By Eric Uribe
1. Instant Classic. That’s what Nevada’s 76-72 triumph over UNLV was. In front of an announced crowd of 10,317, the Wolf Pack rallied from 17 points down to clip its rivals. The attendance is the largest in years. Moreover, the win bookended the careers of Deonte Burton, Jerry Evans Jr., and Ali Fall. In my three shorts year at Nevada, I’ve never seen a more intense atmosphere in any sport. The Wolf Pack student section even stormed the court following the nail-biting win.
2. With the win, the Wolf Pack earned a No. 3 seed in the MWC Tournament and a first-round bye. They’ll await the winner of the No. 6 Boise State and No. 11 San Jose State. Nevada split the season series with both teams. But after winning three of its last four, the Wolf Pack is riding a lot of momentum and peaking at the perfect time.
3. Seven. That’s the difference between conference wins for the Wolf Pack this season to last year. Nevada was licking its wounds last year after finishing dead last in the conference. How many people expected the Wolf Pack to go from last to third this year? I can’t imagine many. The difference between this year’s squad and last, according to Burton, was the current team never quit. Ex-Nevada players Kevin Panzer, Jordan Burris, Jordan Finn and Devonte Elliott are crying in a corner somewhere.
4. Burton’s stat line on senior night: 24 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. In spite of falling just shy of a triple double, the effort was Burton’s second career double-double. Nevada head coach David Carter said Burton matured a lot from his junior season to now. In the postgame conference, Burton reinforced his decision to remain for his senior season after flirting with the NBA. Burton will leave a lasting legacy with the program and easily goes down as a top 5 all-time player in school history.
5. After sweeping the Rebels in basketball for the first time since 1995, the Wolf Pack earned the full three points in the Governor’s Series in the men’s basketball category. However, the Rebels remain in the overall lead at 15 to 7.5. For Wolf Pack fans, what would you rather have — the Fremont Cannon or a season sweep of the historic Runnin’ Rebels program in basketball?
6. Much like he has been the entire year, Cole Huff was the unsung hero for the Wolf Pack against UNLV. Huff netted 22 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 33 seconds remaining. Carter lauded the sophomore in the postgame conference, calling him the most consistent player on the team besides Burton.
7. Two weeks ago, I wrote a column bashing Nevada’s leadership and questioning whether this team could overcome adversity. They shut me up today. Down by 17 points four minutes into the second half, the Wolf Pack seemed to be crumbling. Then they went on a jaw-dropping 25-6. After rallying, Nevada made the clutch baskets down the stretch to seal the victory. The poise was there. The leadership was there. Tonight, the moment wasn’t too big for Nevada.
8. What a monster Khem Birch was tonight for most of the game. The six-foot-nine junior was a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Birch chipped in a 15 points and 22 points (10 offensive). However, Birch was non-existent in the game’s last few minutes. In an interesting move, Carter sat AJ West most the game, playing him a mere nine minutes. Either way, Fall and Ronnie Stevens did enough to overcome Birch’s monster night.
9. How much did the loss of Bryce Dejean-Jones and Roscoe Smith hurt the Rebels? Both starters could’ve paid dividends tonight. Dejean-Jones is the team’s leading scorer at 13.4 points game and UNLV struggled shooting with a petty 38 percent. As for Smith, he actually averages more rebounds a game than his frontcourt mate Birch. The two could’ve dominated in the frontcourt.
10. It’s always gets heated with Nevada and UNLV students during its rivalry game. A loud and classy, “fuck the Rebels” chant echoed from the student section multiple times during the game? But did UNLV’s CSUN, the school’s student government, cross the line? It’s official Twitter page was on a tear tonight, calling Nevada students “bitches” and “pussies” and dubbing Reno a “big shit hole” while comparing it to Detroit. Stay classy, UNLV CSUN.