flight.

“I wanted to see him face to face,” Teresa McCaw said.

She also wanted to enjoy the home atmosphere that has had her cheering for the Rebels from the St. Louis area for more than two decades. Teresa and her husband, Jeff, who’s a high school basketball coach, got married in Las Vegas in January 1995.

The Rebel Room

Reno Woes

The Rebels have now lost four out of the last six to in-state rival UNR, which breaks Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer's heart. Sun sports writers Case Keefer and Taylor Bern join Brewer to get into that 65-63 loss and discuss whether there will be any lasting effects in this big week at home against Boise State and San Diego State.

Even though the doors were locked they stopped by the Mack during the visit just to see the house that Tark built. A little more than nine months later, Pat McCaw was born, and 21 years later he helped bring the building to life in front of an announced crowd of 12,586 that was the loudest of the season.

“They’re pit bulls when that crowd starts getting going and that little hair on your neck sticks up,” Simon said. “Thomas & Mack can be an unbelievable home-court advantage, especially the style of play that we want to be, a defend, rebound and run team that’s nasty, getting on the floor. This town just appreciates that.”

The town will also appreciate that the McCaws trip lasts through Saturday’s home game against first-place San Diego State (15-6, 8-0). This victory gives that one a little more meaning, because the Rebels will be favored to hand SDSU its first league loss, and if that happens then a three-game deficit with nine to play makes a UNLV run at the regular-season league title at least possible.

The Rebels could make something like that happen if they figure out how to consistently get out in space and hunt good shots like they did in the second half against the Broncos. UNLV shot 57.1 percent from the field in the second half and 70.6 percent at the line.

The Rebels could also just try to convince the McCaws that their perfect record at the Mack is needed for the remainder of the schedule. There’s good news on that front, too, because one other factor made Teresa McCaw decide to surprise her son at the game.

“Frontier has some really good rates,” she said.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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