The UNLV Runnin' Rebels would hang around with the No. 13 Arizona Wildcats for most of the game but, behind a rowdy McKale Center crowd, the Wildcats would push ahead for a 82-70 win over the Rebels. It's Arizona's 46th straight home win, and it improves the team's record to 11-1 on the season.
It was a frantically paced game with little-to-no defense at times. Both teams traded buckets for most of the first half, but Arizona created some space towards the end of the half and led 44-36. The Wildcats would then quickly take a ten-point lead early in the second half, but UNLV battled back and made it 54-51 with 12 minutes left. Arizona countered with a 9-1 run to make it 63-52 with 7:20 left in the game, which UNLV would eventually cut to 71-65 with 2:26 left. That's as close as things would get, however, as Arizona would eventually win by double digits.
Here were the major takeaways from the game:
Dusan from Tucson: Wow. That's the best way I can describe Dusan Ristic's performance in the first half. He did it all. He flashed his usual impressive post game (while making Stephen Zimmerman look silly in one instance), he scored in transition, he threw a lob to Mark Tollefsen for a bucket, and he even hit a three-pointer.
In total, he had 16 first half points, and finished with 20. Defensively -- in typical Dusan fashion -- he wasn't nearly as effective as he was on offense. His pick-and-roll defense still leaves a lot to be desired and UNLV took advantage of that, but all in all, it was a terrific game for Ristic.
Amazing A's: Aside from Ristic, Kadeem Allen and Ryan Anderson both shined for Arizona as well. Anderson recorded yet another double-double -- with 17 points and 13 rebounds -- but since we're used to seeing these type of games from him, it really didn't seem like a special performance, and that just shows how great he's been this season. He's the team's best player and one of the top players in the entire country.
In Allen's case, I felt he was the team's best all-around player in this game. The Wildcats struggled to keep UNLV under 50 percent from the field for most of the game, but Allen's defensive effort never wavered. He was constantly getting his hands in passing lanes to cause turnovers and deflections, and he had a number of impressive defensive plays in transition as well, including a soaring chase-down block.
Can't leave Kadeem Allen out. pic.twitter.com/8fe2pAzhhK— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) December 20, 2015
Then on offense, Allen had a career-high 15 points, and was also able to knife into the lane and create for others, as he dished out five assists. The progress he's made as a true point guard this season is really encouraging.
Bashful Bench: All five of Arizona's starters scored in double figures, and that was needed as the bench didn't give them much help. Mark Tollefsen, Chance Comanche, Justin Simon, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright combined for just four points. In my opinion, PJC had his worst game of the season, and the offense bogged down when he was in command of it in this game. Arizona was a team-worst -6 when he was on the floor. Tollefsen didn't have much of an impact on the stat sheet, but I didn't think he was a liability out there. I did notice he created a couple second chance opportunities just because he was aggressive going after offensive rebounds.
Comanche and Simon only played seven combined minutes, so they didn't have much time to do anything, but Simon did hit a floater in transition early in the first half. I was surprised to see him in the game that early, but he made the most of it.
UNLV front court issues: The Rebels' front court had major issues in this game. Starters Ben Carter and Dwayne Morgan each picked up three fouls in the first half while Stephen Zimmerman, who had six points early on, suffered a thigh contusion in the first half and didn't return to the game. UNLV had to go deeper into their bench than usual and Arizona took advantage. The Wildcats took an eight-point lead at the half even though the first 20 minutes were pretty evenly played. I'm not sure the end result would've been different if UNLV's front court was at full strength, but it certainly put another obstacle in the way of a potential upset.
Additional game notes: Allonzo Trier had 15 points and tied his career-high in rebounds (6), while Gabe York had 11 points, a season-high seven rebounds, and six turnovers. The Wildcats shot 52.1% from the field, while UNLV shot 42.4%. Elliott Pitts remains out due to a "personal issue".