ALBUQUERQUE — UNLV players couldn’t have been happier when they found out Sunday afternoon that they would be playing their NCAA Tournament opener against Colorado on Thursday night (7 p.m., truTV) here at The Pit.
Besides the fact it is a location close enough for Rebel fans to drive to, UNLV also has the advantage of having already played here each season during Mountain West conference play. And playing at The Pit definitely has produced its share of memories for fifth-year senior guard Kendall Wallace.
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“The most recent one (a 65-45 loss to the Lobos on Feb. 18) wasn’t very good but we’ve had some good times in there and won some big games,” Wallace said.
Specifically Jan. 9, 2010.
Wallace scored a career-high 21 points that night, including 7 of 10 3-pointers. He connected on 6 of 7 treys in the second half alone to lead the Rebels to a 74-62 upset of 15th-ranked New Mexico.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Wallace said. “It was just great to come out of there with a win. If we didn’t come out of there with a win, it wouldn’t have meant anything.”
Wallace, who missed the 2011 game at The Pit – a 77-74 overtime victory by the Rebels — while redshirting after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn ACL, didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in six minutes of action in this year’s loss to the Lobos.
“It’s exciting to be playing in that gym,” Wallace said. “It seems like it’s a good shooting gym … good background. I like our chances of playing there.”
New Mexico fans have been Twittering some UNLV players this week and telling them of their intention to root for their fellow Mountain West brethren. So the Rebels may have more than a familiarity advantage at The Pit.
“I had a couple of them write me on Twitter saying they’d be here and supporting us and stuff like that,” guard Anthony Marshall said. “So hopefully they do. If New Mexico had a game in Las Vegas, our fans would be out there supporting them just to keep it in the Mountain West. So hopefully they do.”
“I heard the same thing as Anthony,” forward Mike Moser said of potential fan support from the locals. “I guess we’ll see tomorrow.”