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October 21, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

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Instant analysis: UNLV shows signs of life with blowout victory

Colorado State vs UNLV

Snapping a 3-game losing streak, UNLV notched its 20th win of the season, beating Colorado State, 70-39.

UNLV-CSU Basketball

UNLV's Tre'Von Willis attempts a layup Saturday during the Rebels 70-39 victory against Colorado State at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

CSU POSTGAME: Back in the right direction

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's 70-39 victory over Colorado State on Saturday, which snapped a 3-game skid. Plenty of fans decided to stay home, but those who showed up at the Mack saw a well-rounded performance, highlighted by Anthony Marshall's first career triple-double. With a further thinned-out rotation, can the Rebels keep it up throughout the rest of their stretch run?

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One victory in the books. Three, or five, or six must-win games to go.

The UNLV basketball team had its way with Colorado State on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center, jumping out to a quick double-digit lead and not taking its foot off the pedal in a 70-39 victory.

Sure, it was only Colorado State. But, after limping into the home stretch of the season with three straight losses, the Rebels would have taken a victory against a team from the local YMCA to get back on track.

UNLV made 57 percent of its shots in the first half, including 5-of-9 on 3-pointers in building a 20-plus-point lead, and never looked back.

And, for the first time since Feb. 6, the Rebels were in the win column. Goodbye three-game losing streak. Goodbye bad karma.

The skid took the once-nationally ranked scarlet and gray from a lock to receive an at-large bid in next month’s NCAA Tournament to its traditional spot of having to be near-flawless down the stretch.

That means winning out against Mountain West Conference doormats — Wednesday at home against TCU, next Saturday at Air Force and March 6 at home against Wyoming — and making a deep run, or winning, the league tournament in the second week of March.

More performances like Saturday, and not like last weekend at San Diego State or Wednesday at Utah, could put the Rebels in the tournament. Anthony Marshall and Chace Stanback led UNLV with 12 points, but all nine regulars scored and the Rebels had a solid 24 bench points.

Here are three things UNLV can build on:

• Quick start : During the three-game losing streak, the Rebels led for less than one minute — 5-4 last Saturday at San Diego State. Against Colorado State, they had a 20-3 advantage less than 10 minutes into the game, using 3-pointers from Kendall Wallace and Stanback, and nine points from Anthony Marshall in partially pulling the season off life support. The Rebels don’t have the weapons offensively to overcome the smallest of deficits, something witnessed during the losing skid, which makes a quick start a must the remainder of the season.

• Hit the 3-pointer : UNLV lives and dies with its outside shooting. When the shots aren’t falling — see the train wreck that was San Diego State last week — the Rebels’ other weaknesses are exposed. They made 48 percent of their shots against Colorado State, including 8-of-16 on 3-pointers in breaking out of the slump. A struggling inside game is more serviceable when UNLV has a pulse from the outside.

• Solid effort on defense: Colorado State made 4-of-25 shots in the first half. Enough said.

Three things that need to be addressed:

•Be more aggressive in transition: It's tough to take any negatives from such an impressive performance, but UNLV only managed four fast-break points. The Rebels forced 15 turnovers, and turned those Colorado State miscues into 17 points. Fast break points, however, help get the crowd on its feet. And, with the conference tournament on UNLV's home court, that crowd will be a difference-maker — fast-break points equal noise.

• Defending the offensive glass : UNLV, which has struggled all year in rebounding, surrendered 13 offensive rebounds, including eight in the first half. It was lucky that Colorado State didn’t have the personnel to capitalize.

• Get healthy : Junior Derrick Jasper, the versatile guard who can score, pass and rebound, is still two weeks away from returning from a knee injury. Forward Matt Shaw, a 6-foot-8 junior who can score from inside and out, missed his second game Saturday with an ankle injury. Sophomore point guard Oscar Bellfield had nine points in 23 minutes, but is still slowed with a knee injury. The Rebels need all three healthy by the second week of March for the conference tournament — something they still probably will have to win to be included in the NCAA’s field of 65.

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