San Diego State entered the winner of 58 of its past 62 home games thanks in part to a stretch that included a current 10-game winning streak at Viejas Arena. Beyond that, the Aztecs were ranked 15th nationally. So the idea that Dave Rice could take his UNLV Runnin' Rebels to SDSU late Wednesday and leave with a victory seemed less than likely. And he couldn't possibly do it without a monster effort from Anthony Bennett, could he?
Answer: Yes, he could.
In fact, he did.
"It was nice to get a win," said UNLV senior Anthony Marshall, who finished with a season-high 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists in an 82-75 victory that shouldn't get overshadowed by Matthew Dellavedova's buzzer-beater that helped Saint Mary's beat BYU or Maryland's buzzer-beating win over North Carolina State. Dellavedova's shot was awesome, sure. And Maryland's victory was great because nobody needed a resume-building win like Mark Turgeon's Terps, whose previous biggest win might've been against Stony Brook. But let the record show that what UNLV did Wednesday was more worthwhile than either of those things because a visiting team winning at Viejas Arena isn't something that has been done often lately.
It happened once in 2009-10.
It happened once in 2010-11.
It happened twice in 2011-12.
It hadn't happened at all in 2012-13 ... until UNLV did it.
"This win gives us confidence," said Khem Birch, the Pittsburgh transfer who finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five blocks in a victory that didn't require much from college basketball's best freshman.
Yes, Anthony Bennett is still UNLV's top player.
Yes, every NBA franchise would still take him in the lottery.
But the 6-foot-8 forward only played 20 minutes. He scored just nine points and was on the bench late, which speaks to the talent that Rice has enrolled. I mean, it takes a deep and gifted roster to convince a coach that he doesn't need to put his future bazillionaire on the floor to win. That's strong. Either way, now UNLV is 15-3 overall, 2-1 in the Mountain West and the owner of the type of road victory that might ultimately be the difference between winning and losing this better-than-most-realize league.