On a night when the nation’s ninth-ranked team was sent packing and No. 11 survived on a last-second put back, UNLV knocked off previously undefeated No. 3 Arizona 71-67 behind 24 points from Christian Wood and 21 points from Rashad Vaughn.
The Rebels, who already lost to Pac-12 foes Stanford, Arizona State and Utah earlier this season, were in danger of losing to a fourth before pulling ahead at the 4:47 mark on a Goodluck Obonoboh free throw to make it 63-62. Arizona would not lead for the rest of the game, managing only nine points in the game’s final 10:43.
The win is a season-defining one for the Rebels, who had struggled to find a rhythm so far this season.
“I think it’s just a message...about the direction our program is going, that we can compete against anyone in the country,” UNLV coach Dave Rice told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the game.
Arizona’s starters relied on a balanced attack. Each of the Wildcats starters finished the game in double figures, with Stanley Johnson logging a double-double (13 pts, 13 reb) but also missing a potential go-ahead layup in the closing minute. The game marked Arizona’s second true road game of the season. The only other came Friday night in El Paso, Texas, where the Wildcats survived a strong test from UTEP.
Arizona had chances both to tie the game and take the lead in the final minute, but did not capitalize. Stanley Johnson missed a go-ahead lay in after recovering a Cody Doolin turnover in the backcourt, and Brandon Ashley missed an open three-pointer that would have tied the game in the closing seconds.
The latter sparked controversy on social media after the game, as fans and commentators alike questioned a screenshot of UNLV guard Jelan Kendrick potentially goal-tending on Ashley’s shot. Some Arizona fans, as well as ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, argued the picture, in which Kendrick’s hand grazes the net, confirmed goaltending, while UNLV fans countered the image was too fuzzy to prove anything.
Check out the Vine of the play below to decide for yourself (h/t @AZJoshM for the above screenshot, and BigEZ for the Vine).
Arizona (12-1) has nearly two-weeks off to prepare for in-state rival Arizona State.