It’s no secret that UNLV has played some of its best basketball on the road this season, upsetting defending Mountain West champ New Mexico at The Pit last week and taking No. 1 Arizona to the wire before losing, 63-58, last month.
But the Rebels, who are 5-2 away from the Thomas & Mack Center this season, are a disappointing 6-5 on their home floor including back-to-back upset losses to Air Force and Nevada two weeks ago.
So in an effort to make sure his team is focused for tonight’s key Mountain West game with Utah State (12-7, 2-3), UNLV coach Dave Rice made the decision to have the Rebels (11-7, 2-3) spend Tuesday night at a local area hotel.
“I just want to make sure that we don’t have any distractions,” Rice said. “I just want to give a feel for our guys. It’s business, it’s a home game but it’s about basketball and doing it together.”
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So after having a team dinner at the Thomas & Mack, the Rebels bussed to their hotel about 15 minutes away to spend the night. Since spring semester classes began on Tuesday, the team was scheduled to bus back to campus early this morning so players could attend class.
“I thought about doing it before the Reno game and didn’t do it,” Rice said. “After the Reno game I decided it was something that we needed to do. I’ve always thought about doing it during the Mountain West Tournament too. I want to give our guys the feel that its business time.”
Rice added that he plans to have his team continue to stay at a hotel the night before home games for the rest of the season. It’s something he said former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian also did when Rice played for the Rebels.
Junior forward Khem Birch was in favor of the idea.
“It was like a team thing,” he said (See VIDEO above). The fact that we are winning away we have to act like we are away even though we’re home.
“When you’re on the road you’re just with your teammates … we’re all together and it’s only us. At home there (are) a lot of distractions.”
So there shouldn’t any excuses for not having a focused and intense effort from the Rebels tonight.
UNLV begins a stretch that features four of the next six games at home. And Birch believes the Rebels, who won seven in a row before a Jan. 4 home loss to Air Force, have another win streak in them.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Birch said. “Even though we lost the last game (63-52 at San Diego State last Saturday) I feel that New Mexico win … we still have a lot of confidence in us.”
Something has to give Wednesday night. Utah State is 0-3 on the road in Mountain West play while UNLV is 0-2 at home in league play.