Seniors take the spotlight in Senior Night victory

Two things that have been missing for a long time returned to the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night … a UNLV victory and the accompanying smiles that came with it.

The Runnin’ Rebels snapped their school-record-tying nine-game losing streak by grinding out a 66-59 victory over Utah State, the team’s first win since a 87-85 double overtime victory over Air Force on Jan. 21, a span of 38 days.

Fittingly on Senior Night it was UNLV’s three seniors – forwards Tyrell Green and Christian Jones and guard Uche Ofoegbu – who led the way, combining for 46 points and 25 rebounds.

Junior guard Jovan Mooring also scored in double figures, finishing with 12 points on just 3-of-12 shooting but hit arguably the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 33.2 seconds to go to extend UNLV’s lead 64-59.

Utah State guard Jalen Moore then missed a 3-pointer and Mooring, who scored the final six points for the Runnin’ Rebels (11-19, 4-13 MW) sealed the win by sinking a pair of free throws with 14.3 seconds left.

UNLV did it with defense, especially down the stretch when the Rebels held Utah State without a field over the final 8:10 after a 3-pointer by guard Sam Merrill gave the Aggies a 56-54 lead.

Utah State (13-16, 7-11), which shot 52.6 percent and connected on 13-of-21 3-pointers in the first meeting in Logan, Utah, en route to an easy 79-63 victory, shot just 40 percent from the field this time around and struggled to finish around the basket where UNLV ended up with a 32-20 edge in points in the paint.

Aggies guard Koby McEwen, who destroyed the Rebels with 28 points in the first meeting, finished with just 12 points on Wednesday night and scored just two points and attempted two shots in the second half.

WHO STOOD OUT: Green (19 points, 3-of-5 3-pointers, 12 rebounds) and Jones (16 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks) both had double-doubles and took turns carrying the Rebels during the game. Mooring (12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 turnovers) struggled offensively most of the night but came up big in the final five minutes.

QUOTES TO NOTE: “It felt good obviously getting a win in our last home game. More importantly, we were just happy that we were fighting all night. We didn’t quit.” – UNLV senior forward Tyrell Green

“It means a lot, especially for the seniors. This whole team was stressing that we needed to get this win for the seniors. And that’s what we did. We played for the whole 40 minutes instead of just one half. We played for both halves. That’s what got us the win.” – UNLV senior forward Christian Jones

“I never stopped believing in the guys. I’m cautiously optimistic that we can continue this and bottle it and get these seniors to play the way they did tonight going forward.” – UNLV coach Marvin Menzies

UP NEXT: UNLV concludes Mountain West regular season play on Saturday afternoon at Fresno State (18-11, 10-7). The 4 p.m. contest will be shown on ESPN3.

NOTABLE: UNLV led 33-30 at halftime and improved to 9-2 this season when leading at intermission. … Green’s 12 rebounds were a career high. His previous best was 10 boards against Incarnate Word on Dec. 14. … Jones’ three blocks were a career high. … UNLV finished with a 39-33 rebounding advantage and a 11-4 edge in second chance points. … Ofoegbu finished with 11 points, just the second time in eight games he has reach double figures. … The Rebels finished with a 9-9 home record. … The game featured 11 ties and 11 lead changes.

Click on graphics below for final stats and conference standings.

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