The Pit is one of those legendary venues where opposing teams usually come up short. Not UNLV. Not on this night. The Rebels came to play and they put forth one of their grittiest and hardest fought performances of the season in a game they desperately needed. Trailing 37-31 at halftime, UNLV came out on fire in the 2nd half and put together a 9-0 run to take the lead. They built the lead as high as 7 points, but New Mexico came storming back. From there it was a fist fight that went back and forth all the way to the bitter end. Jovan Mooring ended up landing the biggest punches and UNLV was able to pull ahead and stay ahead for a 71-66 win.
The aforementioned Mooring was stellar for Menzies' Rebels. The Juco transfer has become the answer at the point guard position and he put up some fantastic numbers in an ultra tough environment. "JoJo" scored 19 points on 6-12 shooting from the floor and he did his best Steph Curry impression by nailing 3-6 on his attempts from deep beyond the arc. He also handed out 6 assists against only a single turnover. More than that, he came up big in moments that defined the game. For instance, his steal in the waning moments of the contest that led to a fastbreak layup and an And-One finish helped keep the Lobos at bay. Mooring even shook off a knee-to-knee collision with teammate Christian Jones and showed toughness and resolve by staying in the game and continuing to be the catalyst the Rebels needed to pull off the upset.
Jovan wasn't alone, he got a lot of help from his friends. Uche Ofoegbu had his best performance as a Rebel. He shot 75% from distance (3-4) and put up 14 points for the evening. He also was mansized on the glass, going up and grabbing 8 rebounds. Christian Jones and Cheickna Dembele were also factors . The two anchors for UNLV's post play combined for 17 points and 12 rebounds (C. Jones 9 points and 8 rebounds. C. Dembele 8 points and 3 offensive rebounds). Jalen Poyser did struggle shooting the ball by going 2-13 overall, but the sophomore scored 10 points and dished out 5 dimes to one turnover. Poyser went a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe and he hit a deep 3 against the pesky Lobo zone that helped seal the game for UNLV.
I'm not sure if this was a must win game, as they say, but it was certainly an important game for Menzies squad. They have gone through some demoralizing losses recently and a game like this can be a massive confidence builder. Wins on the road in the MWC are hard to come by. Wins at The Pit, exponentially more so. The Rebels are back to .500 at 9-9 and can possibly keep pace in a wide open conference race at 2-3. In a season with a lot of lows, this team has a lot to be proud of for pulling out this improbable win. Good job, boys!