UNLV coach Dave Rice knew he’d have to crank up the defense on Thursday night against a Wyoming squad that had held San Diego State to a Mountain West record low nine first half points en route to a 58-45 upset last Saturday in Laramie. So he turned to senior forward Quintrell Thomas to guard Cowboys star Leonard Washington.
Thomas, called the team’s best post defender by Rice, didn’t disappoint, helping hold Washington to 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting while scoring a season-high 13 points himself as the Runnin’ Rebels (16-4, 3-2) grinded out a 62-50 victory before a crowd of 15,640 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
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“I just had a feeling coming into this game … with the physical nature of this game inside … that Quintrell would be a big part of what we did,” Rice said. “For him to get 13 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes is a huge deal. It speaks to his character, how hard he’s worked, how ready he was for his opportunity. Just couldn’t be prouder of him.”
The Rebels, who fell behind early 8-0 but rebounded to take a 29-25 halftime lead, were led by point guard Anthony Marshall, who just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine assists, while freshman forward Anthony Bennett scored a game-high 17 points and added five rebounds.
Senior guard Justin Hawkins, arguably the best sixth man in the Mountain West, also was a key contributor for UNLV, scoring six points and grabbing six rebounds to go along with two steals.
“I thought tonight our three seniors were terrific,” Rice said alluding to Marshall, Thomas and Hawkins. “Justin Hawkins brought great energy off the bench. Anthony Marshall was a leader … and let the game come to him. … It was a very important victory for us to get.”
After the slow start, the Rebels slowly took control of the game and led by as many as 18 points (62-44) after Hawkins sank a pair of free throws with 5:15 remaining.
Larry Nance Jr. led Wyoming (15-3, 2-3) with 16 points and five steals.
UNLV, which hosts Nevada on Tuesday night, finished with a 34-20 rebounding edge and shot 48.8 percent from the floor, including 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from 3-point range.