The frustration was visible in the body language of the UNLV players at practice on Monday and Tuesday.
Come Wednesday, TCU had the misfortune of having to be on the other side when it all got let out.
The 14th-ranked Rebels started fast on both ends of the floor, and finished the same way in a 101-78 whipping of the Horned Frogs in UNLV’s first game at the Thomas & Mack Center since Dec. 28.
In the process, UNLV scored 100 points in a regular season conference game for the first time since March 3, 2000.
“I think it was wearing on us all weekend, all through practice,” sophomore forward Mike Moser said, reflecting on the team’s ugly 69-67 loss at San Diego State to open up Mountain West Conference play on Saturday. “It was just good to kind of release that frustration on someone else.”
Once UNLV (17-3 overall, 1-1 MWC) jumped out to an 18-2 advantage by the game’s first media timeout, and from that point on, it was simply a track meet for both teams.
Among the UNLV highlights …
• Junior guard Anthony Marshall scored a career-high 27 points, giving him 53 points in the first two MWC games, and a 19.2 points per game average over his last six overall.
Marshall is currently in the midst of his hottest streak in two-and-a-half seasons as a Rebel, especially on the offensive end. He’s taking advantage of opposing defenses keying on UNLV’s outside specialists, and then is keeping defenders off balance by mixing together furious drives to the hole and jumpers that get smoother by the game.
To boot, he had nine assists, only one turnover, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals on Wednesday.
• Senior forward Chace Stanback, who needed a bounce-back performance after again struggling mightily on both offense and defense against San Diego State, found his groove again.
He scored 21 points off of 7-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
It was the perfect matchup for Stanback, who historically has owned TCU (10-7, 0-2). In five career games against the Horned Frogs, he’s now 37-57 (64.9 percent) from the floor and 15-of-23 (65.2) from long range.
• Sophomore forward Mike Moser got back to his dominant ways both as a scorer and as a rebounder. In 26 minutes, he posted 16 points and 15 rebounds (14 defensive), good for his ninth double-double of the season.
“Tonight, we got back to playing Runnin’ Rebel basketball,” coach Dave Rice said afterwards. “Not just because we made the shots, but we were locked in defensively to start the game. And when we got a stop, we pushed it up the floor. We were just a little bit off and out of sync on Saturday in terms of our pace.”
After posting fewer assists (9) than turnovers (14) for only the sixth time this season and shooting below 40 percent (35.3) for only the second time at SDSU, UNLV looked like a completely different team offensively.
The Rebels were 37-of-64 from the floor, with assists registered on 28 of those makes. They were also 11-of-21 from 3-point range, including a blistering 9-of-15 showing in the first half.
UNLV can’t afford to slip back into the offensive coma that helped bury them last weekend this Saturday, though. The combination of UNLV’s win and San Diego State’s stunning 75-70 of New Mexico in Albuquerque on Wednesday night set up an earlier than expected backs-against-the-wall situation with the Lobos coming to town for a 7:15 p.m. tip.
SDSU’s huge road win kept the surprising Aztecs atop the league standings at 2-0, alongside Colorado State.
Meanwhile, whoever loses at the Mack on Saturday will likely drop to two games out of first place in the race for the Mountain West regular season title. Winning that has been stated early and often as one of UNLV’s primary goals this season.
Making up ground is more difficult now than it was in recent years, too, as the drop down to eight league members for the 2011-12 season means there are only 14 conference games rather than 16.
“I felt like the situation was going to come up sometime, whether it was five games into the (conference) season or earlier,” Marshall said. “We’re a confident group, we have a lot of veterans on this ball club, and we know what it takes.”
Not many tickets remain for what could end up being UNLV’s biggest home game of the season.
“There’s no doubt that New Mexico’s going to come in as a desperate team,” Rice said. “And we certainly are a very desperate team as well. Not because we lost a game, but that’s the attitude we need to take.”