There will be plenty of familiarities for UNLV in its Mountain West Conference tournament opener Thursday night, and that would seem to work in its favor.
The 20th-ranked and third-seeded Runnin' Rebels host the tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center, where they went undefeated and have a quarterfinal matchup with a Wyoming team they beat on their home court over the weekend.
Much has been made of UNLV's road struggles costing it a chance to win the Mountain West regular-season crown, but Dave Rice's team won't have to win away from campus until the NCAA tournament.
For a sixth straight year, the Rebels (25-7) host the conference tournament and they went 16-0 at the Thomas & Mack Center this season.
UNLV capped its first perfect home mark since 1991-92 with Saturday's 74-63 win over the Cowboys to avenge a 68-66 loss in Wyoming on Feb. 4. That defeat started the Rebels' current four-game road losing streak, which has some wondering how UNLV will fare when it must play away from home in the NCAAs.
Before worrying about the NCAA tournament, the Rebels look to build on a couple of encouraging trends from this weekend's victory.
UNLV put up the most points all season against Wyoming (20-10), which leads the Mountain West in scoring defense at 55.4 points per game. The Rebels got to the foul line 29 times - tied for their third-most - and made 21 free throws.
"We were in such serious foul trouble, we couldn't guard them well enough," Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. "We drew too many offensive fouls. You can't do that to yourself against a quality team."
Anthony Marshall made 8 of 9 free throws and Mike Moser was 5 of 7 from the line.
Moser, who averages team bests of 14.0 points and 10.7 rebounds, finally busted out of his slump with 17 points and 12 boards. The 6-foot-8 sophomore had averaged 6.5 points on 23.5 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds in his previous four games.
"This was definitely a huge one for me," said Moser, who made all five of his field goal attempts. "My teammates have been supportive. They helped me stay positive. I was glad to even up the score (against Wyoming). This is a big win for us."
Another big game by Moser would seem to bode well for UNLV. The Rebels are 18-1 when he scores at least 13 points but 7-6 when he has 12 or fewer.
Playing in Las Vegas, however, might just be all the advantage UNLV needs.
The Rebels have won nine straight home games over the Cowboys since a 90-80 loss Feb. 1, 2003, and are 15-2 all-time against them at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Wyoming has dropped its last five games away from campus and has lost all 17 of its road contests against Top 25 teams since 1996.
The Cowboys gave UNLV a bit of a scare Saturday by cutting an 11-point deficit to five with six minutes remaining. The Rebels, however, responded with a 7-0 run and never let the lead drop to single digits.
Francisco Cruz led Wyoming with 16 points over the weekend and seems to be hitting his stride entering the conference tournament. The senior guard is averaging 17.0 points on 61.3 percent shooting in his last three games after averaging 8.3 points on 31.4 percent shooting in his previous three.
"Everyone saw what a terrific basketball team Wyoming has," Rice said. "It's never easy playing a team again. It's tough coming off a win. It's a new season."
The winner of this game faces second-seeded New Mexico or seventh-seeded Air Force on Friday.