Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 | 11:20 p.m.
If UNR came to the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday seeking revenge for UNLV's win at Reno a few weeks ago, the Wolf Pack got their satisfaction within the first 11 minutes, as an early 13-0 run gave UNR a commanding 28-14 lead and left no doubt about which was the superior team.
The remaining 29 minutes went beyond simple vengeance and veered into sadism, as UNR buried its presumed in-state rival under an avalanche of 3-pointers and handed UNLV a demoralizing, 101-75 defeat.
The loss was UNLV's fourth in a row, and the free-falling Rebels (19-11, 8-9 Mountain West) are now locked into either the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in next week's conference tournament.
UNR came into the game ranked 23rd in the nation in 3-point accuracy, and UNLV was simply unable to match up from beyond the arc. UNR junior Caleb Martin made 5-of-6 from long distance in the first half and UNR made 9-of-14 as a team, while UNLV missed its first eight 3-pointers.
By the time the halftime buzzer sounded with UNR ahead, 54-28, UNLV had been thoroughly blitzed.
UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies said UNR simply overwhelmed his team from the opening tip.
"I thought [UNR] came out angry and played like they lost the first time," Menzies said. "They were very aggressive offensively, shot the you-know-what out of the ball … They were just a buzz saw."
Though the game was decided in the first half (with time to spare), UNR didn't stop kicking UNLV's prone body. The Wolf Pack shot 53.3 percent in the second half (16-of-30), and Cody Martin took the reins from his twin brother by scoring 15 points after the break to help push UNR's lead as high as 33 points.
UNR junior forward Jordan Caroline also proved impossible to stop, as he repeatedly barreled his way into the lane (with little to no resistance from the UNLV defense) to score 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
The shooting disparity between the two teams was impossible for UNLV to overcome. While the Martin twins combined to make 6-of-9 from 3-point range, UNLV senior guard Jovan Mooring struggled with his shot and finished 0-of-7 from beyond the arc. UNR connected on 13-of-24 triples for the game, while UNLV limped to a 4-of-23 showing.
UNLV junior forward Shakur Juiston (14 points, 14 rebounds) said UNR's Curry-esque shooting performance crippled the Rebels' spirit.
"They shot the ball outstanding," Juiston said. "It felt like they just couldn't miss. Some of them were heavily contested, some of them were wide open, but they just made all the shots. Some people have their nights, and tonight was their night."
Freshman center Brandon McCoy (19 points, 17 rebounds) couldn't understand his team's lack of fight.
"No excuse for how we played," McCoy said. "I feel like coming into the game we were really ready, but like Shakur said, some people have their nights and Reno was just clicking today. We should have done better though."
It was a disappointing affair for all involved on the UNLV side, including the 13,997 fans who showed up to give the Rebels one of their biggest, loudest crowds of the season. After a pregame Senior Day ceremony for Mooring and Jordan Johnson, there was nothing else to cheer for as UNR ran its record to 26-5 on the season and 15-2 in Mountain West play.
So while the Rebels' hated rivals are heading into the postseason on a high note, UNLV is scrambling to turn its season around.
Menzies will spend the next week reminding his players that things can change quickly in March, and that losses like this — and the three that preceded it — are rendered meaningless once tournament play begins.
"How long can you keep playing? That's our goal," Menzies said. "Keep playing. I don't care what the records are going into the Mountain West Conference Tournament. There will be a few conferences across the country that the No. 1 or the No. 2 seed — or the 3 or 4 seed — is not going to win the conference tournament. And then there's going to be teams that get into the NCAA — they call them 'Cinderellas' — and they're going to shock the world. So I guess we need to see if we can fit that slipper and be positive and get ready to be that guy. We want to be that guy."