"Wendell made a big point to say that just because we're ranked now that it doesn't mean nothing and to just keep playing," sophomore guard Rene Rougeau said. "We definitely took that to heart and we definitely came out with a lot of intensity. That talk really helped us."
The Runnin' Rebels (19-4, 6-2), who broke into the Top 25 rankings for the first time in almost 14 years on Monday, responded with one of their best all-around team performances of the season in handing the Rams (14-6, 4-4) just their second home loss of the season, 76-59.
The victory moved Lon Kruger's squad into a first place tie with idle Air Force (19-3, 6-2) at the halfway point of MWC action.
"I think it ranks as one of or top two or three games for 40 minutes on the year," Kruger said. "I really thought our guys after the first six or eight minutes settled into a pretty good rhythm and a pretty good groove and had a pretty good pace to it."
The Rebels trapping defense forced 21 turnovers, including 16 in the first half while building a 37-28 lead.
UNLV then put the game away early in the second half with a 17-5 spurt that featured back-to-back 3-pointers by guards Michael Umeh and Curtis Terry and extended the Rebels lead to 19 points, 59-40.
The Rebels, who were led offensively by guard Wink Adams (17 points) and White (16 points), also sank 9 of their 18 3-pointers (50 percent) in the contest.
"When we're knocking down shots, we get into a zone," Adams said.
However, it was UNLV's pressure defense that played the biggest role in the outcome and helped neutralize Colorado State's huge size advantage inside.
"This has to be one of our best defensive performances of the year," White said.
"The whole thing was we tried to keep the ball out of the paint for their bigs," Adams said referring to CSU's 7-foot twin towers of forward Jason Smith and Stuart Creason. "They kind of outnumber us down there. They have great size. We knew we had to defend the guards and the penetration and kind of make their bigs come outside."
UNLV finished with a 21-11 edge in points off turnovers and the Rebel bench, led by Terry (9 points, 3 of 4 3-pointers), center Joel Anthony (8 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Kevin Kruger (6 points) outscored the Rams' bench, 28-5.
Kevin Kruger played 16 minutes after missing four games with a deep thigh bruise.
"He got through it okay," Lon Kruger said. "He obviously stumbled around a little bit. He's better than he was 72 hours ago. He wanted to get in there. He calmed us down a little bit, so that was good."
"Hopefully I should be close to 100 percent by Thursday," Kevin Kruger said before limping slightly to the team bus.
UNLV next travels to BYU (15-6, 5-2) on Saturday afternoon.
UNLV moves into tie for first place
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