Wyoming Has Dropped 19 Straight Regular-Season Games at UNLV
LARAMIE -- The last time Wyoming beat UNLV during a regular-season game inside the Thomas and Mack Center a gallon of gas cost just $1.65.
The top grossing movie at the box office was Daredevil and "Hey Ya" by Outkast was at the top of the Billboard charts. George W. Bush was still in the White House and the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry into the earth's atmosphere.
The year, 2003. The date, Feb. 1.
Dontae Richardson torched the Rebels for 25 points and the Cowboys shot 52.7% from the field in a game they never trailed. Jay Straight also poured in 19 points and Joe Ries added 17 in the 90-80 victory.
Steve McClain's team was 16-3 on the season after that win in Las Vegas. More importantly, 4-0 in Mountain West play.
What has happened since that night is truly mind boggling.
The Cowboys have lost 19 straight times on UNLV's home floor. They added two more losses in the conference tournament. The Rebels' margin of victory is nearly 11 points.
Heath Schroyer never won in Sin City during the league slate. Neither did Larry Shyatt or Allen Edwards. Jeff Linder, Wyoming's current coach, is also 0-2 against the Rebels.
Guess who and where this surging Wyoming team is playing this Saturday night?
"It's going to be a big challenge, but our guys are in a good place, obviously, after winning four out of five and finding a way to win on the road," Linder said Thursday. "So, we're just going to put some things together here over the next couple of days and figure out a way to go in there and give ourselves a chance. Definitely a tall task, but one we're looking forward to."
Why has this building served as such a house of horrors for the Cowpokes?
"That's a good question," Linder continued. "Obviously, from a talent standpoint, UNLV's always been really, really talented, regardless of whatever Wyoming team has ever played there."
There's nothing different this time around, either.
On the surface, the Rebels are just 11-9 overall and .500 in league play (two games behind Wyoming), but that doesn't tell the entire story. Lumped in there is a dominating 79-64 win over a Top-10 Creighton squad. Kevin Kruger's team also owns a 10-point victory over New Mexico and snapped the nation's longest home winning streak -- 22 games -- inside Boise State's ExtraMile Arena.
The Rebels should probably have another one in the win column against conference front-runner Utah State.
Trailing by four with just 14 seconds remaining in regulation, Darius Brown raced down the floor and drilled a long-distance triple. While that shot was soaring through the air, Aggie forward Great Osobor and UNLV's Kalib Boone were battling for position in the paint. The whistle blew. Osobor sank both free throws.
The ultra-rare five-point play gave the No. 20 team in the nation an improbable 87-86 victory.
“There’s nothing to say to the guys after a game like that,” Kruger told the Las Vegas Sun postgame. “There’s nothing you can tell an athlete and a player after that. You’ve just got to tell them you love them, and they’ve got to keep working hard. Nothing makes you feel better after that.”
Another aberration came just seven days later when Air Force came to Sin City and laid a 32-point loss on the Rebels. The Falcons, who are tied for last place in the Mountain West standings, hit 14 three-pointers while shooting 55.4% from the field in that 90-58 rout.
UNLV has since won two straight over San Jose State and Fresno State.
"The Air Force game is a little bit of an anomaly, which Air Force can do that to you at times if you're not quite right," Linder said. "But, you can tell they're playing with confidence."
With guard Justin Webster on the sidelines for the foreseeable future with an ankle injury, Linder said the Rebels have utilized a much bigger lineup, starting three forwards: Rob Whaley and twin brothers Kalib and Keylan Boone. That trio all stands above 6-foot-8.
Kalib Boone is second in the conference in field-goal percentage, connecting on .622 of his shots. He's the Rebels leading scorer, too, averaging 13 points per game. The senior is also the third-best shot blocker in the league with 31 swats in 19 games.
What really has Linder's antenna up is the way UNLV makes its opponents pay for mistakes. In that 78-69 win Tuesday night in Fresno, the visitors turned 21 turnovers into 18 points, seven of which came on the fast break. The Rebels are a plus-3 in turnover margin, forcing 14 takeaways a game.
Though Wyoming has cleaned up its act of late in that department, it's still second to last in the league, averaging 14 giveaways a night.
"They present a lot of challenges, but you can't turn the ball over," Linder said. "Fresno turned the ball over, kind of like us against New Mexico -- 22 or 23 times in that game -- and do the math and they turn into the Runnin' Rebels at home. They get out in transition, and then they get really hard to guard."
While it's easy to focus on this extended dry spell in the Nevada desert, Linder does have a win over the Rebels in this building. It was a crucial one, too. With a berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line, Wyoming escaped with a 59-56 win in the opening round of the conference tournament in 2022.
"For us, it's just, it's the next game," Linder added. "Hopefully we can just find a way to give ourselves a chance. You have to withstand some runs, and to be able to negate some of those runs. Those are some of the things, you know, taking care of the ball and not allowing second-chance opportunities, because they really take advantage of that at home."