Evidently there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep at a Las Vegas hotel.
After spending the night at a local hotel for the first time this season before a home game, the UNLV Rebels displayed the toughness and grit the team had exhibited during most road games this season, shutting down high-powered Utah State, 62-42, at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night.
The win snapped a head-scratching two-game home losing streak for the Runnin’ Rebels, who improved to just 7-5 at the T&M this season.
Junior point guard Deville Smith scored a game-high 18 points, including 4-of-7 3-pointers, while forward Roscoe Smith notched his 13th double-double of the season with 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds to lead UNLV (12-7, 3-3 Mountain West).
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“It was a great idea,” Roscoe Smith said of head coach Dave Rice’s decision to have the team start spending the night at a hotel before home games. “A lot of teams do it. It definitely helped us a lot.”
Roscoe Smith, a key member on UConn’s 2011 NCAA national championship squad, said Jim Calhoun had the Huskies stay in hotels the night before home games. Deville Smith, a transfer from Mississippi State, said the Bulldogs also followed the same protocol.
The Rebels definitely came out more focused and displayed more intensity from start to finish than they had in back-to-back home losses to Air Force and Nevada, especially on the defensive end.
Utah State (12-6, 2-4) shot just 30.8 percent for the game, including 2-of-17 from 3-point range. The Aggies entered the contest No. 2 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (42.4 percent) behind only Gonzaga. Utah State also finished with just four assists, 13 below it’s Mountain West-leading average of 17.9 per game.
“It started on the defensive end,” Rice said. “We followed our game plan. We stayed attached to their shooters.”
Meanwhile, Deville Smith helped the Rebels pull away late to a 34-24 halftime lead, connecting on three 3-pointers in a seven-minute span. He added another trey early in the second half that boosted UNLV’s lead to 44-28 and the Aggies, who managed just 18 second half points, never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Center Jarred Shaw was the only Utah State player to score in double figures, finishing with 14 points but had only two in the second half.
UNLV shot just 38.2 percent from the floor but finished with a 44-29 rebounding edge and had 14 offensive boards that led to a 15-4 edge in second chance points. The Rebels also finished with nine blocks, including three by freshman forward Christian Wood in just eight minutes of action.
About the only negative was a potential injury to backup center Carlos Lopez-Sosa, who injured his left elbow while diving into the stands under the basket trying to save a loose ball. Lopez-Sosa left the arena with his arm in a sling and is scheduled to have X-rays on Thursday.