Saturday’s Air Force-UNLV game at Clune Arena was a “game” for about 10 minutes.
After that, it was a glorified scrimmage.
With a swarming defense and an efficient offense, a Runnin’ Rebels squad desperate to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive scored 17 straight points in a stretch of 61/2 minutes midway through the first half.
After that run, the Rebels were up 19. All that was left to determine was how ugly things would get.
This ugly: UNLV 77, Air Force 47. The Falcons’ worst loss at Clune since Jan. 16, 1993, when they were beaten 103-68 by BYU.
“It’s tough when you lose like that,” junior forward Tom Fow said. “It’s embarrassing for all of us. We never want to come out and lose by that much. And to do that, we’ve got to think to ourselves, ‘What are we doing?’ It’s frustrating, and every single one of us is frustrated.”
The loss, in front of an announced crowd of 2,430, was Air Force’s seventh in a row, its 29th in its past 30 Mountain West Conference regular-season games and its sixth this season by 22 or more points. With it, the Falcons (9-18, 1-13) clinched the worst back-to-back regular seasons in MWC history.
UNLV, meanwhile, won for the third straight time after losing three straight to improve to 22-7 and 10-5 in the MWC. The Runnin’ Rebels hit a season-high 13 3-pointers in 27 attempts (48.1 percent), made 30-of-51 shots from the floor (58.8 percent) and had assists on 24 of their 30 baskets. Five players scored eight or more, led by guard/forward Chace Stanback, who had a game-high 21.
“We were very sharp,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said.
Air Force trailed 9-7 after a 3-pointer by Evan Washington with 15:12 to play in the first half. But UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis responded with a 3, igniting the decisive 17-0 run. During the run, Air Force missed four shots and committed five turnovers.
“I didn’t think their pressure was as hard as it was at UNLV, and yet we weren’t as sharp,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said.
UNLV, Reynolds said, scored an astounding 1.29 points per possession.
“You’ve got to give them some credit,” Reynolds said. “But you also got to wonder what’s inside our kids and where’s that pride.”