Joe Santoro: Take 5 to celebrate beating UNLV
Northern Nevada is now basking in the glory of beating the UNLV Rebels.
Go ahead, Nevada Wolf Pack fans. Enjoy it. Wear your Sixth Letter of the Alphabet-UNLV shirts and strut around town. Take pride in the knowledge your Wolf Pack is the best college basketball team in the state of Nevada. You’ve earned it.
Now forget it.
OK, celebrate another five minutes or so if you need it. It’s a win over UNLV, after all.
Then move on.
It’s time to put Wednesday night’s 104-77 Wolf Pack victory at Lawlor Events Center over the Rebels in proper perspective. A good time was had by all dressed in silver and blue. Beating the red out of UNLV is always fun for those who live north of Tonopah.
But that’s it. Nothing more. Battle Born bragging rights. Northern Nevada is where the best college basketball team in Nevada resides. The spoils of victory from Wednesday night end there. All of the Wolf Pack’s meaningful goals — Mountain West regular season and tournament championship, NCAA tournament berth — are still out there. None of those goals were accomplished Wednesday by beating one of the worst UNLV teams in history.
“Yeah, definitely,” Pack sophomore Cam Oliver said. “We’re onto San Diego State (the Pack’s next opponent on Sunday).”
Once you get past the slick, new Battle Born uniforms the Pack wore Wednesday and Michael Buffer’s cheesy but always stirring “Let’s Get Ready to Roundball” player introductions, all that happened Wednesday was the Wolf Pack beat an awful college basketball team.
A team in transition. A team in chaos. A team in turmoil. A UNLV team in name only.
“We have to put this game behind us,” Pack coach Eric Musselman said.
UNLV is now 10-15 on the year overall and 3-9 in Mountain West play. It has won just five of 18 games since Dec. 1. It’s looking up at every other team in the conference. It’s likely on its way to just its third losing season since 1959. And none of this surprises anyone.
The Rebels were supposed to be bad this year. And they haven’t disappointed. The way the Rebels played defense on Wednesday, former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian would’ve taken the towel he used to chew on and cover his eyes in shame.
It’s not often the Wolf Pack meets a Rebel team who has one arm tied behind its back and one leg in cast.
The Rebels brought a losing record into the game against the Pack for just the eighth time in the rivalry’s 83-game history. The Rebels also brought a four-game losing streak to Lawlor. That has happened just one other time in the rivalry’s 55-year history, on Feb. 1, 1971.
“This shows a lot of progress,” senior D.J. Fenner said. “When you look at the history of this rivalry it is pretty lopsided. But to win like this, this definitely shows progress on our part.”
The Pack is the best college basketball team in the state of Nevada this morning. No question. Beating a bad UNLV team on your home floor is nice. Bravo. Pats on the back all around. But don’t dwell on it. This Wolf Pack team has loftier goals this year. You can be sure Musselman has already reminded his team of that fact.
So, go ahead, enjoy Wednesday’s win for another minute or two. You deserve it.
Then move on.